Monday, March 30, 2009


Read Daniel 1:1-20 and Galatians 5:16-25

Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the ... king's meat, nor the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
-Daniel 1:8 (KJV)

IN secondary school I learned about three types of pollution: water, air, and land. I want to elaborate on pollution of the land. My teacher said that pollutants defile our land and make it infertile. Polluted land causes crops not to yield because it prevents seeds from germinating.

In the same way that pollutants affect the growth of plants, sin affects the growth of Christians. Not only that; sin of any kind prevents us from seeing and reflecting the glory of God. Some of these pollutants are stealing, lying, fighting, committing sexual sin, and so forth.

For Daniel, defilement or pollution was eating the king's meat or drinking his wine; so he "purposed in his heart" not to touch them. For Christians, defilement means getting involved in actions that God has forbidden. Like Daniel, we can purpose in our hearts to live in ways that honor God and give God a holy temple.

Michael Osei Frimpong (Greater Accra, Ghana)

Words That Help

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:6-24

Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
-1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

WHEN my daughter was six, I underwent abdominal surgery. For a while afterward, I was unable to bend at the waist. The first time I bent over to get something from the floor, she squealed with excitement, "Mommy, you picked it up! That means you're getting better!" Although bending was painful, my daughter's words comforted me.

We encourage people to build them up. Paul urged the Thessalonians to encourage, to help, and to be patient. This is also God's will for us today. When we make conscious choices to encourage others - speaking a positive comment, complimenting a job well done, and having an understanding heart - God uses us to help them. Our words can inspire courage, hope, and confidence.

By following the guidance of scripture as part of our daily routine, we can make encouragement a lifestyle. First Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us how: "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances." Then we can fully encourage others according to God's will.

by Danita Donnachie (California, USA)

Friday, March 27, 2009

You Really Care!

Read Galatians 6:1-10

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
-Galatians 6:9 (NIV)

I have been volunteering with inner-city, at-risk teenagers for the last five years. When I first began, I felt that this was what God wanted me to do, and I did it with enthusiasm. But after the third or fourth week, I felt as though I was spinning my wheels. These kids were unruly, undisciplined, and out of control. I found myself unsure if this was where I needed to be. But with prayer and soul-searching, I kept showing up.

Over the years, I have developed a special relationship with each one of these precious gifts from God. As I showed the teens that I love them and care for them, more and more young people began to come to our center.

This year, the class has exploded in size. Recently as we were getting the kids lined up to get on the bus for home, there was an incident outside. I asked a couple of my kids to come out and help me. After we handled the situation, one of them said to me, "We love you." I thought he was kidding.

"Are you messing with me?" I asked.

"No," the other said. "We love you; you really care about us."

That night in bed, I thanked God with tears in my eyes.

by David D. Sharp (Texas, USA)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Imitators of Christ

Read Mark 10:13-16

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs."
-Matthew 19:14 (NRSV)

MY hands and fingernails were grubby from working in the garden with my two-year-old granddaughter, Dellaunna. When we came inside and washed our hands, I used a soft-bristled brush to get the grime out of my skin and from under my fingernails. Watching me, Dellaunna picked up the brush and ran it across her hands as she had seen me do. Now, whenever she washes her hands at that sink, she uses the brush. She has no idea why; she just saw Grandma do it. As I thought of all the things she has done simply because she has seen me do them, I realized this is what God wants from us - that we be imitators of Christ.

In our complex world, it is easy to stray from the way of Christ, to give in to temptation, to rationalize wrong behavior. But faithful followers of Jesus Christ do not choose to be like him only at certain times or in certain situations. Even though we do not understand everything he has told us to do, we can follow Christ with childlike trust. Children believe, they trust, they imitate. Maybe this is why Jesus said the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are like them.

by Sue Briggs (Michigan, USA)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Building up deeper relationship with God: From Knowledge to Friendship

Read 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Jesus said, "I no longer call you servants. ... Instead, I have called you friends."
-John 15:15 (NIV)

IN my home while growing up, I was exposed to the Bible early and often. I memorized the names of the books of the Bible, learned to locate scripture references quickly, and memorized many scripture passages. In my 30s, I attended church regularly and taught Sunday school, using the knowledge I had gained as a child.

But as I entered the fifth decade of my life, my faith was nonexistent. Though I knew a lot about Christ and the Bible, I did not have a personal relationship with the living God.

God was gracious. A personal crisis brought me to a state of brokenness. In desperation and through the loving counsel of a pastor and other friends, I committed myself to a deeper relationship with Christ.

I will spend the remainder of my life learning what it means for me to let Christ be Lord. Now the Bible holds great value for me. I study it as a hungering pupil who wants to know more about the One I love and serve.

by K. Jackson Peevy (Alabama, USA)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Active Listening

Read 1 Samuel 3:1-10

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."
-1 Samuel 3:10 (NIV)

AFTER videotaping a parade in our town, I received a phone call from a good friend who had marched in the parade. He was a little annoyed that I hadn't acknowledged him. I explained that I must not have recognized him because he was in costume. He was more surprised that I hadn't heard him shouting my name when he went right by me. Confused, I played the videotape. To my surprise, I could hear him on the videotape, shouting my name loudly, six times. How could I have missed it?

Thinking back, I realized that I had been so distracted by the colorful lights, the music, and the aromas of food that I had paid no attention to his voice. I began to wonder how many times God speaks to us and we don't hear. We can become so focused on ourselves and distracted by our daily chores that we don't stop to listen for God's guidance.

God may choose many ways to speak to us - for example, through the words of scripture, through sermons, books we read, and the words of Christian friends. We can take the time to listen and, like Samuel, we can learn to recognize God's voice when we hear it. Now I pray for guidance and actively listen for God's answer.

by Jerry Bragalone (Pennsylvania, USA)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hiding in fields.

I think there are a few things I'm supposed to be doing right now, one of which is writing more. I feel that 97secondswithGod, prodigaljon and stuffchristianslike, are what God wants me to focus on right now. But for a variety of reasons, all three of those sites only constitute a thin sliver of my week.

It's easy to get frustrated about that. To think, "Ugh, I have a call, I have an idea of the direction I'm supposed to be going, why am I not going at the speed I want to?" Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever thought, "I'm not were I'm supposed to be right now. I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing. I have more to give."

Maybe not, but that's where I'm at this morning. And while praying through that I felt like God reminded me that He's still in the business of hiding people in fields.

Which is a weird kind of reminder, but when I looked at the story of David in 1 Samuel it made sense. David didn't just receive a call or a suggestion or a "what if" from God, he was anointed King of Israel. In 1 Samuel 16:13, after he's anointed, it says, "from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power. And then he went back to tend some sheep."

It doesn't say that last line but it should, because that's what happened. The rightful king of Israel returned to the field. Even when David becomes a member of Saul's court, it says in 1 Samuel 17:15 "but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father's sheep in Bethlehem."

It's easy to look at our lives and think, "Why am I working here God? Why am I a part of this church or this ministry or this whatever? I should be doing great things for you! I should be starting a new, all consuming adventure with you. Right this second!"

But I think that sometimes, out of His infinite love and wisdom, God chooses to hide us in fields. Why? I don't know. Maybe he wants us to wrestle more bears before we face Goliath. Maybe He's got a really important message He wants to whisper to us and it can only be heard in the loneliness of a field. Maybe Job 23:9-10 answers this question better than I ever could:

"When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold."

Maybe God has you in a field because He wants to introduce you to the world as gold.

I don't know, but I rest in the fact that I serve a God that does. I rest in the fact that I serve a God that knows exactly where I am and has a purpose for that unique spot, whether it's a field or a kingdom, a mission field or a corporate meeting.

(by Prodigal Jon )

Friday, March 20, 2009

Letters from Christ

Read 2 Corinthians 3:2-4

You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, 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 (NIV)

I was thrilled to see the envelope with my name written in my friend's handwriting. I quickly ripped it open and unfolded the letter. As I read her greeting, I could hear her Texas accent and see her big smile. I could almost feel her embracing me in a tight hug as she asked how I'd been. She wrote, "Can you believe our sons are now freshmen in high school!" I feel a deep connection with her and shared her amazement at how quickly time goes by. Reading the letter from my friend was almost like being with her. I felt her presence through her words.

As believers, we are letters from Christ. The Holy Spirit has written a message indelibly on our hearts. God has a special message to share with the world, and God addresses each one of us as friend. As we interact with people every day, we reveal God to them on a personal level. We become a Spirit-sent letter that gives others opportunity to experience God's presence and love in a special way.

by Gretchen Casey (Maine, USA)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Who is carrying your mat?

I’ve written about accountability before but haven’t spent much time on the topic of friendship. Until I read these verses in Mark 2. Here is what 3-4 says:

Some men came, bringing to him (Jesus) a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on.

I have to confess I’ve always missed the tenderness and strength of the friendship these four men showed the paralytic on the mat. First of all, they carried their friend to Jesus, with the hope that he would get healed. When they found the way blocked, they didn’t give up. They got on the roof, made an opening, spent an undetermined amount of time digging through it and then lowered him gently into Christ’s presence.

Is there a better picture of friendship than that? Going wildly out of your way to bring someone into Christ’s presence? Doing anything and everything you can, to connect someone hurting with the love of Christ?

Who is carrying your mat? Do you have four friends like that?

And perhaps more importantly, whose mat are you carrying?

( by Prodigal Jon )

Acknowledging Our Failures

Read Genesis 3:8-13

If we confess our sins, [God] who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
-1 John 1:9 (NRSV)

WHEN our son, Rob, was about six, I took him bowling for the first time. Initially he did pretty well; he even got one strike. But in the second game, his arm became tired, and most of his balls headed for the gutter. After what must have been about the fourth or fifth bad ball in a row, he turned away in disgust, kicked the ball return, and asked, "Daddy, can I blame God?"

I had to smile, but I couldn't help thinking back to numerous times in my own life when I've not done well but tried to blame it on someone else - even God. Haven't we done this since the beginning of time? Adam and Eve took their turn at redirecting blame for their sin. After all, it's not easy to acknowledge when we've fallen short of our own or God's expectations.

Yet the Bible tells us that if we acknowledge and confess our sins and shortcomings, God will forgive us and give us a fresh start. This begins with taking responsibility for our failures and our disobedience.

Do you need a fresh start today? God offers us one.

by Tony Holifield (Arkansas, USA)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

In everything be calm and gentle

Pr 25:15 "Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone." Influence is partly a function of winning a hearing by patiently listening to others. Imagine a person rudely interrupting a teacher in the middle of their teaching in order to vent their feelings on the matter. How do you think that will go over? Think he will win an audience?"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Pr 15:1 Once anger comes into play, communication breaks down. Even third parties are so distracted by the smoke and fire, they can't concentrate on the ideas. So stay calm.

Christ does call us to a life of subjugation to his will, to his instructions. But he is gentle in carrying out his Lordship over the believer. Jesus said, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Mt 11:29 Likewise "be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Eph 4:2 This is particularly challengiing in dealing with other's sin.

If women want to have great worth in the eyes of God, they can beautify themselves by taking on a gentle, quiet spirit. 1Peter 3:3-4 "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty ofa gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." And such a spirit would make a woman particularly outstanding in these modern days of feminism where such a spirit is so rare.

Missing a Treat

Read Proverbs 9:1-12

Come, all you who are thirsty ... come, buy and eat.
-Isaiah 55:1 (NIV)

THE phone rang as I was clearing up after the evening meal. It was my friend Syl. "Marion, I am sitting here waiting for you. Have you forgotten something?"

Oh no! Syl had invited my husband and me to eat with her, and when Syl makes a meal it's a feast. We had missed a treat, not because we didn't want her meal but because we had been too busy to remember it. "We forgot it was Tuesday, and we've already eaten. I'm so sorry!" Our friend was disappointed too, but she ran out and invited two friends who lived near her to come and eat the lovely meal she had prepared for us.

In a much more significant way, God has graciously prepared a feast for us. Those of us reading these meditations each day have already come to taste the blessings offered at God's table. But sometimes I get so busy that I forget - and miss a treat. If my friend invites us again, we will be sure to go. And I don't intend to get so full of life's busyness that I miss my daily feast with God.

by Marion Turnbull (Manchester, England)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Leaning Toward the Light

Read John 1:1-5

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
-John 1:5 (NRSV)

WHEN my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, our initial conversation turned toward the gloom of illness and death. There were tears, fears, and struggles as she grappled with the possibilities that lay before her.

But then a light flickered. As she turned her attention toward healing, a light began to grow in the darkness. It grew brighter as people expressed support and prayed for her. This gave us hope. Some people provided books and other information that helped her move from darkness to light. Her faith in God gave her the assurance that cancer would not have the final word. God's healing would be her light in the darkness.

As she recovered over the Advent/Christmas season at home, our family grew closer in love. That holy season took on new meaning. God's love was abundant - everywhere evident in the lights, sounds, and aromas of the season.

As John proclaimed centuries ago, the darkness cannot overcome the light. The light of God is love - a fire, an illumination, a dance - that enables us to trust in our Creator's grace. This light also transforms our dark places into lustrous examples of the power of God.

by Todd Outcalt (Indiana, USA)

Monday, March 16, 2009

a word of love a day

Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.
-Romans 12:10 (NRSV)

ONE day I observed a young girl, about 10 years old, as she gave a beautiful rose to an old woman and addressed her, saying, "God bless you." The woman, who was obviously homeless and shabbily dressed, exclaimed, "In all my years, no one has ever shown me such kindness. Thank you, little one." A loving gesture, word, or deed can make an impact on others.

Jesus showed us this in the way he received and spoke to people. When he met the tax collector Zacchaeus, Jesus did not use judgmental language to address him. He did not condemn him. Instead, he reached out in friendship, calling him by name and saying, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today."

A word of love, acceptance, or encouragement offered at the right moment can demonstrate love and make a difference in another person's life.

by Lillián Saldaña Campos (Holguin, Cuba)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Instant Messaging

Read Psalm 63:1-8

Even before they finish praying to me, I will answer their prayers.
-Isaiah 65:24 (TEV)

A loud "ping" sounded from my computer speakers. I blinked back tears of longing as a small notice appeared on my monitor. My daughter was online. She lives on a mission field on the other side of the world. I am in South Africa, but her computer and my computer were linked. I only had to respond. For the next fifteen minutes, we typed furiously, laughed at each other's comments, and enjoyed each other's company despite the many miles that separate us. Time seemed to stand still. In ways I cannot begin to understand, as soon as I hit enter on my keyboard in South Africa, my daughter in Venezuela could read my words. The secret is that we were both online at the same time.

I liken prayer to instant messaging. God is on one end of the communication, and I am on the other. Sometimes I fail to connect, and the messages cease to flow. But God is always online, waiting for me to return. I have no idea how prayer works, but I don't need to. I only need to make a connection.

by Shirley M. Corder (Eastern Cape, South Africa)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Pr 14:29 "A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly." Patience and understanding go hand in hand. If a person is easily angered, it's often over something they don't understand. My job is technically challenging. I noticed I get easily angered when things go wrong. But it's often because there was something I didn't understand or consider. Ever find yourself doing that?

Likewise with people You can get easily angered at those you don't really know. Likewise if a person is characteristically a fool, he doesn't try to understand. Such people tend to be always angry and impatient. He doesn't seek the end of the matter, but just starts arguments."The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride." Ecc 7:8 So"do everything without complaining or arguing." Php 2:14

Friday, March 6, 2009

Our Living God!

Read Matthew 25:31-40

The Lord lives!
-2 Samuel 22:47 (NRSV)

MY former boss was hospitalized. I thought I should go and visit him because he had loved me as his own son. However, before learning of his illness, I had made plans for how I wanted to spend my long-awaited day off. Even though I knew that keeping to my plans would be selfish of me, I was torn about what to do.

On the day I was considering whether or not to go, we had a Bible study at church. While reading the Bible, my eyes were drawn to this passage: "The king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food ... I was sick and you took care of me'" (Matt. 25:34-36). After this, I knew that it was God's will for me to visit my former boss.

He was delighted to see me. I sensed that he truly needed a visit from me and that God was pleased that I was by his side. At that moment, God seemed more alive to me than ever before. I saw that God appeals to us through the words of the Bible and that God works through us in the circumstances of our lives.

(by Yasuo Ogawa (Kagawa Prefecture, Japan))

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thawed Resentment

Read Luke 5:17-20

If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
-Matthew 6:14 (NRSV)

AN injustice in my past had caused bitter resentment that sat like ice in my soul. I couldn't forget or forgive. Even though I was reminded daily in the Lord's Prayer that we need to forgive to receive forgiveness, I couldn't let go of the hurt. Yet I knew that long-held resentments can cause both emotional and physical illness.

When I talked about my feelings with a friend who had suffered severe childhood abuse, she passed on to me advice that had worked in her life. "In prayer, envision the person or persons in God's presence every day. Ask nothing good for the person. Ask nothing bad. Just place the person in the presence of the Lord every day."

She warned that it was no quick fix, and I found that after many, many months, the ice in me began to melt and gradually, very gradually, it disappeared. I was free and have stayed free ever since.

by Carmen Tapiolas (Queensland, Australia)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Power of Witness

Read Romans 1:8-17

Jesus said, "I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd."
-John 10:16 (NRSV)

I was sitting at my office computer when my colleague arrived for work. She took her usual seat next to me but hardly spoke in the next few hours. I wondered what caused her unusual silence. When I asked her how she was, she poured out what had been bottled up inside. She told me about the way someone had hurt her and how depressed she felt. I knew from her facial expression that she was deeply troubled. My co-worker's life seemed empty to me, and day by day I saw her looking to fill that emptiness with worldly pleasures. Our surroundings and circumstances prevented me from reaching out and giving her a hug. All I could do at that time was listen; yet I kept thinking, If she had Jesus in her life, things would be different.

I felt helpless at that moment in the office, but when I went home that evening I knew what God expected of me. God wanted me to pray for my co-worker and to be a friend to her when she needed me. God wanted me to show her Christ's love, something many of us find difficult to do. I want my life to reflect God's presence in every area to everyone around me - in order to bring the lost to Christ, who came to save each of us.

by Jennifer Rebecca Anandanayagam (Western Province, Sri Lanka)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Our Blessings

Read Ezekiel 16:9-14; Ephesians 3:14-21

s All shall give as they are able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God that he has given you.
-Deuteronomy 16:17 (NRSV)

EACH day during Lent I put aside coins in a jar as a reminder of God's blessings. A Christian charity made suggestions for each day: "Give a coin for every pair of shoes that you own." I counted eight pairs, and then I thought about the many children who have to go barefoot. Another day I gave some money for each meal I'd eaten that day, as a reminder that many go hungry and die of starvation. Jesus had nowhere to lay his head (see Matt. 8:20), so another day I counted the number of beds in my home and gave an amount for each one. I have so much to be thankful for: clean water, food, clothes, shelter, work, electricity, gas, peace, freedom.

Jesus identified with those who had little. After all, as a toddler he was a refugee. As an adult he had no home of his own; he was rejected in his hometown and eventually died on the city's rubbish dump. He ministered to all sorts of people, but he had a particular concern for people who were poor.

How much am I willing to give? At the end of Lent I'll add up all the money I've collected and send it to the charity. But it will be a tiny sum compared to all that God has given me.

by Pam Pointer (Wiltshire, England)
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