October 2021 Devotional: I See You. God Sees You. You Matter

By Lt. Mony Oregel
Stockton, CA Corps – Del Oro Division

One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. Acts 16:14 (NIV)

Ten years ago, my life was a hot mess.

I attempted to numb my childhood hurt, pain, and rejection with anything and everything —alcohol, drugs, food, men. You name it, I tried it. But nothing worked.

My wounds screamed you are nothing: I wasn’t good enough or pretty enough. Life was dark. Soon the police were involved, threatening to take my kids away. My life was a disaster, and chaotic and I didn’t know what to do.

During my mess and crazy life, I called a friend (I call her my angel), a friend who walked the same road I did. I didn’t know her well, but there was something different about her. She wore this polyester blue uniform every day and, on her name, tag it said, “Welcoming Sargent.” She would invite me to church every week. I said to myself. What kind of church is that? I don’t want any part of it. I laughed and brushed it off over and over. I would tell her “next time!” Something in her eyes and her smile said: I see you. God sees you.  You matter. You are not alone.

That evening, my angel listened to my story and then spoke four simple words: “Mony, you need Jesus.”

Since I’d tried everything the world had to offer and still felt empty inside, I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. In 2013 I walked in to the Oakland Garden street Salvation Army. Those officers and soldiers welcomed me with open arms. I felt safe and at home. I invited Jesus Christ into my heart and to take control of my life.

Everything changed for me at that moment, starting with my angel. She noticed this lost girl and introduced me to the One who opens His arms wide — no matter the size of the mess I was in.

Today, my life gives hope to others and a testament to the fact that no one is too far gone from God’s amazing grace.

This former drug addict now leads a beautiful Corps in Stockton and an amazing community is focused on telling men, women, boys, and girls about God’s amazing love.

But what if my angel had been too busy or distracted? What if she’d looked away?

The Apostle Paul also knew the power of seeing others — not just as who they were, but who they could be. Paul understood the transforming power of Jesus, which made him the perfect ambassador to share God’s love and light everywhere he went.

In Acts 16, as Paul passed through Macedonia, he took time to see Lydia and her friends sitting by the river. Lydia was a successful business owner. But selling purple cloth didn’t fill the void as she searched for spiritual purpose and potential. All the money and connections couldn’t satisfy her deepest need for love and belonging. That day on the riverbank, though, everything changed.

Three ambassadors of God sought His lost children. I bet that day Paul, Luke and Silas were gentle in their demeanor. I bet they smiled and made eye contact that said: I see you. God sees you. You matter. You are not alone.

The Bible tells us the three men did not ignore the women sharing the riverbank with them. (Acts 16:13) Paul stopped. Sat. Shared. Unintimidated by the fact that not one single person for miles around believed in Jesus Christ. Not one. Then there was a miracle on the fishy-smelling, shore. One of God’s lost girls was found! …The Lord opened (Lydia’s) heart to respond to Paul’s message” (Acts 16:14). She listened, and her heart was opened to God’s love his promises and the Good News of Jesus. Because Paul and his friends looked up from their lives and really saw Lydia, she was saved.

What about you, friend? How often do you look up and really notice people God places in your life? How might you break out of your comfort zone and engage with someone?

Let’s remember: We might be the difference between someone being lost and being found. We might be the light in someone’s dark chaotic world. Let’s be that light – the light God calls us to be.

Dear God, I acknowledge You as the God who sees me. You know me and understand me when no one else does. Forgive me for the times I’ve missed the Men, women, boys and girls here, near and far who need Jesus. Give me Your eyes and heart to seek the lost and be that light and show them Jesus and His love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Check out this month’s Bible Study, Seeds of Potential and this month’s craft, Sand Jar Craft, which coordinates with this devotional.

September Devotional: Prayer Flag Project

By Major Ronda Gilger
Coeur d’Alene Kroc Center, ID – Northwest Division

Note: This is a devotional that incorporates a time of prayer and a craft.

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit speaks on our behalf with groans that words cannot express. Romans 8:26

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your prayer requests before God. Philippians 4:6

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2

I want men (and women) everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. I Timothy 2:8

Believing that the world can be changed with prayer, and understanding that our prayers carry the full intent of our hearts and minds to the throne of God… we choose to pray. We choose to move in close – to our Father….to sit in his presence and practice the spiritual discipline of prayer through an “activity” that will unite and focus us.

There are two options for the Prayer Flag Project:
1) The prayer flag banner can be made individually as a “take home” which may become a part of each person’s ongoing prayer life.

2) The prayer flag banner can be made to hang as a larger banner- in your chapel or entryway, a worship center or group room.   As each person comes in they are invited to take part and the project is ongoing for a month or several weeks until the banner is filled with “prayers. You may have a journal there where people can write their prayer requests if they want others to join them.

The simplest directions are included on the handout which can be printed to give to all those participating.

Setting the Scene: Play worship music to create an atmosphere conducive to prayer.

Set up a “materials” table. Twine can be precut and placed at each participant’s seat. Strips of fabric can be precut or torn and placed in a few baskets where the women can choose the fabric they choose to add to their Prayer Flag.

Read each verse about prayer. Ask your women to share a time in their lives when God answered prayer. They may share as a group or as a united group. Encourage your women to keep a Prayer Journal- so they can see the ways in which God is working in their lives. “How He is answering their prayers!” You might even give each woman a small journal or moleskin and ask her to write down some of the prayers that she had as she created her Prayer Flag.

Close your time together in prayer for one another.

Directions:

1. Measure & mark 1-1.5” inch sections along edge of fabric using ruler.
Snip the edge at the marking” cutting 1/2” in from edge.
2. Tear fabric strips to get a rough, straight edge.
Cut strips to 15 “ (1”x 15”) or (1.5 x 15”)
3. Tie your fabric strip around the twine and Knot with a simple half knot in the center of the strip.  *Use a fairly Sturdy Hemp twine measuring 36-40”( or longer if a group project)
4. Tie a small slip knot at each end so that it can be hung. 


5. With each “knotted fabric strip” a “prayer has been added.

November 2021 Devotional: The PERFECT Thanksgiving

Southwest Division

For most Americans, Thanksgiving is a joyous time of celebration. It is a time when we gather around a table that is overflowing with turkey, stuffing, potatoes, pies, and all sorts of delicious foods. It is a time for football, parades, and all-around mirth. As Christians, Thanksgiving is a time to reflect and give thanks to God for abounding love and faithfulness to us.

For many, however, Thanksgiving brings about vastly different emotions. It is a time of stress, anxiety, and depression. It reminds them of their failure and imperfections. Thanksgiving is not a thankful holiday for these people. Why is that? What is it about this holiday or this time of year that causes these emotions?

I often think about these questions as I mentally prepare myself for the stress of Thanksgiving, and the main answer I come back to is societal expectations. When I consider the holidays and what society has told me they look like, it is overwhelming. The perfectly set tables brimming with food. The lavish decorations, and perfectly cleaned house. The children with perfect manners, and the husband who is watching the perfect game in his perfect recliner. The expectations are crushing.

These expectations are not anything new either. I often look back at the story of Mary and Martha. Read Luke 10:38-42.

Two sisters seeking to enjoy being in the presence of Jesus. Enter the expectations. Mary casts aside the expectations of a host and simply sits at Jesus feet. Martha, however, seeks to be a good host while also wanting to be a part of the festivities. In most teaching and sermons, Martha is portrayed as a busybody and complainer. However, I believe that what she is experiencing is very real. She wants to live up to what society has said is a good host. She wants that PERFECT Thanksgiving.

I think that when Jesus tells her that Mary has chosen what is better, he is inviting her to forget the expectations and simply be with him. HE isn’t telling her that she is wrong or that she is worse than Mary. He is telling her that it is okay if the dishes wait, it is okay if the turkey is dry.

Thanksgiving is a time to simply be reminded that Jesus loves us. We give thanks to God, not because of the food, decorations, or visiting guests, but simply because he loves us.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What are some of the stresses that you experience during Thanksgiving?
  • How do you deal with your stress during the holidays?

Challenge:

Starting on Thanksgiving Day, try to keep a gratitude journal. Each day write anywhere between a sentence and a paragraph of the things that you are thankful for that day. Don’t overthink it, you are the only one looking in this journal.

Note: Check out this month’s Bible Study, 10 Reasons to Praise the Lord, and this month’s craft, Edible Thanksgiving Turkeys, that coordinates with this devotional.

December 2021 Devotional: A Gift of Significance

By Captain Betzy Hanson
Colorado Springs, CO Corps – Intermountain Division

Read Matthew 2:1-12

What the Wise Men Brought to Jesus
If you ever watched the movie, The Nativity Story, when it was released in 2006, then you would have witnessed the scene when the wise men brought their gifts to Jesus. As the wise men lay their gifts before Jesus they explain the significance of each gift. Here is the quote from the movie. “Gold for the King of kings, Frankincense for the Priest of priests, a gift of myrrh to honor thy sacrifice.” As I watched this scene I was overwhelmed with tears. The writer who developed this scene did a great job of explaining what each gift represents.

Here is a brief explanation of each gift that was given: First, Gold is a precious metal, but it is also a sign of wealth and royalty. Frankincense is an incense that was sprinkled on sacrifices offered to the Lord and was also used in the tabernacle (Leviticus 24:7). The last gift was Myrrh which was used for embalming and has some healing properties as well.

Now, let’s look at the significance of each gift. When we look at Solomon’s Temple in the Bible, we read that his goblets and household items were made of gold. This is because if it was anything less than gold it was considered unworthy for a king (2 Chronicles 9:20). Gold was given to Jesus because He is greater than Solomon. Gold is not a typical gift for a child unless he is a king. So, the wise men knew the child they were visiting was going to rule and shepherd Israel. They knew he was King.

Frankincense is a priestly fragrant oil used throughout the Old Testament for sacrifices. When Jesus was born, he became the High Priest. Hebrews 4:14 says, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” Frankincense was not given by coincidence; it had a significant reason of why it was given to Jesus. Jesus was going to give His life as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Which brings me to the last gift . . .

Myrrh. Through this gift we see the humanity of Jesus. It is shown in this gift because we know that Jesus died on the cross. In the book of John, we read that a mixture of myrrh and aloe was put on him and then his body was wrapped in cloth (John 19:38-40). According to scripture these gifts were chosen through prophecy. “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel” (Micah 5:2-4). The wise men knew that Jesus’ birth was fulfilling prophecy so they prepared their gifts for the Ruler who was born to save the world. These wise men knew that hope was not lost for God’s people. They knew that Jesus’ birth was going to bring change. These three gifts were of great significance, because they show Jesus as King, High Priest, and man.

My Gift of Significance
My life completely changed when I found out I was pregnant with my second daughter, Adaline. Because of secondary infertility, and the loss of two babies, my husband and I were not able to grow our family like we wanted, but God had other plans. Adaline came to us as an unexpected but pleasant surprise. This pregnancy was truly a miracle from the Lord. Eden (my first born) was born in October 12, 2004 and Adaline was born on June 20, 2019. Yes, my girls are almost 15 years apart. When time came to get ready for the new baby, I realized I had nothing. I was starting all over.

Thank God my family and friends gathered to throw me an amazing baby shower. Some gifts were typical gifts like clothes, a stroller, a car seat, diapers, and burp cloths. But as the party came to an end, I received a very significant gift. My grandmother slowly walked up to me near the end of the party, hugged me and then handed me a very small pair of pink shoes. As she handed them to me, I immediately recognized them. They were my fist born Eden’s, baby shoes. As I held these little baby shoes, I cried. I cried because I thought all hope of conceiving another child was gone. I cried because the significance of this gift meant that I was going to have a little baby to fill these shoes. I cried tears of joy, rejoicing over what God had done in my life.

Your Significant Gift
God doesn’t want only the gifts of time, money, or your service to others. God wants all that we are. He wants the hidden, the seen, the bad, the sad and the hurt. He wants it all. This may sound cliché, but this is what God wants, our complete life. What significant gift will you bring to Jesus today. Will you surrender all your life? He wants us to bow down and present our lives before him. Romans 12:1 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

Have you taken the time to prostrate yourself before God to give all your life to him? Sometimes in our busy life we see service to others as more valuable than laying all we are before God. We may not say it, but by our actions, and the way we spend our time to get the job done, we show it. God wants us to know him deeper, and the way we do this, is by spending time with Him. So today I encourage you to lay your gift of significance before Jesus. Take at least five minutes of your day, put some worship music on, and just soak in God’s presence. The wise men bowed down and worshiped Jesus. “Then they opened their treasures and presented him with their gift.” (Matthew 2:11). Let’s bow down and worship the King of kings, the Priest of priests and the hope of all the world that was born to save us so that we can have freedom and eternal life in Him.

Note: Check out this month’s craft, Wise Men Seashell Ornament, and this month’s Bible study, Seeking the King that coordinates with this devotional.

August Devotional: Under the Son

By Major Dina Graciani
Director of Special Services – Adult Rehabilitation Centers Command

Ae you weary or heavy burdened? Does life seem extremely challenging with all that is thrown at you? Do you feel like “enough is enough” and that you just don’t think you can handle what tomorrow might bring?

Then, I have good news for you, there is a Savior who wants to relieve you of all those burdens that weigh you down in life. His name is Jesus and He loves you more than words can describe.

Consider what troubles or worries you today. I want you to know that Jesus wants you to run to Him, to lay those troubles and worries with Him. The Bible tells us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Jesus wants to carry us, be it through illness, loss of a job, marital challenges, wayward children, any and all that weighs us down can be turned over to Jesus. Give it to Him, give it all to Him and let Him give you rest as you trust in Him. I have often found going to Jesus for rest does not necessarily mean He will take away the burden or challenge but give us the strength to go through it so we can grow through it! It’s during those times of going through the problems of life that we can become stronger in our faith.

Recently I was reminded that under the Son of God’s care we can see His hand of grace blocking things that would cause us much despair. He knows that is more than we could handle so He protects us from being overloaded. Recently at the Riverside ARC, in Perris, California, we had a massive fire that wiped out one of our buildings. Although we lost our entire annex building, God’s hands of grace hovered over our chapel, men’s residence, dining room, administration building and thrift store. It was clearly evident that the hand of God protected our men in our program and all our employees! Yes, the loss of a 100,000 sq. ft. warehouse is devastating but we focus on how God spared the rest of the campus! God knows what we can endure. It’s as if God said to the winds and the fire that took place that day, “no, you’re not touching or torching this!”

Have you been in situations like this? Can you look at a situation that has happened to you or a close family member and see how God has placed your circumstances under the Son’s care?

Proverbs 18:10 say, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” Run to Jesus, let Him carry your burdens and sustain you as you go through life’s challenges, you will find that going through life’s problems with Jesus will offer you the opportunity to grow through it!

When you are under the heat of the sun and life’s daily struggles hit you in the face… know that you are under the Son’s graceful care.

Download the printable version of this devotional

Note: Also on our website is UNDER THE SON Bible Study and UNDER THE SON/SUN games and activities that coordinate with this devotional.

July Devotional: The Battle Continues… But We Are Not Alone

The Battle Continues…But We Are Not Alone Captain Harryette O’Brien Torrance, CA Corps – California South Division Recently I read a book called Killing London by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. I love the way these two men can tell a story by weaving history through every page. In the book, I learned that after members […]

March Devotional: Layers

February Devotional: God’s Love