The Harvest of Righteousness Religious Web Banner

October 19

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.  This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”  John 3: 1-3.

While I was talking with a friend recently, the subject turned to religion.  She asked me, “Have you been born again?”  I answered truthfully “yes”.  Then I tried to explain to her what it meant to me to be born again.

 Since that moment, I have done a lot of thinking.  My response to my friend was that it was a new awareness of the meaning of my faith, and also a new recognition of my relationship with Jesus Christ.  While I still believe that to be true,  I also think that there is more to the story than that.

Lutherans don’t talk much about being born again. I think it would be an interesting discussion.  Many years ago I took part in a bible study with women of diverse faith backgrounds.  My recollection of some of their views is that being born again happens in an instant, in one specific moment in time.  Perhaps that is true for some people, we all have different experiences. But I know that it was not true for me.

I was raised in the Lutheran church.  I always took church seriously and did all the things that being religious entails.  And gradually, little by little, God grew faith in me, and sometime, in all those years, I was born again, not of the flesh but of the spirit of God.

C.S. Lewis, in his book, THE JOYFUL CHRISTIAN, does not write about being “born again”.  However, he does write about “putting on Christ”.  He writes that when an individual first begins to pray the Our Father, he realizes that he is not really a son (or a daughter) of God.  Therefore he or she is pretending at that point.  But it is a good pretending, for if there is persistence in prayer, the pretense can become reality.  Could this be another example of being born again?

Most Holy God, thank you for your mercy, love and grace.  Thank you for making us your sons and daughters.  Help us to be like Christ in all that we do. Amen
 
Joan Perlich  


October 17

His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace.  He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. Isaiah 9:7

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever Hebrews 13:8

In the ninth chapter of Isaiah, verses 1-7, we read about a son that is to be born. One who will bring light, lessen the people’s burdens, and make them full of joy. Handel used these verses for part of the Christmas portion of the Messiah. It is a beautiful description of the coming ruler.   In verse 7 we see that this person will bring endless peace. Endless peace, this is what is promised in Isaiah. Endless peace sounds wonderful – no more wars or fighting. No more squabbling among different groups of people, perhaps an end to all those miscommunications and arguments. This foretells the future coming of Jesus Christ who will be born as a descendant of David, and who will rule in righteousness forever.

We, of course, know who this son is that was to be born, because we have the newer testament with the Gospels that tell us all about Jesus. We know of His power and authority over the wind, and the storms, over diseases and demons. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the same no matter what time period we look at. He was there at creation as the Word that was spoken to bring all things into being. He was there as an infant and lived on earth for the years of His ministry, death and resurrection. He is here with us now, just a prayer away, walking with us through our joys and sorrows. And, He is here/there throughout the future, for all of eternity. When we leave this life, Jesus will be there to welcome us home.

How is it that we deserve all this? What is it that we have done to receive this continual presence of God right here with us? We don’t need any fancy regimented rites or strange teachings to learn. All that is needed is the simple grace that is God’s gift to us. What once was true about Christ will always be true about Christ, the same truth, the same treasure. To quote Matthew Henry: “Therefore let us go forth now by faith and seek in Christ the rest and peace which this world cannot afford us.”  Receive Him and be free and at peace.

Blessed Savior, in a world of change and turmoil, you alone are steadfast. We long to live more fully in your peace, both now and in the life to come. As we turn to you in prayer our burdens are lessened, our pressures are made bearable. You are our port in the storm. We lovingly thank you for your unwavering strength and constancy in our lives. In Jesus ‘name, we pray. Amen.

Chris Gabel



October 16

To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. Proverbs 21:3

Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement. John 7:24

Judging others.

We all do it. Judge some one by the way they look. By the way they act, the way they dress, the way they talk. What kind of job they have, if they have a job. Where they live, who they live with. The language they speak. The color of their skin.

And I am sure, we have been on the receiving end of some one else’s judgement. Now in all honesty I don’t have too much of a problem with it if someone judges that I am one of the nicest or smartest or best looking people they know. If we are being judged fairly and positively, that’s ok. Right? But when people make comments or make us feel less than, that’s wrong. So why do we do it to others?

We somehow can’t stop. It is so easy and so human to assume that people do an injustice to me when they judge me negatively, but when I judge others it is because I am right and better and more competent to do that.

But wait. This really isn’t about you or me judging others. This about how we will be judged when we meet God face to face, so to speak. Jesus isn’t talking to you about others judging you. He’s saying “this is about you: you don’t judge”. He’s talking to me. And to you. And I think if we want to be disciples, this is something we need to fix.  

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2

When you judge others, you do not define them, you define yourself ~Earl Nightingale

Even God doesn’t propose to judge a man till his last days, why should you and I?” ~ Dale Carnegie

“The Cold Within”

Six humans trapped in happenstance

In dark and bitter cold,

Each one possessed a stick of wood,

Or so the story’s told.

The first woman held hers back

For of the faces around the fire,

She noticed one was black.

The next man looking across the way

Saw not one of his church,

And couldn’t bring himself to give

The fire his stick of birch.

The third one sat in tattered clothes

He gave his coat a hitch,

Why should his log be put to use,

To warm the idle rich?

The rich man just sat back and thought

Of the wealth he had in store,

And how to keep what he had earned,

From the lazy, shiftless poor.

The black man’s face bespoke revenge

As the fire passed from sight,

For all he saw in his stick of wood

Was a chance to spite the white.

The last man of this forlorn group

Did naught except for gain,

Giving only to those who gave,

Was how he played the game.

The logs held tight in death’s still hands

Was proof of human sin,

They didn’t die from the cold without,

They died from the cold within.”

~ James Patrick Kinneysingle

Jesus, I thank you for caring more about my character than my pocketbook. Forgive me for making hasty opinions about others and judging by appearance only. Teach me the grace of your ways, that I might enter my relationships through the lens of your understanding. May your Holy Spirit guide me in my judgements today. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



October 10

“Why do you contend against God, saying, ‘He will answer none of my words’? For God speaks in one way and in two, though people do not perceive it” Job 33:13-14 

The disciples said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32 

Ever feel that life has become a set of problems, and that prayer isn’t working, God does not seem to be paying any attention to us? Job really does have a lot of problems; he has lost everything his flocks, his children and his health. Now he has three friends sitting and telling him what has gone wrong. Job has complained that God is not answering any of his words. He must feel lost and abandoned, yet he does not take his wife’s advice and curse God so that he can die. Having felt close to God in the past, and feeling blessed by him, now Job feels that God is silent in his present experience. He says to his friends He feels that although he has sinned, he has done nothing so awful that he should be suffering as much as he is, and that God should be answering him.

Elihu answers in these verses saying says that God speaks in more than one way, in another translation it says God speaks “time and again. At this time there were no scriptures for Job to consult, his time is probably at least 1200 BCE or earlier before any of the Hebrew Scriptures were written. His knowledge of God has come directly from his experiences with Him in this world.

As we move forward in time a couple thousand years to Luke, we now have Scriptures written over the years by faithful people. So, it should be easier to hear God, right? Well, maybe not always. As the two walking to Emmaus find out we need to see the scriptures through eyes that are opened by the knowledge of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The two on the road to Emmaus were a bit sad. They had hoped for so much from Jesus, they knew Jesus was a powerful prophet, but now they aren’t sure what to think. As they walk along, Jesus joins them; they heard and understood as He explained the Scriptures to them. They didn’t even recognize Him until they sat at their table and broke bread together. Then they realized that their hearts had been “burning” as they heard the truth of all that had happened.

Now it is our turn, first we do need to read the Scriptures to find out about all that God has done from Creation to our final salvation. But it is not always easy to understand, and we may not feel that God is speaking to us at all. So we need to remember as Job was told that we can hear God in many ways from reading the Bible, to listening to sermons, to seeing actions of others, to being of help to others and many more. We just need to pay attention.

Omnipotent God, forgive us when we are so wrapped up in our own problems that we miss your voice. Quiet our spirits, recalibrate our senses to your ways of speaking, inspiring and comforting us. Risen Savior, thank you for seeking us out and walking with us down our daily paths. Keep our hearts burning as we receive and share your love with those who suffer and need our encouragement today. Amen. 

Chris Gabel



October 9

The Lord is my right hand, I shall not be moved. Psalm 16:8

By faith Moses, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen. Hebrews 11:27

Of all the things I been through, I still have joy. I have been hurt, but I’m still standing. I’ve been misunderstood, but I’m still standing. The world has tried to knock me off my feet, but I’m still standing.  

There are times when people let you down. Family, friends, Congress. We are disappointed in their behavior, their inability to take the high road. We expect certain things from our circle of friends and family. And when we don’t see the results we expected, we are hurt. I know I have let other people down, either by my actions or inaction. Or harsh words, said in anger or frustration. And I am sorry. We are human and we screw up.

I sometimes think we recite the Lord’s Prayer by rote. It can become too familiar and we aren’t actually listening to the words. We hurry over the phrase in the Lord’s prayer, “and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”.

Do we really forgive the people who fail to stand by us? Do we forgive those who try to hurt us? Maybe. But I know who does. He is there by my side. By my side when I screw up. By my side when I fail to stand by someone else. By my side…always. He stands by us all.

He stands at our side, giving us strength. Giving us love. Giving us forgiveness.

I’m still standing.

Lord, Stand by me and be present when circumstances and people challenge my confidence in you. Help me to keep my feet on the ground. My head and heart above water. Grant me an eternal perspective which makes me unmovable in what I face today. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



October 3

Israel will be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation; you will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting. Isaiah 45:17 (NIV) 

You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. James 5:8 

It must have been hard for the people of Israel; at this point as Isaiah relates they are still in exile in Babylon.  After all the time they wandered in the wilderness, they finally get to their land settle in and forgot all about their Lord who got them there. So they are now in exile far from their land which was promised to them by God. How frustrating to not have this wonderful inheritance they were promised. Many still believed in God’s promises, but they must have been getting short on patience as they waited for release from their exile. 

But things are changing, Cyrus the Great, of Persia, has decided that the temple in Jerusalem is to be rebuilt, and the people can return from exile.  Maybe not everybody, there is an earlier verse that says the “makers of idols will be put to shame and disgraced.” This remnant of Israel however will be saved by the Lord. And this is not just for the generation that is currently in exile, this is to be an everlasting salvation, something well beyond their physical situation extending into their spiritual salvation. Their patience and belief are to be rewarded. They are told this is for ages everlasting. The promise given to Abraham is still there, God has not forgotten, and is fulfilling the promise. 

In James we also read about the need to be patient. This is very hard for many of us. I remember a time when we were divided into service groups at church, labeled with the names of the fruits of the Spirit, and I got in the one called “Patience.” I did comment that seemed a little strange since patience is not my strong suit. But patience is something that God has in abundance. How else can He put up with us and some of our behavior? How patiently He must wait, for some of His people to finally hear the message of the Good News about Jesus and our eternal salvation. 

To quote from Matthew Henry: “Men count time long, because they measure it by their own lives; but all time is as nothing to God; it is as a moment. To short-lived creatures a few years seem an age; but Scripture, measuring all things by the existence of God, reckons thousands of years but so many days. Let us serve our God, and bear our trials, as those who believe that the end will crown all. Our eternal happiness is safe if we trust to him: all else is mere vanity, which soon will be done with for ever.”

Lord God, we admit that we are impatient and need strength from you to face today’s challenges. As your coming draws ever nearer, help us to see life and our decisions through the lens of eternity. Sharpen our focus upon your promises, that we may have hope and assurance both now and in the days ahead. Amen. 

Chris Gabel



October 2

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our own hands-O prosper the work of our hands. Psalm 90:17

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit. John 15:5

There are no “good” people in the Bible, except for Jesus. Wait, what? Think about it. All of the characters we read about in the Bible are flawed, and ruined by sin and in  desperate need of a Savior.

When we read the Bible, or books about the Bible, we read about the good things they did. Or the help they gave, or the people they took care of. It gives the idea that we can, in our own power, actually DO the good things we see the characters doing. But we can’t. We don’t. We fail repeatedly.

It also assumes that the central protagonist of the story is a human being such as Abraham, David, or Paul. But the real protagonist in Scripture as well as each of its diverse stories is God. It’s about him. It’s his book, he’s the hero, and its his character that will we see unfolded. The people involved just illustrate all the things we learn about God.

We will never be Abraham or Noah or Mary Magdalene or Martha. At least I won’t. I might however, be Sarah, who laughed at God’s plan, and tried to hasten the outcome. Or Thomas who doubted what his own eyes were telling him.

They often failed or were incapable of doing God’s will. But God’s grace was at work in their lives, redeeming them and re-shaping them. Challenging them and us to look to Jesus alone for that same redemption.

We all have flaws, I tend to finish people’s sentences, a very bad habit. I am a control freak, I procrastinate, I’m impatient, I have been known to use bad words, I have a quick temper, I’ve told my share of lies. Well, you get picture. And I am not alone.

But God redeems me, empowers me to make different decisions with my life based on his truth.

“We all are men, in our own natures frail, and capable of our flesh; few are angels.” William Shakespeare, Henry VIII

Father, I thank you for grafting me, a mere branch, onto your life giving vine so that my heart may be filled with your goodness and love. By your favor and grace, help me overcome any temptations and character flaws that might make me unfruitful. Help my heart and hands to bless and build up others today. Amen

Peace,

Susan Hanson



September 28

“Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.”  Psalm 66:20

“Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”  Matthew 6:8

As a child I was taught to pray with hands folded, fingers interlocked; head bowed; eyes closed.  Jesus told of a proud, learned Pharisee, [praying] boastfully, SELF-righteously; and of a humble outcast nearby, bowing humbly, admitting his faults, and asking for mercy.  God is listening.  God knows.   “Are You Running with Me, Jesus?”  is a collection of thoughts/prayers (to me they are the same) written by Rev Malcolm Boyd.  A busy man, 1960s civil rights and anti-Viet Nam War activist, believing in God’s constant presence, Boyd put down in writing his silent thoughts/talks with God throughout his busy day, waiting in traffic, picking up a cup  of coffee, marching, waiting …

Believing in God’s constant presence means acknowledging God knows our secret baggage.  God knows when we are distracted with our heads bowed, eyes closed, hands folded, reciting rather than praying those memorized prayers; when our service is begrudged, feeling too busy this day; when we are impatient, looking at our watches during “endless” sermons, anticipating kick-off.  God knows our prejudices, fears and anger. 

But God knows our self-consciousness and insecurities; our loneliness and longing; our inner frustrations that leave us feeling overwhelmed.  Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans (8:26) “Likewise 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.”  

God knows our greatest need … what we are less likely to ask for than a good job or healing or a restored relationship.   God knows we need forgiveness, and grants grace and mercy. 

“Even before we call on Your name to ask you, O God; when we seek for the words to glorify You, You hear our prayer; Unceasing love, O unceasing love, Surpassing all we know …

“Even with darkness sealing us in, we breathe Your name; and through all the days that follow so fast, we trust in You.  Endless Your grace, O endless Your grace …” Amen

(Prayer text:  “Pilgrim’s Hymn” – Stephen Paulus)

Verla Olson



September 26

The Lord will keep your foot from being caught. Proverbs 3:26

We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:37

Sometimes the Bible verse that is assigned for the day seems very appropriate. This past Sunday evening I was on my way up to the bathroom to start cleaning it out in preparation for remodeling this week. I was, of course, carrying something in each hand – a garbage bag for trash and a big basket for recycling. As I was about to head up the stairs my toe caught on something and I managed a very graceful fall, only spilling a few things onto the carpeting which I cleaned up while lying on the floor. Now, who could have left something there to trip on?

Then, Monday morning, I look at this verse: “The Lord will keep your foot from being caught.” That sounds pretty good, but it didn’t seem to work with my clumsy feet. Another translation says to “keep your foot from the snare.” So, I managed to get my foot caught, how come this happened? Or what kinds of snares is the writer of Proverbs talking about, what are these things that can catch us? Reading through some of the study notes, there is a reference to Proverbs   1:18 – “they waylay only themselves” which the note says means: “the wicked are less intelligent even than birds, because they spread a net for their own feet.”

We learned in Sunday school this past weekend that after each thing God created, He said it was good. Everything in Creation, which He created for us, was good. There were not snares and stumbling blocks included as part of the creation package. Then we foolish people come along and manage to add snares and traps along the way. Sometimes we may even plan to do this against someone else, but often we only trap ourselves. Yet God is patient with us, He doesn’t want us to be ensnared by evil. In verse 25 we are told to have no fear of the ruin that overtakes the wicked since the Lord is our confidence.  Paul writes to the Romans that we do not have to worry about problems in this life separating us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. When we are weak, we are actually strong through God’s grace. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

O God, our guide and protector, as we follow the path that you have laid before us some days we walk with difficulty, some days we run with ease, and some days we dance with joyful abandon. You are always right beside us on all of our paths. Thank you for walking alongside us, lifting us out of danger and beyond the reach of death. If it were up to us, we would be lost. Thanks be to Jesus, who has made us victorious through his death and resurrection in glorious triumph! Amen

Chris Gabel



September 25

The Lord said to Jacob, “I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15

By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph. Hebrews 11:21

Testimony after testimony of God’s faithfulness is certainly found throughout the Bible and is still given in testimonies by people today.

In fact, accounts of covenants between God and His people can be found approximately 277 times in the Bible. ”Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.” Deuteronomy 7:9

There are literally dozens more scriptures of God’s faithfulness. None however may be the most life-changing as those that proclaim His forgiveness of our sins. There are many Old Testament prophecies promising a coming Messiah or Savior. God’s faithful promise was fulfilled in the New Testament when He sent Jesus to compensate for our stupidity and sins. No matter what sins we have committed, no matter how “bad” we are, God is faithful to forgive us if we accept Jesus and confess our sins.

God is so faithful that anyone who seeks Him can find Him. Faith is a gift, but even a gift must be opened to be enjoyed. As we put our faith into action, we begin to realize more and more about God’s faithfulness to us.

Abiding God, I thank you for hanging in there with me. Sometimes my broken dreams and limited vision prevent me from seeing your presence. And yet here you are, with me, just as you promised. Stay with me, Lord, all the days of my life. Keep me assured that my future is forever under your care. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson