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December 13

I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between me and them. Ezekiel 20:12 

What you have heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us. 2 Timothy 1:14 

Our verses today both speak to us about the relationship between God and us. A relationship that first is first seen in conjunction with God’s chosen people, and then is extended to everyone in the world. In Ezekiel we read of the Sabbath, something that is special to the people of God. Other groups did not have this concept of a day of rest, apparently. But for Israel, it was important to take time to rest, to spend in worship, and to be shown as a special group. The Sabbath was a central sign of the Jewish religion, a difference between them and other nations, and a sign of their special relationship with God. 

What is this treasure that we have to guard? It is nothing other than the Good News; the Gospel of Jesus Christ’s saving action in our world. Paul tells Timothy—and every Christian—“to hold to the standards that the apostles had delivered to him. And, he says, the only way to keep the doctrines is both to live it and proclaim it with faith and love. Paul is concerned, not just about the truth, but also about how it is preserved, and shown to others, in faith and love. Paul’s repeated emphasis on sound doctrine implies that the body of teaching in the church is more than just a gospel about Christ. It is the gospel of Christ—what He taught and lived in His own life, and what He expects us to follow as well.”* 

This is quite a treasure that we have. And, we can also claim the relationship that Ezekiel refers to, one that expects us to take a day each week to rest, to recharge. Plus, taking time each and every day to worship and remember the God who loves us. 

Creator God, you are alive and active in our world. You call us to collaborate with you in the continuing work of creation. Inspire our efforts and bless them. Without your abundant blessings, which you shower upon us daily, we would be utterly lost. And, then, O Lord, give us the gift of Sabbath peace that we may rest from our labors and be renewed. Amen. 

Chris Gabel

 

*Adapted from a commentary on bibletools.org



December 8

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.  Psalm 51:12

The apostles said to our Lord, “Increase our faith.”  Luke 17:5

The first candle on the Advent wreath has been lit.  Snow covers the ground.  Decorative lights appear on houses, bushes and trees.  Christmas is coming.

I love the Christmas lights.  They beautify our homes, our streets, our world. They light up the darkness at this time of the year.  But Christmas lights have a deeper meaning, one which to Christians is important to remember.  The lights are a symbol of the coming Christ, the one who was and is the light of the world.

There are many references to light in the Bible.  We who believe are “sons of light”. (John 12:36).

We are to walk as children of light. (Ephesians 5:8).  Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.  (Psalm 119:105).  Let your light so shine — (Matthew 5:16). 

Light, obviously so important to our physical world.  And light, also so important and meaningful in our spiritual lives.  Jesus came to light up our world, our hearts, our lives.  He came to give us eternal life, to enable us to see that which is important in our daily lives, and to give us the joy of God’s salvation.

Enjoy the lights, enjoy the season, remember the reason for the season.

Holy God, thank you for giving us what we needed, your son to be our saviour.  Amen

Joan Perlich



December 7

The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statues.  Psalm 119:64

Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift you have received. 1 Peter 4:10

One of the nice things about getting older is that you gain some perspective.  It seems to me that when we are younger we often are too busy “doing” to “stop doing” and pay attention.   At least I was and somedays still am.  But as I have gotten older I have become more appreciative of the world around me and just what and who is in it.    And more grateful to God for my place in it.

The world around us is often chaotic – and it is largely driven by individual people.  Even though at times the chaos can be frustrating, part of the beauty of life is that it isn’t filled with cookie cutter people who are all alike or who think and act like we would do.  Each of us is different. 

Part of that being different from each other is celebrating our individual gifts.  I have no doubt that you, the person reading this, is better than I am at countless things (and I them).  I also have no doubt that you have some pretty special gifts that are a big part of who you are, and the same to me.

Maybe your thing is that you can lead people, or you can do math in your head or you have outstanding taste in art or music or you can preach the gospel or whatever it is.

Have you ever seen someone who is really good at what they do?  Someone who seems like they have it all together?  I love that.  It’s great just being near someone who is in the “zone” when it all comes together for them.    In my head I see that as them utilizing and sharing their gifts. 

Like the song “this little light of mine” we can choose to hide our gifts or to share and to celebrate them.  Let’s relish the differences.  Let’s be excited about what you can do better or different than me.     But let’s not hide the gifts.  Let’s thank God for who we are and what we have and let’s embrace it  

I will leave you with this quote from William W Purkey:

“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”

Dear Lord, I see your majesty in the night sky.  A bird in flight shows me your creativity.   Flowing waters show beauty that you created.  The sound of a child laughing fills us with you’re the warmth of your love.   Lord, grant that I may serve others by helping them see your wonder in the world.  Amen.

Al Rivers



December 6

I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be plundered. Ezekiel 34:22 

Paul wrote: Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25 

It’s sheep again! Somehow the Biblical writers keep comparing people to sheep – in a flock, a scattered flock under danger, and then one that is saved by its Shepherd. We do have a lot in common with sheep. We tend to flock together with those that are like us, we might just follow along without thinking about where we are being led. One sheep goes a bit off the path, all the rest follow. 

Maybe we think we are at least a bit smarter than the average sheep – after all they had to be led to safe water, kept from getting all that wool wet and sinking, and led to good pasture which they then eat down to the soil. But we too have been led to good things although we often forget to thank the Creator who has provided all this. 

Our verse from Ezekiel is preceded by “Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away,” (Ezekiel 34:21) God will then step in to save the flock. Preceding verses also talk about eating enough from your good pasture, and then going on to trample the rest, or muddying the water after you have had enough. God’s covenant is for all, and is to provide protection and peace. The wild beasts will not hurt the people or sheep, and there will be showers of blessing. 

This is all fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd. One who loves all of us, the church of His people, and died for us. His love is constant, always there and not dependent on our actions, which is good considering how often we fail. The grace of God provides for us and protects us just as the shepherd does for the sheep. 

Shepherd God, gather us into your fold and make us your own flock. Guard us, guide us, protect us, empower us, and use us. May we give ourselves for others as you gave your Son  for us. Let us be used by you to help those in trouble. Amen

 Chris Gabel



December 5

I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people. Leviticus 26:12

During this amazing season of lights and tinsel and song, how do we express our gratitude to God?

Maybe our attitude would make a difference. Maybe an attitude that makes the difference is an attitude of being thankful, of being grateful.

If we are able to cultivate an attitude of thanksgiving in what we do, say, and are about, maybe we will know a life that is at once more challenging and more fulfilling.

There are obvious things to give thanks for. There are some good things so close at home, so obvious, that we forget to give thanks for them. A great architect said there’s been no invention like the human hand, and it’s true. The Bible says we are wonderfully made. We are! Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s — it is not a time of the year but an attitude of the heart that changes people. We are to give thanks in all things obvious.

What about giving thanks for all things obscure? Maybe it means opportunities that are hidden, people that we don’t see right away, things that seem of little value until we take a closer look. Paul says, “Whatever is true, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good report or gracious … think on these things.” So maybe we should stop and ponder. Think about them for a while and begin to see that these “things obscure” go beyond our casual seeing. That those things that are solid, of lasting substance and not what flits away, is here today and gone tomorrow, but the enduring things: to give thanks for friendships that don’t just blow away in tough times; to give thanks for a marriage of fifty years. It counts to give thanks for those things that are true and that endure.

Ok, so what about giving thanks when things are difficult? If we are to have an attitude of thanks that can transform the situation, we are to give thanks in all things objectionable. “But”, you say, “I’m not going to give thanks for this illness,” or “I’m not going to give thanks for what this person has done to me.” But maybe we should start with giving thanks presence of God in that situation, that God has not left you. Even though you had a setback, God is still present.

Corrie ten Boom was a remarkable, gracious lady. She and her family lived through the Nazi holocaust and they hid Jewish people in their home who would otherwise have been killed. When she was in a Nazi prison camp it was such a flea-ridden, terrible place that she couldn’t stand it.

Her older sister Betsy said, “But I have found something in the Bible that will help us. It says, ‘In all things, give thanks’.” Corrie said, “I can’t give thanks for the fleas.” Betsy said, “Give thanks that we’re together. Most families have been split up.” Corrie thought, “I can do that.”

Her sister continued, “Give thanks that somehow the guards didn’t check our belongings and our Bible is with us.” She gave thanks for that. But Corrie would not even think of giving thanks for the fleas. Later they found out that the only reason they were not molested and harmed by the guards was because their “captors” were so repulsed by the fleas that they would not go in. She gave thanks even for those lowly creatures!

God can use even the worst in the circumstances of this fallen world to bring the best about. You know why we can believe that? Because God certainly did not want His Son to die on the cross but, when it became necessary, the despised instrument of death became the way we could come to know God. The cross became the means by which we can give thanks in all things, those things obvious, obscure and even objectionable. In everything, give thanks.

Father, thank you for promising to walk with us wherever we go. Thank you for upholding us when life’s challenges surface. Remind us that the faith of Christ produces marvelous possibilities. Inspire us to be your watchful children of the light, ready and eager to share with others the story of your love. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



November 30

The Lord said to Moses, “You have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”  Exodus 33:17

The angel came to Mary and said,”Greetings, favored one!  The Lord is with you.”  Luke 1:28

Have you ever fallen out of favor with a friend or loved one?  Not a good spot to be in  especially if you did something wrong.  Usually saying “I’m sorry” and apologizing will put things right again.  But  the words must be heartfelt and sincere.

As Christians, can we fall out of favor with God?  I suppose so.  After all, we are sinful human beings, nowhere close to meeting God’s standards for righteousness.  But isn’t that exactly the reason God sent his son, Jesus into the world to be our savior.?

Luke 2:52 says that Jesus grew in favor with God.  Perhaps we also grow in favor with God as we come to know him better and draw closer to him.

I think that Mary, mother of Jesus must have been awestruck to realize that God had chosen her to do a special task.  Just as we are filled with awe because of God’s promise to us that we are His beloved children and will be with him in heaven.  He favors us, knows us intimately, and calls us by name.

Holy God,  your love and mercy are great.  Forgive us our sins and be with us as we continue to grow in your grace.  As Advent approaches, may we find opportunities to be quiet and just be with you.  In Jesus name we pray,  Amen
Joan Perlich


November 29

Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. Jeremiah 7:3 

They would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. Acts 2:45-47 

Thought provoking headline over Jeremiah chapter 7 in my bible: “False religion worthless.” That would be interesting to read in the morning newspaper or on our Internet news feed. The note of summary for verses 1-7 says that Solomon’s temple will also be destroyed if the people of Judah keep worshipping false gods. The people apparently felt that Jerusalem was safe because the temple of their Lord was located there. Then Jeremiah speaks his warning, the people are to amend their ways so that they can live with God present in their land. 

There are many false gods that we sometimes follow in this modern world; from fancy cars and houses, to accumulating lots of possessions. But our focus needs to be on the one true God, the one who provided salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. What did the early believers do? First of all Luke tells us in Acts that they were together and had things in common. They didn’t hang onto their “stuff” rather they sold their possessions and gave to others as they saw the others in need. Not just some of them, not just those that were rich, but everyone.  

How many of us have extra stuff – as I go through clothes that I hardly ever wear and cookware that is mostly unused, I know it is time for me to get some boxes and bags and donate the excess. We also read that the people met together, they shared meals in their homes, and were glad. Finally, they spent time praising God for all they had received for all that God had given them. This generosity of spirit and obvious joy was attractive and “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Generous God, help us to be good stewards of the resources you have entrusted to us. May our joy come not from our possessions, but from the fellowship we share with you and with one another. Forgive us when we crave our independence over the gifts of community and the promise that you have made us to be together as part of one body. Help us to praise you and be grateful for our lives and the abundance you provide. Amen 

Chris Gabel



November 27

The pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world. 1 Samuel 2:8
 
But in these last days God has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. Hebrews 1:2-3
 
When God sent his Son, Jesus, to earth, He made all people equal by having Jesus be the sacrifice to save all of us from eternal damnation. God knew that all of us were born into original sin and that we could not free ourselves. He also knew of the many times humans had fallen to temptation and tried to do their will without God’s help. Yet, God, in his infinite wisdom, still valued us beyond our wildest imaginations and offered the greatest gift of all, eternal life. 
 
We rejoice in this infinitely precious gift as we are thankful for the light this gift has shed on all parts of our lives here and in the hope of our lives in the world to come. We are blessed by the many ways we are sustained in our bodies, minds, and spirits. Even when life is difficult, we know that we can rest in the assurance that we are His, and He is there for us now and through eternity.
 
Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Thank you for the wonderful gifts you have given us through family, work, shelter, rest, food, friends, and especially your strong word of eternal life. We are comforted and lifted up by your presence in our lives and by the knowledge that we are precious to you no matter what crosses our paths and invades our thoughts to try to lead us astray. Your unconditional love gives hope always. Amen.
Florence Smallfield


November 22

O save your people, and bless your heritage; be their shepherd, and carry them forever. Psalm 28:9 

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

Sheep are interesting creatures, not the brightest mammals on the planet, and really good at following other sheep and their shepherd. They are totally dependent on their shepherd for protection, good food and safe water sources. In ancient times the sheepfold was a rock wall made of loosely piled stones with a gate on one side. Sheep could enter and leave through this gate, and the shepherd would lie there to keep them safe. Any robber or wild animal would have to get past the shepherd to steal or harm the sheep.

The shepherd has intimate knowledge of his sheep knowing them each as individuals. Some sheep get names because of incidents that occurred to them, and each and every one is accounted for.  When the sheep return to the fold at night, they are usually counted. Some shepherds today say they don’t have to count because they can feel the absence of even one sheep. The sheep sleep safely in the fold, then, in the morning the shepherd called the sheep together and they went out the gate with him.

Sometimes sheep from different flocks mixed together while out grazing. Not a problem, each shepherd in turn would call out a few words and after a bit of scrambling his sheep came trotting over to him. The sheep truly knew their own shepherd’s voice and knew he will protect them.

David in writing the Psalm calls on His Lord for deliverance from whichever peril was present. He refers to God as the shepherd of His people, watching over and caring for us just like the shepherd does for sheep. Jesus as the Good Shepherd is a common image in the Bible. Jesus tells us that it does not matter which fold we are in, we all belong to Him. Although the setting in the New Testament is in the Middle East and nearby areas, the message is for all people in the entire world. Everyone can hear the voice of their Shepherd and follow Him. We humans have managed to divide ourselves into denominations that often disagree. But, rather than being separate flocks, we all are part of one that is saved and protected by one Lord and Savior.

Good Shepherd, thank you for this bright vision of peace and unity – one flock, one shepherd, one people. We are often suspicious and fearful of others, and sometimes struggle to love sheep from other folds. Thank you for searching us out when we are lost, rescuing us from hate, guiding us in your truth, and carrying us forward to your fold of peace forever. Help us so that we let go of our pride and work together with all people so we will be one flock under your leadership Amen.

Chris Gabel



November 21

You should not profane my holy name. Leviticus 22:32

 Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel. Philippians 1:27

 If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning. Catherine Aird

Being a role model is a huge responsibility, easy to mess up. Think about the people you’ve come into contact with this week: how they affected you, how they changed you. Think also about the more generalized role models that influence you; the social stereotypes and cultural icons that shape us simply because we live in this culture. There is no shortage good role models in this society, just an overabundance of bad ones. And so we must be wise. We must understand and own the role-modeling process.  And we must be good players of it.

God is the author of role-modeling. In the first, place, God created each of us with the capacity and desire to learn. While we each have our own unique style and pace of learning, all of us have had plenty of turns as participants in the role modeling process. It’s one of the best ways to learn: keep your eye on someone more experienced than you. Child watches parent; student watches teacher; rookie watches veteran, and so the culture and wisdom of the ages is passed on.

If the greatest goal of our lives is to become like Jesus we must find those who are serving him well and imitate them as they imitate Christ. They are seldom found among the high profile, wealthy, influential individuals often held up as “role models.” True spiritual role models will usually be found among the low profile, humble, selfless servants who go about their business of following Christ whether anyone is watching or not.

When we think of role models, we think of those who we look up to, admire, and respect. We think of those that set an example for us to follow. We think of those that portray values and virtues that should be imitated.

Father, this is easier said than done. The very congregation that unites heroically against outside adversaries then divides bitterly over something like the flowers in the sanctuary. We’re only worthy of your gospel because we need it to live. Help our lives to be consistent with your grace so that we’re a lively part of your blessing to others. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson