February 21

But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults. Psalm 19:12

Anyone who comes to me I will never drive away. John 6:37

What comfort and reason to rejoice are found in today’s verses! Each day each of us does something(s) that show our humanness and sinfulness. We cannot even detect some of the things that happen in our days to prove that we have faults and commit errors. Sometimes we realize after the fact that something we did took on a completely different meaning when seen through another’s eyes. 

My parents lived through the Great Depression. My mother, in particular, always talked about not wasting money, food, clothes, etc. One of my two younger brothers was named Gordon. He and I were two years apart in age. At the time, I was about seven, and he was five. Gordon was going to the barber for a haircut next time we went to town. (Later she bought a barber kit from the catalog.) Mother, as usual, had told us how much it was going to cost. Earlier in the day, I told Gordon that if he let me cut his hair it would save us a lot of money. He agreed, and I cut away. Well, it wasn’t a “hidden fault,” my error was obvious! I was reminded of this incident as I read today’s verses, because after some earnest talking from Mother, she forgave me, and Gordon’s hair did regrow.

Of course, many of our errors do not appear humorous to anyone, or to God. There are times when people have to be punished of even incarcerated for what they have done. However, God’s saving words, no matter the offense, apply to everyone. We are all God’s children and are precious in his sight.

Dear Lord and Savior,

Thank you for making us precious in your sight and recipients of your grace. Thank you for your wonderful gift of forgiveness. You know everything about us, and yet you welcome us into your loving arms. Remove our faults, and help us to see our own errors without becoming distracted by them. Keep us close and help us not to obsess in detecting the errors of others. In your name, Amen.

Florence Smallfield       



February 20

I stretch out my hands to you my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Psalm 143:6 

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

There are many times in our lives when we feel weary – perhaps tired from being very busy with lack of sleep, perhaps we have been ill and are slowly recovering, or perhaps we don’t have something we can point to, we just feel weary.  Life is complex and sometimes it seems that we just cannot get up enough energy to deal with everything.  Weariness cannot be cured with a simple remedy, or a few words from helpful friends.

I remember reading a Peanuts comic strip, with Charlie Brown being weary, and worn out and sad. His friends do come to help support him, but all they are able to say is “Be of Good cheer” as if that should be enough to make him happy and content. Our words are often not enough to bring us out of our weariness, sadness, or certainly depression.  But God’s words do have that power. In Psalm 146 David is praying to God to deliver him from enemies, to give him mercy and give him relief. In our verse for today he is reaching out to God, praying to Him much like he would reach out for water in a parched land. He knows that God will listen and save him from his enemies and his problems.  

Then, we have the words of Jesus, who invites us all to come to Him, all of those who are weary and carrying heavy burdens. That would seem to be all of us at least at some points in our lives. And, this is simple. All Jesus asks is that we come to Him. There is no set of steps we have to go through. No “10 Ways to Relieve your Weariness”* or a new self-help book. In an article by Jon Bloom, from desiringGod.org*, we read that “unique to anyone else in human history, Jesus simply offers himself as the universal solution to all that burdens us. What a simple promise, just Come to Me. This only works if Jesus is who He says He is.

The article goes on to say “Jesus is the one answer to every question, concern, fear, and need we will ever have. “ And, all we have to do is believe and trust in Jesus and we can rest our burdens on Him. In this way we can find true rest and peace. Jesus does all the work and gives us all the rest.  He wants us to gather together and come to Him, so that all may find this rest.

Lord, some days we feel the weight of the world resting upon us.  We are thankful that we can call upon you to carry our burdens. Help us to respond to your invitation to come to you, to where we find our rest. Grant us the peace and hope that only you can give as we go through this troubled word. As you lift heavy spirits now, may others see your love through us. Amen. 

Chris Gabel



February 19

“Because your heart was penitent and you have humbled yourself before me, I also have heard you.” says the Lord. 2 Chronicles 34:27

The royal official said to Jesus, “Sir, come down before my little boy does.” Jesus said to him, Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. John 4: 49-50

Life is filled with “why” questions. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why am I hurting? Without a doubt, some of these questions are hard to answer. And, I think many of them relate directly to our relationship with God. Why do I have to wait along time for answers to my prayers? How come some of my prayers never seem to be answered?

The fact is a lot of our questions in life can’t be answered with our limited human understanding. But when we’re faced with spiritual struggles and dilemmas, we can find comfort in knowing that one question has a relatively simple answer: “Why should we pray?” There are many reasons, but one solution might be by stating that prayer connects us with the heart of God. It’s a strong source for finding understanding of His plan for our lives. We receive guidance and wisdom through prayer, and I believe it can have a tangible impact on our everyday life. Prayer forms a unique, powerful communication link with God—an intimate, “heart-to-heart” conversation with Him. That alone is a compelling enough reason to pray.

Lord Jesus, forgive me for not trusting that I can come to you for anything. Create in me an open heart and humble spirit for your dwelling place. Remind me today that talking with you can become easy and natural. I’m thankful that you promise to listen and help me through any situation. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



February 15

A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you.  Ezekiel 36:26.

And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:18.

I have my mother’s bible.  It is entitled “The Everyday Bible” and is published by Word Publishing, a Guideposts edition.  I like reading this bible, the language is simpler and easier to read than, for example, the King James Version.  Therefore, I was surprised when I read the scripture verse from Romans in this bible and found that the same words were used as the ones in my study bible which is the New King James Version.  The specific word I am referring to is “slave”. 

The word slave has a negative connotation for me.  In fact, that word is defined in Webster as “a person held in servitude as property”.  How can that define us as Christians?

Jeremiah Johnson, in an article written for Grace to You Sermons, (June 22, 2015) says that the word slavery is not the metaphor to choose when talking about spiritual truth. But God’s word is different.  In the bible there are repeated uses of the imagery of slavery to describe a person’s relationship to sin.Those persons who don’t obey God believe that they are free to do anything they want.  But in fact, as Paul says so aptly, they are not free at all for they are in bondage to sin.  Paul goes on to say that the only true freedom is to be a slave to righteousness or goodness.  As slaves to righteousness, God is our master and we freely choose to obey his commands. And since God is love, we are slaves to love.  And we have a great reward.

It is hard to grasp the full and complete meaning of Paul’s words.  But after reading the words of several theologians, I feel differently about being a “slave to righteousness.”  Mystery is involved as in other facets of our faith.

Most holy God, you have put new hearts and spirits within us.  Although we can still sin, sin is not our master.  We are owned by you and we willingly and gladly follow your way.  Thank you for your mercy and grace.  Amen

Joan Perlich



February

You, O Lord, are our father; our Redeemer from of old is your name.  Isiah 63:16 

Jesus said, Pray then in this way: Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Matthew 6:9

Isaiah in the Old Testament, and Jesus in the Gospels, give us the concept of God as a loving father. This is evident both in the prayers and praise reported by Isaiah, and in the prayer that Jesus gave us to pray.

In Isaiah the people are rejoicing about the good things that have happened.  They are praising and glorifying God, and addressing Him as their father. They remember what He has done for them, and continues to do for them as God follows through on all the promises that were made. They can confidently pray to the Lord, as their father. They know that He is their Redeemer throughout their history, and they are actually remembering and praising God for this.

Jesus told the disciples that the way to pray is to start by addressing God. Not some distant God that may or may not really care about us, His creation, but a God that is right there as a personal loving father. We actually can pray to God just like we were talking to a loving father right there in the room with us; no need for any fancy incantations or sacrifices. Jesus tells us that we can pray to God as our father.  Note that is “our” father, the Creator of us all.

Pope Francis said today that there is no “I” when we pray “Our father.” And “one’s prayer should always be a dialogue with God with charitable consideration for others’ needs.” He goes on to say that “Jesus teaches us to pray, having first of all ‘you’ on our lips because Christian prayer is dialogue.” He includes the need to pray for those in need, to pray for our friends and even our enemies including those who are far from God. “Saints and sinners, we are all brothers loved by the same Father.”

Creator God, you made us special in your image, a reflection of your glory. Through the ages you have protected and judged your people. Help us to know and trust the promises from of old. Open our hearts to your Spirit that is new every morning. Continue to be our guide and protector from this day forth. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Chris Gabel



February 12

Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. Ecclesiastes 12:13

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you ……….The Golden Rule.

Striving to live out the Golden Rule in one’s personal, individualized, relational life, means living with as much KINDNESS, CIVILITY, UNDERSTANDING AND GENEROSITY as you can muster. I think we all have a general idea of what this means. It means dealing as gently as you can with others you come in contact with in both thought and deed. It means acknowledging in all the little ways that count the inherent worth and dignity of people we meet. It means regularly deferring to the needs and desires of others whenever possible or appropriate. It means refraining from actions over which you have control that you know will bring unnecessary sorrow or hurt to others. It means opening doors so that others may enter … listening attentively to what others are saying … expending time and energy and resources so that others may thrive … setting aside your own gratification so that others may b e fulfilled. Practicing the Golden Rule requires the setting aside of self, for the benefit of others.

If, for example, we as comfortable Americans learn that many disadvantaged children in our land are going to bed hungry, then we must work with other citizens and leaders to put food programs in place to alleviate this suffering. And if we know there are hundred of thousands of families who find themselves homeless because they cannot afford to rent or own their own homes, then we must do what we can to make sure affordable housing is available. And we do this because we know, deep in our hearts, of our indissoluble connection with all other human beings. This is the incredibly high moral standard of the Golden Rule.

“Every religion emphasizes human improvement, love, respect for others, sharing other people’s suffering. On these things, every religion has more or less the same viewpoint and the same goal.”   The Dalai Lama

Buddhism

“Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” The Buddha, Udana-Varga 5.18.

Confucianism

“One word which sums up the basis of all good conduct … loving kindness. Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.” Confucius, Analects 15:23.

Hinduism

“This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.” Mahabharata 5:1517.

Islam

“Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.” The Prophet Muhammad, Hadith.

Judaism

“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Leviticus 18, 19.

Native American

“Do not wrong or hate your neighbor. For it is not he whom you wrong but yourself.” Pima Indian proverb

Shinto

“The heart of the person before you is a mirror. See there your own form.” Ko-ji-ki Hachiman Kasuga

Taoism

“Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien, 213-218.

Awesome God, in your presence now, I am filled with wonder and praise. Too often I live afraid of what might happen. Turn my fear into love today. Give me a heart of compassion for my neighbor so that together we can know you and the joy of keeping your commandments. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



February 11

“In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  Psalm 16:11

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  Galatians 5:22-23

Ads are urging us to buy Valentine’s Day gifts … jewelry, flowers, candy … for those we love.  A valentine might be cardstock with a doily, glitter, and ribbon; or a valentine can be a special person/people we love.  Valentines are family and friends who give us ‘gifts’, not just once a year but everyday – encouragement and comfort, laughter and memories; the joy of love, even with the heartache of concern and loss. 

As the saying goes “no presents, please; your presence is your gift.”  How good and comfortable it feels to be with those we love –talking, laughing, crying if needed, or in comfortable silence – knowing they  accept us as we are and will continue to love us.

God so loved the world that he gave us …. the beauty and wonder of the earth with soil and water, forests and mountains; varied talents for work and pleasure; the capability to love and the joy of feeling loved.  God gave us himself, Jesus Christ; and still gifts us with the presence of the Holy Spirit, everyday. 

Paul knew something of love … not diamonds, roses, and chocolate … but love that respects, seeks unity, and cares about the wellbeing of others – beyond family friends … people we disagree with, people we don’t know.  Paul wrote (Corinthians) that if we love we will be patient and kind.  We cannot be boastful, arrogant or rude, irritable or stingy.  But human impulses do overpower us sometimes.  But also, as Paul tells the Galatians, the Spirit will gift us with “fruits”, meant to be passed around and shared amongst us, in community, in love. 

Lord, thank you for the gift of your presence.  May the Spirit take hold of our hearts and minds, and bless us with the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Help us love.  Amen

Verla Olson



February 6

O land, land, land, hear the word of the Lord! Jeremiah 22:29 

So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. I Thessalonians 5:6

Ah sleep, sounds so lovely on a dark cold snowy day. Plus, we are told that we should get enough sleep to stay healthy. Now Paul tells us not to fall asleep as other people do. Maybe he has a formula that lets us stay awake longer? Maybe we are supposed to be up for most of the 24 hours of day, working and interacting with people. Well, maybe not. Paul is addressing the coming of the Lord in this part of his letters – he earlier speaks of those who fall asleep, meaning those who have died, but now he addresses his listeners, telling them to stay awake and be alert for Christ’s coming; to be sober and focus on the message of salvation that they have heard and need to share. He tells them to remember that there is another world to prepare for, one that we have no way of knowing when it will come.

Being asleep would then mean to miss a lot of things going on around us. Paul does not want us to be like those “others” who go about in the world without seeing what is really true.  We are not to ignore the plight of those around us, those whom God wants us to share His love with. In verses 4 and 5 Paul speaks of Christians as being not in darkness, but instead we are children of the light, of the daytime. In Christ there is no night since He is all the light we need. Meanwhile, in our world, we still need to remain awake and aware of the needs of our neighbors. Johnny Cash wrote and sang a song about why he wore black, which might make us think of darkness. But he listed his reasons, and his hope that listeners would be aware – awake to what needs are out there.

From “Man in Black” a couple of verses and a few random lines

“I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,

Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town,

I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,

But is there because he’s a victim of the times

I wear the black for those who never read,

Or listened to the words that Jesus said,

About the road to happiness through love and charity,

Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me

But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back,

Up front there oughta be a Man in Black

Well, there’s things that never will be right I know,

And things need changin’ everywhere you go,

Faithful God, you know the turbulent times in which we live. Help us to keep awake, not in anxiety, but in hope-filled expectation. Forgive us our cynicism. Help us to shake off sin and despair and remember that you are here. You are faithful. Please open our eyes to the truth, so that we may ask you to help us focus on your word and approach life with love. In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen. 

Chris Gabel



February 5

I hereby command you; be strong and courageous. Joshua 1:9

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Matthew 10:28

I have a question, why do we go to church? Ok, that’s probably not the best way to start out a devotion but it’s something I think about once in awhile.   What is the purpose of being a part of a congregation? What are we trying to accomplish by gathering together on Sunday morning? How will our lives be any better as a result of singing, taking communion, visiting with our friends, and of course, listening to the sermons?

After all, if there is no point in being there than you really have to wonder why we bother getting up early on a weekend, putting on uncomfortable (or comfortable) clothes and spending a couple of hours with people that you might not normally see in a typical week. If our lives are not changed for the better then it’s just a couple of hours that you’ll never get back in your life.

I don’t know about anybody else, but I go to church to participate and to recharge. I go to church in order to worship God through song and prayer. I go to church to see my brothers and sisters in Christ, to be a part of their lives, to help one another and to be helped when we are down. I go to church to take communion because I need to be reminded each and every week about the price that Jesus paid to rescue me from my sins. And I come to hear a sermon so that I can grow in the Lord by having the Bible explained to me in such a way that I can apply the principles of God’s word to my daily life.

In a nutshell, I come to church to find the strength that I need to live as a Christian in a world that is very complicated. And I need that strength.

Lord, with you as captain of my journey, I can walk with confidence in your saving grace. Sometimes my heart sings out, encouraged by the power and strength that you give me. But when my heart fails, Lord, remind me of your presence. For I know if you are with me, there is nothing I need to fear. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



January 31

Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18

Look at the ships: though they are so large it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member yet it boasts of great exploits. James 3:4-5

Think how nice it is to be with someone who lifts people up and always seems to have a positive and genuine attitude toward all that happens. Isn’t it a lot like, as a child, running to a loving grandparent’s arms knowing everything is the best there? A grandparent’s heart, filled with love, made his/her words and actions fill our hearts with love for them in return. God has instructed us and expects us to use our speech in ways that honor him and encourage all with whom we speak. 

We’ve all heard sayings about how to plan before we speak. “The Lord gave us two ears, two eyes, but only one tongue. There must be a reason.” “Run it through your head before you say it.” I’m certain you have heard others. Yet, life doesn’t always make it easy to speak, either without malice or with thoughtful consideration towards others, or, sometimes, even toward God for the hand that one feels he/she was dealt. God knows us better than we know ourselves. He is there to guide us to speak words of encouragement, support, and love. His loving guidance helps us to heal and to live a life of hoping others can feel the power of our positive words.

Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Thank you for reminding us of the power we hold in our words. Help us to use our hearts and our ears before we speak. Let our words encourage and support others. May we always speak of your indescribable love in our words. Amen.

Florence Smallfield