January 18

“In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help … He heard my voice.”  Psalm 18:6

“Jesus touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you.’  And their eyes were opened.”  Matthew 9:29-30

The introduction to the new “Daily Texts 2019” (verse assignments selected by the Moravian Church) suggests a Prayer Journal.  St. Ignatius, a 16th century church leader, posed two questions to his students to begin their journals:  “What is your greatest hope for this year?” and “What is your greatest fear?” Thought-provoking questions as we begin this next mile of our journey.  A list of fears and hopes would be long, varied, seemingly endless.  “Greatest” is a big word and not as easy to define.

 Of course, I hope bad things won’t happen … to myself, my friends and family.  But of course, I know they will.  There is a difference between hoping bad things won’t happen and living with fear.  Fear and hope tie together.  Perhaps my greatest fear is feeling that there is no hope, that my human failures and disappointments could get the better of me and shake my confidence in God’s presence; that God will give me more than I can handle … by myself.  Perhaps my greatest hope is that when I am confronted with inevitable distresses, when I cry to God for help as King David and the two blind men did, the Holy Spirit will hear my voice and open my eyes to realize that I am loved by God, whatever my condition, and instill courage and comfort that I am not alone.

I think about people I don’t know, people I just know about.  For too many fear must be overwhelming, and hope dim.  I hope that they might one day they too can feel secure, have a home and  enough to eat, and fair opportunities … and freedom from fear.  Just things to think about.

Dear God, Help me hear the cries for help and open my eyes to see opportunities.  I hope and pray the Holy Spirit will help me, as a Christian, to dispel fear and instill hope.   Amen

Verla Olson

January 16

If anyone secretly entices you – even if it is your brother, your father’s son or your mother’s son or you own son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your most intimate friend – saying “Let us go worship other gods,”. you must not yield to or heed any such persons. Deuteronomy 13:6, 8

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Moses starts out with warnings about false prophets and dream foretellers, who may do supposed miracles and then tell the people to follow other gods. He continues in our verses today warning about those close to us; our own family, who also may want us to follow false gods. He says that these are gods that neither you nor your fathers have known. This is in contrast to the God they do know – the one that has been with them, got them out of Egypt, fed them along the way, and has a land for them to live in. This is the God they must follow, not one of these false “other” gods.

It is interesting that those close to us may “secretly entice” us. If the people listed in the Deuteronomy verse really have a god they think is better than the one true God, why are they speaking about this secretly? Shouldn’t they declare the wonderfulness of these other gods? Obviously they really know that they are wrong, there is only one true God and these other gods are poor substitutes.

These days it is not so much actual named entities, like Baal or Zeus, but lots of other activities that may take the place of following God. So many things crowd into our lives that they may crowd God out. And, yes, there are many people who would entice us away from following God and believing in Jesus Christ. These same things must be happening among the Galatians. Paul wants his listeners to know that God has already freed them and us through the saving action of Christ. No longer is there a burden of following all the laws, which as humans we can’t do. All that is need is to stand firm and follow only Him.

Now, do we need to secretly entice others to listen to and follow Jesus Christ? Of course not, we are to stand up and proclaim our faith. Paul gives us one good way of doing this. In verse 6 he reminds us that it is not something we do, not in following all the precepts of the law that count for us rather “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” We proclaim our faith, through love of our fellow humans and sharing the story.

Life-giving God, you are here in all our relationships and experiences, creating life that endures. The only God to worship is you, our Savior and Redeemer. Please keep us strong when we are tempted by sin. Open our eyes to the wonder of your life-giving presence through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Chris Gabel

January 15

My dwelling place shall be with; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Ezekiel 37:27

And I saw the holy city; the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among the mortals.” Revelation 21:2-3

Home sweet home is always there deep inside the heart of every living individual. There is a difference between a house and a home. Home is not about the bricks and wood used in the buildings. A home is full of life; it can be a cottage, a tent, a palace, a bungalow, or an RV. Just because you own a bungalow which has no occupants except for spiders and termites, you won’t call it a home. On the other hand, if live in your car, or tent or RV, you just might call that home. A home in England is different from a home in India, and a home in Africa is different from one in Russia. Even in your own neighborhood, homes are different.

Minnesota is my home; it is also home to many people of different nationalities and cultures. It is a place where you can feel safe, where you have the freedom to pursue all your goals, and where the people and communities are made up of a diverse range of different cultures and backgrounds. Is it any wonder that so many people around the world would also want to call the United States and Minnesota their home?

Many people such as asylum seekers and immigrants are all examples of individuals and families who seek a new and better life. We take it for granted that we actually have a place where we can fulfill our basic needs, as well as be surrounded by family and friends. Where we have the freedom to pursue those dreams and work towards a better life. Those who seek asylum, immigrants who travel the seas, are looking for a refuge, a place of safety – a new residence they can call home, come hereto a place where they don’t have to wonder whether they will see their family and friends the next day, or wonder what dangers are lurking behind the next corner. A safe place to call home.

And…….we are not alone; God is telling us that wherever He is, that is our home. In the RV in Arizona, in the tent in India, in the small cottage in England, in our living rooms, where ever we are, all we have to do is ask God to be there, and He will be there for us and for always.

“Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam, be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home. ”John Howard Payne (1791-1852)   

Thank you, Emmanuel, for your steadfast tenderness toward me, toward us, your wayward and faithless people. Your deep mercy will create us anew, person by person, until all the world proclaims your kingdom come as your will is accomplished. Forgive me for doubting you. Dwell in my earthen heart this day. Amen

Susan Hanson

January 14

They shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.  Jeremiah 24:7.

You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.  Acts 10:36.

Messages come to us in many ways; via radio, television, e-mail, in the written or spoken word, on billboards, political signs, letters, greeting cards and others.

A message may be important or not important depending on the individual receiver.  Nevertheless, someone is trying to tell us something through our eyes or our ears.

Wisconsinites and many Minnesotans heard or read a hoped for message over the weekend.  “Jamie Closs is found.”  They celebrated, cried, smiled, thanked God as she was welcomed home. An important message affecting so many people.

Think of all the messages you have received in your lifetime.  A baby is born, I passed the test, we got the house, it’s snowing out, there’s been an accident, I’m sick, someone died, they found her.  Innumerable messages, all day and night, Some good, some bad, some tragic.

The best and most important message of all, God’s message to the people of Israel.  They would know peace because of Jesus.  And this message comes to us as well.  Will we open our eyes and ears to really hear this good news? Do we receive the message with celebration and joy?  Do we thank God for his goodness and love?

Holy God, we fall away but the message remains for us always.  Help us to return to you with our whole hearts.  Amen

Joan Perlich

January 9

David prayed, “Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have wrought all this greatness.” 2 Samuel 7:21 

This is how God showed his love among us. He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. I John 4:9 NIV

Promises are often made and almost just as often are broken. Most of the time we manage to do whatever we promised – but we fallible humans don’t do so well at following through on all the things we promise to do. We forget we promised to water the neighbors garden while they are gone, we forget to pick up the ingredient we promised to bring home for dinner; we just don’t do what we promised.  

God is so different with His promises.” With God, saying and doing are not two things, as they often are with men; God will do as he hath said.”  David hears, through Nathan’s revelation, that God will never take His love away from David and that his house, his family, will endure forever. David prays in thanksgiving to God that He has brought David to the position of kingship, and has “wrought all this greatness.”  David’s prayer acknowledges that this is all due to the grace of God, not something that was inherently great in David or his family. He asks for God’s continued blessing on his family and nation.

How about us? In I John we read about God’s love for each and every one of us. This is the promise God made to all of us and fulfilled by sending Jesus into our world, to give us joyful life as we live through Him, and then, at the end of this life, we receive eternal life.

Just like David we can pray to the God who has promised us His love. We too need to acknowledge that this is all due to the grace of God, not something we have to be busily earning. So we start out with thanks for all the God has already done for us. The, we can pray for very specific things such as a friend’s recovery from an injury due to a fall and we can pray for general things and if we can’t figure out quite what to pray for we can pray about that too! Thanks be to God who has promised to love us always and who doesn’t forget His promises.

Loving and gracious God, nothing compares to the goodness and love that you show us in Jesus. Thank you for sending your Son into the world to shine his love upon us. Forgive us for living our lives through family, work, or reputation. We ask you to change us and help us to learn how to live our lives through Jesus alone. Amen 

Chris Gabel

January 8

I have chosen Abraham, that he my charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice. Genesis 18:19

Jesus said to the disciples, “When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “No, not a thing. Luke 22:35

In the middle of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, he said: “There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”

Whirlwinds of revolt shaking the foundations of our nation? Sounds kind of violent for Martin Luther King, right?

Well, he wasn’t saying that he himself was going to take up arms, or that others should do so. We know that. He wasn’t about to lead a violent revolt, or to plant bombs that literally shake foundations.

But he was saying that there will be turmoil until justice is granted. There will be no peace until the vision, the dream, is made real.

There will be no peace until people learn to live in the vision that God has set before them. Those who do not work for justice, who intentionally or even unintentionally perpetuate cycles of injustice, will be devoured by the sword. There will be no peace until we learn to live together as neighbors.

And as followers of Christ, as Christ’s ambassadors, mean that we are the ones who should do good. We are the ones who should seek justice. We are the ones who should pursue peace. We are the ones who should defend the weak and the poor.

Martin Luther King, Jr. used a violent metaphor not because he advocated violence, but because he lived in a violent time. The violence came about through society’s injustice and inequality. And, nothing has changed. We are not doing our job, being ambassadors of Christ. We are remaining silent, when we should be speaking out. There is injustice everywhere, inequality at every turn. Martin Luther King Jr. knew that injustice and violence were linked, and that justice and peace were also linked.

Alexander Campbell once wrote that the only way to conquer an enemy is to turn him into a friend. It is possible…………………………

“Justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Father, you have chosen us as your people to live your righteousness and justice. But we confess that too often our relationships with you and our neighbor are not “right”. We need your help. Please come to our aid and show us your way, your truth, and your life, for your name’s sake. Amen.


Susan Hanson

January 2

Joseph said to his brothers, “Do not quarrel along the way.” Genesis 45:24 

Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

Now that Christmas is over, the presents are all opened and enjoyed (or maybe taken to stores for exchanges), many families
 still have the effects of some disagreements as families gathered. People that are relatives don’t always get along with each other, especially with all the expectations that are a part of the Christmas celebration. Siblings may have spent part of the time arguing over who got the best present, or who got the most stuff. Worse, these disagreements just continue on over the months and years; no one wants to listen to or forgive the other one.

Bickering siblings are nothing new. Joseph certainly knew how his brothers commonly behaved. After all he was there in Egypt because they disliked him and wanted to get rid of him. Now, in spite of all, there he is with food and a good life ready and willing to help them.  He has forgiven them and he can respond not with anger but with help to save their lives in the current famine. He loads them up with food and clothing and money, and is sending them off on the journey back to their father. But he knows they are liable to start arguing as soon as they are out of sight. So he tells them, none of that quarreling along the way. No wasting time with their mutual accusations and recriminations about what happened in the past. He wants them to travel quickly back to Canaan, get their father and the rest of the family, and return to Egypt where they will have enough to eat and where the whole family can be reunited.

We as Christians are all part of one big family. Just like Joseph’s brothers, we can be prone to quarreling as we go along our way. Sometimes these disagreements turn into long standing grudges and we wish that other person would just go away, much like happened to Joseph’s brothers. They acted on their feelings; we are admonished not to do so.  Paul tells us to bear with one another, and not just complain. We are probably not going to avoid all quarrels, but when there are disagreements, we are to bear with the other person, to listen and dialogue. If there is a wrong, we are to forgive as we are forgiven by God. As the chosen people of God we are to have compassion, kindness, humility, gentlenesss and patience in our dealings with others. (Verse 12). 

Holy God and Savior, we confess that we often quarrel with others and hold grudges. It is so difficult at times to forgive each other. Please be with us during these times to spread your grace and peace and understanding to each other. Lead us to follow in your way of acceptance and forgiveness. Help us to listen to others, not only to their words but also to their hearts, fears, and hopes. Then, help us show others the love and forgiveness you have first shown us. In Jesus’ name, Amen 

Chris Gabel

December 31

David prayed, “And now, O Lord God, as for the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, confirm it forever; do as you have promised.” 2 Samuel 7:25

In Jesus Christ every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” For this reason it is through him that we say the “Amen,” to the glory of God.   2 Corinthians 1:20

As we anticipate the new year we hear much about New Year’s resolutions. Each year thousands of us try to set goals that will improve our quality of life. The problem is that we find it difficult to continue to do these good things we have promised to ourselves. Most resolutions are soon disregarded as people return to their old ways. 

Not so with God and his promises. When God promises, He never forgets, and he always fulfills as he has promised. Throughout the Old testament God foretold of the coming of the one who would save believers from their sins. God hurt as much as any loving parent does when his/her child dies. Yet, he loved us so much that he let his son be crucified. God fulfilled this promise when he sacrificed his son, Jesus, whose birth we have just celebrated. When Jesus rose again he conquered sin and saved all believers. Sometimes we fail to listen. God needs to speak to us over and over again, because we doubt. He is always there to allay our doubts and fears and to welcome us back to his fold. Can we be so bold as to share his powerful promise of salvation? Let it be so.

Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Thank you for your powerful promise of salvation to all of us who believe. We are unworthy of this gracious gift you have given us. Yet you loved us beyond all we can understand. Help us to receive this gift and to trust trust in your goodness to us. To your honor and glory be all praises. Amen

Florence Smallfield  

December 27

“From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised.”  Psalm 113:3

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorable on his people and redeemed them.  He has raised up a mighty savior for us.”  Luke 1:68-69

One of my favorite Christmas quotes was penned by Charles Dickens:  “For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself.”  It isn’t so much the magic and wonder shown by children, as that the mighty founder of Christmas, not Hallmark or Seasonal Concepts, but our mighty savior “became flesh and dwelt among us”, an ordinary baby, born to humble parents, to give us life. 

We are always in transition … sunrise to sunset; season to season; holiday to holiday; life … infant to toddler to child to teenager to adulthood to middle age to senior to elderly to ……… We will soon recycle an out-of-date calendar and lift the cover of a new year.  We swiftly move on from celebrating the joyful birth of our Savior to events of Jesus’ adult life, healing and teaching, to his death to his resurrection.   Last Sunday’s bulletin cover shows an evergreen branch, adorned with a shiny ball reflecting three crosses.  Time – we say our clocks “keep time”; we multi-task to “save time”.  We cannot really “keep” time or “save” it.   Time is always moving.  We can ignore it or watch it pass, or we can use it … to God’s glory.  And a little child, “full of grace and truth”, will lead us … down the path of compassion and empathy, redemption and peace. 

“Summer and winter and springtime and harvest; sun, moon and stars in their courses above,

Join with all nature in manifold witness to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

“Great is thy faithfulness!  Morning by morning new mercies I see. 

All I have needed thy hand hath provided.  Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!”  Amen  

                                                                                           (pray text :  Thomas Chisholm)

Verla Olson

December 26

The Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” Genesis 2:18 

Simeon took the child in his arms and praised God saying, “Master now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people.” Luke 2:28-30 

Waiting is so hard. Waiting for Christmas to finally get here is something we do every year. We began our church year with four weeks of Advent where we take time to focus on our need for a savior and look forward to the excitement of Christmas. Now, Christmas has come, we sang the carols and worshipped and opened presents and ate food with friends and family. Then it is all over, or is it? Do we start all over Christmas is certainly more than just one day year. 

Simeon has been waiting for years and years, for his whole life, to see the promised Messiah. Luke implies that he is quite old and death is probably near. He is described in Luke as righteous and devout, filled with the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit has revealed to him that he would be able to see the Messiah before the time of his death. Simeon is guided by the Spirit to be in the temple when Joseph and Mary arrive 40 days after Jesus’ birth for their purification and their baby’s presentation to the Lord. Simeon sees the Messiah that he has been waiting for and takes the baby in his arms. His time of waiting is over, God has done what was promised, and Simeon can now die in peace.   

Jesus’ parents must have been a bit surprised at this older man coming up to them, holding their son, and then declaring that this baby is the salvation of Israel. And, not just Israel, but “all people” are part of God’s saving work. What Simeon has spent his whole life waiting for has now occurred. Salvation has come in the form of a baby, one born in a manger, to simple ordinary faithful people. In the midst of all the worry and anxiety that must have been present in their country under Roman occupation, there is now hope for all. As Luke says later on in the gospel “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 1910). Just like Simeon, we have all been privileged through the grace of God to see the child in the manger and know that He is the savior of all. 

God of love, thank you for sending your Son to be with us so we are never alone. Thank you for holding us so dearly. Stay with us always, for we cannot live alone. Embrace us when we need your touch. Gaze into our souls each time we need reassurance, and speak your promises until we see your salvation. We can only offer our thanks and praise to you In Christs name we pray. Amen 

Chris Gabel