February 24

Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord.  Lamentations 3:40

Whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.  1 Corinthians 6:17 NIV

I was pleasantly surprised as I read through the third chapter of the book of Lamentations, to come across a familiar verse: They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:23)  It didn’t take too much more searching online to confirm that Thomas Chisholm, who wrote the poem that became the hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness, was inspired by that verse from Lamentations. 

I was not so pleasantly surprised to read the rest of chapter 3, and then the rest of Lamentations. As you would expect from a book with that name, it is filled with sad circumstances, as Jerusalem has fallen to the Babylonians as punishment for the sins of the people and lies in ruins with the temple destroyed; it just seems strange that such a wonderful hymn would come from there, though of course many well-loved hymns of faith and praise to God have been written after terrible tragedies. The author (possibly Jeremiah, though others disagree) spends most of the chapter (Lamentations 3: 1-20) listing all the ways that God has harmed him with his wrath, saying that God pulled him from the path and mangled him like a lion or a bear, that God has broken his teeth, that he had cried out to God for help, but his prayers have been shut out.   

But just as quickly (and I thought I changed my mind in a hurry!) the author goes from “The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.” (Lamentations 3: 19-20) to “But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, and his mercies never come to an end;” (Lamentations 3: 21-22), only to go back to lamenting what his enemies and the Lord have done to him.  

No doubt, this book of the Bible is difficult in which to find hope, but in cross referencing the verse, I found many verses urge us to do just that — return to the Lord. 

Our Father in Heaven, I think of how you must despair of us sinners, when we blame you and others when things go wrong in our lives and in the world. May we seek your love and forgiveness instead and reach out to you to ask how we can better serve you and praise your name so others may know all you have given us and done for us.  Amen.

Peace

Lynda Tysdal 



February 21

Out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man. Then man gave names to all. Genesis 2:19, 20
 
“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:26
 
There is an eagle nest next to the lake near our home. Each day now we watch to see when the nesting pair will return to begin preparing for this year’s new eaglets. The other day as we drove by their nest my husband and I were discussing how amazing it is that the same pair return to the same nest each year. Also, eagles everywhere are doing this at this time of year. Each pair knows to which nest it should return and how to prepare for the year’s nesting season. Also, think of the miracle of the tree that supports an eagle nest even as the nest is prepared and made heavier each year it is used. 
 
There are thousands of examples of how our natural resources and creatures are sustained and flourish in their environments. God in his infinite wisdom created and provided for all living things that exist on earth. Even so, he assured us, his children, that we are more important than any of the others in his creation.
 
Will we ever be discouraged and feel that we are among the forgotten of his children? Yes, we will, because life can be difficult and impossible to handle on our own. We must always remember that we are his chosen and that we are precious in his sight. God is always there to guide and comfort us no matter what occurs to take us from our focus on his guidance.
 
One more thing, God wants us to care for the natural resources he has provided so all creatures of the land, sea, and sky will flourish. This is a huge responsibility for all of us. We must pray that we are guided to do all we can to preserve our natural resources.
 
Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Thank you for all of creation and for letting us use the countless amazing aspects of this creation. Forgive us when we fall short in our care of all that you have provided. Help us to be good stewards of all that you have created.  You have named and claimed us, your children. We are amazed and praise you forever for all that you provide for us each day and for your amazing gift of life eternal. Amen.
 
Florence Smallfield


February 20

Thus says the Lord, I myself have spoken to you persistently, and you have not obeyed me. Jeremiah 35:14
 
“Blessed…are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” Luke 11:28
 
When I read Jeremiah Chapter 35, I was reminded once again that God’s patience and willingness to bring people back to his fold no matter what they do is his precious gift to all men and women throughout time. 
 
Jeremiah prophesied in Judah during a time of storm and stress throughout the world. Jeremiah was often in danger from political and religious leaders in Judah who were angry because of his messages. Through all of this, God protected Jeremiah so he could continue to warn the wicked and comfort those who trusted in God. The people of Jerusalem were not obeying God’s commands; therefore, Jeremiah relayed God’s rebuke of their disobedience to them.
 
Why are today’s passages just as relevant today as they were when they were spoken? Because we continue to need God’s word to always trust that he is persistent in his quest to share blessings and eternal life with each one of us. Even though we may not discern his plan for each one of us, and we can become discouraged, we know that he persists in leading us throughout our journey here on earth.
 
Dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Let us ever walk with you and follow your example even when we feel lured to follow sinful ways. Thank you for continued guidance no matter what befalls us. Help us to always listen and share with others your wonderful words of love and guidance. Amen.
 
Florence Smallfield


February 19

The mighty one, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Psalm 50:1 

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:19 (NIV)

The Psalmist starts out the 50th Psalm with some powerful words to describe God. He uses a couple of terms, calling Him “The Mighty One” and “Lord.” Unlike many other verses we read in Psalms, in this one God is not limited to one area, to one people. He speaks to and summons the entire earth. From the area where the sun rises, to where it sets – or the entire world – this is the realm of God. It includes all land and seas and people that are on our earth.  A few verses farther on, there is also “the heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge.”

God spoke the world into being. In some religions they teach about a God that created things and then retired to heaven and just let the world go along its own way.  This is not the God we believe in. He created everything, said it was good, and then continues to be here with us. From every sunrise to every sunset, God still is with us in this world. He is there as we follow Him and as we manage sin with some regularity.  He is there in times of sadness, of happiness, of illness and of death, and all those times we offend and upset other people. Although this is not what He intended, He doesn’t just give up on us.   

Paul writes that God reconciles the world back to where we belong through Christ. He doesn’t just keep a scorecard of our sins, it says He doesn’t count our sins against us. This is truly Good News!  What does it mean to reconcile? Some synonyms are: reunite, join, square, settle, put to rights, and bring together. All these things are part of what God does through Jesus Christ – things are put right between us and other people and us and God. This all powerful God who is there from sunrise to sunset.

2 Corinthians 5: 16-17 says:

“Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

Thank you, Lord, for being the God of each sunrise and sunset. As we rise to each new day of creation, lead us in thought, word, and deed. We recognize our imperfection and find hope in your patience and forgiveness. Replace our thoughts of unworthiness with your assurance of gracious salvation. As you reconcile us, may we in turn become a source of reconciliation and peace in this troubled world. 

Chris Gabel



February 17

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord.  Psalm 22:27

God desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:4

What can I add to everything that has been written before about Psalm 22, I asked myself over the last few days as I re-read the verse from Psalms.  Who am I to try to write about these words?  And then I considered again the advice of a fellow devotion writer who has reminded me as needed, “You are not writing a sermon. Remember you are writing to people who are reading the Bible and these devotions and looking for words of hope in a dark time.  

From the perspective of the verse of the psalm written above, you would think it must be a very positive part of the Bible, that everyone around the world remembers and turns to the Lord, whether it be a time of difficulty in our lives, or a successful time… but then we read that entire psalm and you might react as I did, oh – this psalm, the one that is read or sung on Good Friday, the one that begins with: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?  (Psalm 22:1) and includes verses that foreshadow the crucifixion of Jesus, such as: from the words of my groaning (Psalm 22:1b), scorned by others, and despised by the people (Psalm 22:6b), and I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint (Psalm 22:14), all words that cause me pain on Good Friday every year as I think of the pain that Jesus bore for us – for me, I think with wonder. 

But that is not the end of this psalm!  In times of darkest trial, God is still there and even as David cries out to him “why have you forsaken me?” and later, in verse 19, says “But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me,” he sings praises!

“You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!” (Psalm 22:23) And ends the psalm with “They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!” (Psalm 22:31)

When times are dark, let us not forget that God is gracious and ever-present, and even if He seems far away, God is nearer than we can imagine.

Dear Lord,

 

Thank you for always being near, even when we want to face a dark corner and imagine that you have left us alone and hurting.  All praise and honor to you, Amen.
 
Peace,
Lynda Tysdal 


February 14, 2020

Why have you despised the word of the Lord to do what is evil in his sight?  2 Samuel 12:9

Let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfector of our faith.  Hebrews 12:1-2.

David, dearly beloved of the Lord, sinned grievously.  He committed adultery and murder.  God forgave him but not without punishment.  David’s child became ill and died.

We, as Christians, do not expect that kind of punishment for our sins.  We belong to Christ who gave his life to save us from those sins.  We are New Testament people, free from condemnation and reproach.  We can do what we like.

Whoa.  Some dangerous thinking there.  Of course we sin.  We live in a world where temptation surrounds us every day.  I wonder if it is easier to sin now than it was in the Old Testament days.  Perhaps not, who knows.  Regardless, we are imperfect human beings, just as the O.T. Folks were.

BUT, we have Christ.

Just because we are forgiven does not mean that we are not punished.  Our sins have consequences.  Those consequences are a result of our actions, thoughtless behavior, callous talk, pride, self-importance and more.  The difference is that God does not bring that punishment.  We bring it on ourselves.  We are free to love others and also to hurt others.

So, let us take the advice of the writer of Hebrews.  Let us put off the weight of our sin and look to Jesus.  Let us remember every day that we were baptized and washed clean.  Then let us “walk wet!”

Happy Valentine’s Day

Dear Savior,
You are love and we are made to love and be loved.  Thank you that we have choices.  Help us to keep our eyes focused on you.  Amen

Joan Perlich



February 13

“It is the Lord who goes before you.  He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed.”  Deuteronomy 31:8

“My sheep hear my voice.  I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.  No one will snatch them out of my hand.”  John 10;

Today is Valentines’ Day Eve … the day before “Hearts and Flowers”, wine and chocolate, candlelight.  But first it’s getting kids ready and off to school, making lunches, going to work; maybe gym, laundry, dusting; sending our love … texting, calling, mailing love notes, visiting loved ones.  All this is love … co-worker /friend/family, the other 364 days, “have I told you lately …” kind of love.  “I love that …” We speak love for what is tangible, what we can see, hear, taste, smell and touch; our family and friends; our country and our home. 

God is love.  Immanuel, God with us … everywhere, every day, all day kind of love.  God understands our need to love and be loved.  Jesus loved his mother and father; Mary and Martha and Lazarus; his colleagues; children; also “ne’er-do-wells”, lepers, people he didn’t really know, and enemies; those we would fear and mistrust and find so hard to love.  He gave up his life for all these, for us, for all. 

Today’ verses are God’s valentine, a love letter, to us.  “I will not fail or forsake you.  Don’t be afraid.  No one can take you away from me.”  God will stay with us … whether richer or poorer, in sickness and in health; and we affirm our Baptism, confirm our faith, renew our vow to “love, honor, and obey”, to listen for God’s voice and to follow. 

What would God write on those Necco candy hearts?  “I’m Yours”  “Be Mine”  “True Love”  “Forever” … a great love story.

Loving God, You have promised to be with us when we pass through the waters and walk through the fire.  You have redeemed us and called us by name.  We are yours.  Amen

Verla Olson

 



February 12, 2020

The Lord will save me, and we will sing to stringed instruments all the days of our lives at the house of the Lord. Isaiah 38:20 

Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. Acts 3:8

Hezekiah is very ill as chapter 38 or Isaiah begins. He is near death and is told to put his affairs in order by the Lord. What to do? Hezekiah turns and prays to the Lord, reminding Him of his faithfulness over the years and how he has done good things. God listens to this, and gives him the promise of 15 years of life. Hezekiah then writes out his thanks and praise. How he was near death and now will live for more years and be able to praise God.

He lets everyone know that the Lord is going to save him, has even sent a sign that all is well. It is time to praise God with singing and stringed instruments which would mean in the temple as part of worship. He says “all the days” not just the one day we actually remember God’s saving grace, but each and every day should include singing and praising.

Same for the crippled man healed by Peter; he sat at the temple daily, begging for money. Peter tells him I don’t have any money but I give what I have. What he gave, through Jesus Christ, was healing of the man’s affliction. He could get up and walk! His response was to walk, and then to enter the temple leaping and praising God – now that would be a way to come into church for a worship service.  How do we come to church? Plodding half awake, or happily? Wouldn’t it be exciting if we came in the door praising and maybe, for those can do it, actually leaping? We can at least enter worship full of praise and wonderment at the God and Savior we have who is always there and ready to heal us of our every ill.

Lord, thank you for being there when we need you to save and heal us. Help us be faithful as we turn to you in our times of need. May we rejoice and sing your praise to all who can hear, knowing that you are the healer of all our hurts. Pull us out of ourselves today to walk, leap, and praise in the powerful name of Jesus. Amen.

Chris Gabel



January 31

“I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.” 1 Samuel 1:15

Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

We are his. We cannot separate ourselves from the love of Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. No matter what the world throws at you or at me, we have everything we need in his presence in our lives. There are times when our anxieties seem to close in on every side. 

As soon as we are able to fix our eyes on God our focus changes. During times of difficult circumstances we must change our focus to keep from falling into the depths of despair. He is there. Again, we cannot separate ourselves from the love of Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Our anxieties are not able to crush us, because God is there and can handle anything we cannot handle. Of course, there are times when circumstances are devastating, but these are also times when he intervenes through others he sends into our pathway to guide us, or/and through our enlightenment that comes from our faith in his promise. 

He has lifted the hearts of countless others to turn to him and turn to the promise given us when he died and rose again to save us from all that can harm any one of us. 

Dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Thank you for being there for each one of us no matter what befalls us in our personal lives. You are there and available at all times with the assurance that passes all understanding. Forgive us when we fail to include you in our perspectives of what life has given us. Let us always turn what is tearing us apart over to you. Help us to trust in you and forgive others just as you listen to our hearts and forgive each one of us. Amen.

Florence Smallfield 



January 30

“You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great.”  Leviticus 19:15

“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.”  James 2:1

Shane DeRolf wrote a poem “The Crayon Box that Talked.”  Colors didn’t like some other colors.  None of them liked ‘orange’ ….. they didn’t even know why.  DeRolf spreads them out and colors a picture for all colors to see.  They realize all colors are needed to make a beautiful, complete picture.

We recently celebrated the birthday of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.  We are left to consider … people were tortured and killed, marginalized, forced into servitude, deliberately kept from voting … the only reason why … a different color – and fear.  We also must consider what we cannot celebrate … the problem isn’t solved.   We are still unwelcoming to strangers and mistrust those we deem different from ourselves.  We are easily swayed by what others think.  We reluctantly agree or remain silent, afraid to speak up for those who have no voice.  Jesus didn’t die for Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female … but for all.  God loves us equally whatever box we live in … mansion or hovel; or on top of … under the bridge; or will go out in … granite mausoleum,  wooden coffin, ashes by the lakeside; missing on the battlefield or at sea. 

Hyatt Moore painted a setting of Jesus’ Last Supper, beautifully depicting God’s love regardless of race or ethnicity.  It is based on Leonardo DaVinci’s painting, but each friend seated with Jesus is from a different tribe or nation, a “crayon box of colors”.  They are eating, welcome, with our same Jesus, who loves them/us all the same.

Dear Jesus, help us love all your children of the world … red and yellow, black and white … all precious in your sight.  May they all be precious to us too, with the help of your Holy Spirit and your grace within us.  Amen

Verla Olson
Rev 7:9