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November 13

Let all those rejoice who put their trust in you. Psalm 5:11

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. John 15:10-11

“I love mankind; it’s the people I can’t stand.” Sounds about right. People can annoying. Loving people can be hard. Yet the Bible says that is what we are supposed to do. Loving your neighbor is not a grey area to be discussed and debated. It is a command. Clear and concise. And to the point.

Jesus gave love priority over all other Christian virtues. Every thought, response, and act of goodwill must first pass through the fine filter of love, or it means nothing at all. In “Strength to Love”, Martin Luther King, Jr., encouraged us to realize that “our responsibility as Christians is to discover the meaning of this command and seek passionately to live it out in our daily lives.” But why love? What makes it so important?

Why must we love the people who kill our children? Why must we love the neighbor who had an affair with our partner?

When Jesus spoke to the disciples regarding the first and second greatest commands, he explained that “All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands” (Matt. 22:40).

To the people of Israel, as well as for many of us today, it would seem more logical for obedience to be the peg from which the Law hangs, since the point of writing a law is follow it. Paul tells us “Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love,therefore, is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:10).

This may sound irrelevant to us in today’s world, because we depend on police departments, guns, and force to uphold and fulfill the law. Yet Jesus’ simple command requires greater strength than any of us naturally possess – more power than any man-made weapon.

The logic of Paul’s interpretation of Jesus’ command that love fulfills the Law seems simple. Well, relatively. For if one loves his neighbor, he will not commit adultery with his neighbor’s spouse. If he loves his coworker, he will not lie to him. And if loves his enemy, he will not kill him. Love fulfills the law, because if we truly love every person because he is a person, we will not desire to hurt or violate him or her, thus never break the law. God established love as the impetus for obedience.

OK………so when we demonstrate Christian love, it should distinguishes us from the rest of the world. Jesus did not say that people will know that you are my disciples if you promote my agenda, or wear Christian T-shirts or a WWJD bracelet, or have a fish decal on your car, but rather if you love one another. A watching world will be persuaded not when our values are promoted but when they are incarnated, when we become purveyors of love. It is as though Jesus has given the entire world the right to judge whether or not one is His follower simply on the basis of their love for fellow human beings. It is the vivacious virtue of love that distinguishes us.

“We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love
 
We will work with each other, we will work
side by side We will work with each other, we will work side by side
And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride
 
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love
By our love, by our love
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love”

Written by Peter Scholtes

Music by Carolyn Arends

Jesus, my joy, I rejoice in the promise of your abiding love. Thank you for loving me even when I am unlovable. I am sorry that I don’t love with the same love you have for me. Teach me how to abide in your love and to love others so that I might be part of your complete joy. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



November 12

“The Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.”  Psalm 103:6 

“See, the home of God is among mortals.  He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them’ he will wipe every tear from their eyes.”  Revelation 21:3-4 

“A just war” … “Freedom is not free” … “Fighting for peace” … are familiar slogans.  Yesterday we honored those who have served in the military, and their families, especially brought to mind by special events honoring this 100th anniversary of the signing of the WWI Armistice.  “The war to end all wars” did not.  Wars will happen as long as there are resources and borders to fight over; differing ideologies; ethnic intolerance and hatred.  This past weekend was also the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht.  Oppressive regimes will stir up armed rebellions to defend homeland and freedom.   A right to be angry is not a right to be cruel and inhumane.  

I am not a fighter, but God does confront us with a duty to defend the poor and oppressed, armed with the plowshares of concern and kindness.   Our Savior, Jesus Christ came to earth and still lives among us, in the midst of our wars and fighting, broken relationships … and unkind political campaigns.  Drafted by Parent God, Jesus came to show us his way of justice and compassion toward the poor and outcast and sick; a way of humility, setting aside our human view of power for spiritual strength; and to save us from our own follies, from the oppression of the cares and worries of this world.  As some think of veterans specifically on Veterans Day – and Memorial Day – some think of Jesus on Christmas and Easter, or Sunday morning/Saturday evening.  Our Lord’s day is every day.  There isn’t a day that we don’t need to feel Jesus’ message of peace and comfort to share with others. 

God bless America … and all who are in need of care and compassion, enough to eat and clean water.  Your kingdom – of fairness and decent conditions for all – come; and your will – of mercy and forgiveness – be done.  Amen 

Verla Olson



November 6

Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars! For he commanded, and they were created. Psalm 148:3, 5

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. Revelation 4:11

“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrow like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
‘It is well, it is well with my soul.'”

The words to this song have a very sad history. The author, Horatio Spafford, wrote these words on a ship that was passing over the spot where his four daughters perished on a sinking ship, his wife the only survivor of his family. And yet, he found the courage and faith to pen these beautiful words of praise.
None one of us will go through life untouched by disappointments, hurts, frustrations or pains. We know better. In the face of this certain difficulty, we need to discover there is a refuge to be found in the midst of inevitable turmoil. There a place of refuge, where we can face trying times with confidence and assurance. If we are struggling with difficulty, we can praise Him for His presence in our lives. If we are enjoying rest, we should praise Him for His peace. If we are battling an illness, we can praise Him for his strength. If we are enjoying good health, we should praise Him for His healing. If we are battling serious financial need, we praise Him for what he has provided. If we are enjoying an overflowing cup, praise Him for His bounty. Praise Him; praise Him, for His presence in our lives.
It was All Saints on Sunday. A day of remembrance and honoring. A day that can be difficult for many. Part of the service was singing the hymn above. A song I have always had a problem finishing. Sunday was no exception. But there is a promise in those words. A promise that God himself made to us. A promise that we are loved and a promise that He is always with us. Through the good times and the bad. He will never forsake us, or leave us or forget we are His children.
God of all Creation, thank you for being the one true God who formed the whole universe and all that is in it. I am grateful that you gave me the gift of life and knew me even before I was born. Show me again the wonders of your Creation. Help me to praise you with my life today. Amen.

Peace,
Susan Hanson



November 1

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  Psalm 73:26

That night the Lord stood near Paul and said “Keep up your courage!”  Acts 23:11

 Webster defines courage as “the ability to overcome fear or despair.” Paul was afraid, there were threats against him.  He needed the courage to continue his work in spreading the Word and following the Way.  His charge, to build a church!  Imagine his fear as he continued to defend his actions and spread the word about Jesus’ death and resurrection.  His total belief and trust in God was rewarded with God’s encouragement.

Fear is built into us humans, along with all other emotions that we may experience.  Fear can be a good thing when it warns us about about danger, and not just physical danger.  Fear can also be a bad thing, when it is not based on reality.  Nevertheless, we all know what it’s like to be fearful.  God knows about our fears, after all, He designed us.

Our daily lives seem rather bland and unchallenging sometimes.  Not many of us are commissioned as Paul was, to leave home, to travel many miles, to face difficult situations and even danger.  But in our day to day moments, we do face situations in which we are required to face our fears and even conquer them.  And the good news is that God is on our side, ready to love us, understand us, and encourage us.

“Fear not, I have created you.  You are mine.”  Isaiah 43:1

Loving God, this world may be too much for us at times.  We can be worn down but never emptied because you have filled us with love and hope.  We are yours, forever and ever.  Amen

Joan Perlich



October 31

Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people.” Exodus 32:11-12

Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Romans 8:34

Moses interceded for the Israelites when they took off their jewelry and cast the calf. Then they worshiped the golden calf, partied, and turned aside from the way that God had commanded them. God was filled with wrath and wanted to destroy these stiff-necked people. God changed his mind when Moses interceded, and God did not destroy the Israelites. They were punished by the consequences of Moses’ wrath when he came down from Mount Sinai; however, they were spared God’s will to destroy them. 

We who believe in Christ as our Savior and Lord are the benefactors of Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection. Recently, I visited with a friend who was mourning the loss of two of her life-long friends, one of whom died, and one who can no longer communicate with her because of illness. One of the things we talked about was the fact that, as difficult as it is to lose loved ones, we are comforted in the knowledge of the promise of salvation. We know that we will be together again with those who have gone before and will be sharing a far better life in the place God has prepared for us.

Think of the discouragement our sinfulness, just as it did with the Israelites and their transgressions, must bring on God as he watches us each day. When we think this way, we rejoice in the knowledge that he still cares enough to save us for life in the our heavenly home. Belief frees us to be his messengers throughout our daily lives. To God be the glory.

Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

When we come to you for mercy and forgiveness, you are compassionate and forgiving. You hear us on our level and free us from guilt an apathy. Help us to turn to you daily for all that is necessary in our lives. Help us to share your truth with others. Amen.

Florence Smallfield   



October 30

Break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord. Hosea 10:12

No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. Luke 9:62

When I was a kid living in northern Minnesota, each summer my town would have a parade. It wasn’t a big town, so the parade was usually just a string of fire trucks, a few Shriner cars, the High School Band, a clown or two, and then a line of cars who didn’t realize there was a parade today and got stuck behind it. We always waved to them anyway.

One of my favorite moments was right before the parade started. We would take our seats on the curb and turn toward the direction from which we knew the parade was coming. As it approached, we couldn’t see anything yet but we could hear the sirens blaring and the local high school band playing. We would crane our necks, jump up and down, stand on our chairs, and say to our parents, “Do you see it yet? How about now? What about now?” We could hear the sirens; we knew it was close. But we just couldn’t quite see it yet.

A woman, who lived to be 100 years old, was asked for her secret to living so long. She replied she always had someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to.

Life can be hard, with many of us struggling just to make it through the day. We all need someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to. But we have something to look forward to. Beyond this life, beyond our nagging questions and doubts, we have something to look forward to. Think of it like driving a car, the rear view mirror is smaller than the windshield in the front of the car. That is exactly what it means in life. We do not drive in reverse always looking out the rear view mirror. We look out the windshield, forward, to the future.

The truth is that the human situation is not hopeless. The crises in our lives, both personal and global, are not hopeless. Life is not a despairing wait for an inevitable end. Life is the eager anticipation of the realization of God’s promises, especially the promise that death is not the end. Life is the straining to see the start of the parade. It is the perseverance through the struggle of childbirth in order to experience new life. Life is not hoping for something; it is hoping in Someone, the One who promised us redemption and called us to work for the redemption of all of God’s creation. “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.” Do you hear it? Can you see it? I’ve seen glimpses. A kind word. An answered prayer. A stand taken for one’s faith. A hope realized. Do you hear it? Can you see it? Then live it.

Lord, you give us the glorious task of working in your field so that the harvest will be plentiful. When I look into my past rather than toward your future for me, I miss the grace of this day. Give me steady hands and clear eyes to focus on you alone as I follow you today. Amen.

P.S. This a repeat devotion.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



October 25

I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord; I will remember your wonders of old. I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds. Psalm 77:11-12

Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

God looks on us, flawed as each of us is and still performs works and deeds to the benefit of all of us. Yes, there are many times when one can wonder if God is there; life can be such a struggle. Yet, we look around and beyond our own cares and worries and know that God is good and consistently confirms his love for us and our world.

We live in a time when many of us receive our basic needs without the struggle experienced by too many in our world. Famine, strife, war, storms, disease strike with strength and leave many with few obvious options. Amid such, there prevails a glimmer of hope to restore faith and defeat despair. Famines are fought with ingenious ways to teach those afflicted how to grow their own food even as they are given food for the moment. When natural disasters strike, teams of hundreds or thousands gather to rescue survivors and to restore lives and living conditions. We hear of medical science making strides against conditions for which formerly there was little help or hope.

Then we can look around us and see the wonders of God’s creation. He has provided food, beauty, and intelligence to put all that he has given to use for the benefit ourselves and others.

Can you imagine the wonder, anxiety, doubt, and worry Mary felt? If she could trust that God was including her, a young woman just beyond the age of being a young girl, in his great plan, how can we not be assured that each one of us is included in God’s purpose? His mighty deeds are done for each one of us.

Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Thank you for your works and deeds that confirm your love for humanity. Forgive us when we become ensnared in our own struggles and forget your faithfulness to each one of us. Help us to have trust in you just as Mary did. Help us to always share your love and faithfulness to us with those around us. Amen.

Submitted by Florence Smallfield



October 24

Can mortals make for themselves gods? Jeremiah 16:20 

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. Colossians 2:8 

When you read the question Jeremiah asks, it seems obvious. Humans cannot make gods; in fact it is God who made humans. So why ask such a question? In Jeremiah’s time there were gods worshipped by many of the peoples that surrounded God’s people. They had sometimes incorporated worship of these gods and idols into their lives. Jeremiah in the 16th chapter mostly talks about disasters that will befall them. However, for a few verses there is a more hopeful message. He says that the Lord is his strength and fortress and refuge and reminds his people that there is only one God whose name is the Lord.   

OK, so that was a long time ago, we certainly don’t worship idols in our modern age, or do we? It seems that we can make idols of many different things. It might be something to do with our job, with getting and spending money, perhaps sporting events. There also are many who make idols out of celebrities, movie stars, sports figures, even political figures. Jeremiah 16:20 concludes with “”Such are no gods!” There is only one true God, the one we know and follow. 

Paul looks at another aspect of idolatry, a dependence on human philosophy and ritual in place of dependence on following Jesus Christ. Some notes on this verse from Colossians from the NIV Study Bible: “Paul was counteracting the Colossian heresy, which, in part, taught that for salvation one needed to combine faith in Christ with secret knowledge and with man-make regulations concerning such physical and external practices as circumcision, eating and drinking, and observance of religious festivals.” 

We do not need all the rituals that are often part of the worship of idols. There is no magic formula or special words we need to say. Because of God’s grace in sending His son as our savior, and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit we have all the “special knowledge.” The message of love God above all and your neighbor as yourself is readily available to us through Jesus’ teaching and those who have taught through the years.  Our response to this saving grace is to love our neighbor in return. Not to try to solve all the problems out there, but to have faith and trust in our strong saving Lord who loves and cares for us and all the people in this world and the next. 

Omnipotent Father, in a world churning with technological advances, may we always remember that all wisdom and knowledge comes from you. We are sorry for our desire to solve the world’s problems with our own power. Forgive us for placing our actions above your gracious act of salvation. We are awed by your capacity to teach us. All credit and praise belong to you. Thanks be to God!   

Chris Gabel



October 23

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14

The disciple woke Jesus up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ”Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased. Mark 4:38, 39

Fear, worry, anger, resentment, guilt, and regrets keep us awake at night. When you pray, you can pour out your heart to God just like you’re speaking to your best friend—because you are.

Ask God to reveal to you whatever it is about you that needs to change, and ask him for the strength to do it.

When you find yourself alone and troubled, instead of rehashing the past, search your heart for answers about your future. The only right sacrifice you can offer God is your heart. Even if it’s broken, troubled and weary, God will accept it. Offering your heart to God means offering yourself to God, putting your hope, trust, and life in his hands.

The key to a heart full of peace is having a heart completely surrendered to God. The process of getting to that point is one of pouring your heart out to God, examining your heart before God, and offering your heart to God.

Prince of Peace, thank you for the calm that you bring to my life’s storms, to know you is to know peace-without you there is none. Guide the leaders of the world to become peacemakers. Bring your healing to troubled hearts and homes. Make me an instrument of your peace today. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



October 22

“Go, and may the Lord be with you!”  1 Samuel 17:37

“Whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”  1 Corinthians 10:31

It is easy to see God’s glory in the “big” – gazing across a valley from the top of a mountain, at the horizon across Lake Superior, at the wild patchwork of color adorning autumn trees.  It takes intention to see glory in the “small” – greening buds, a baby’s fingernails.

It is easy to see God’s glory in big actions.  David was an overachiever.  Perhaps not much more than a boy, poorly armed, he was sent to face a mighty enemy, and succeeded.  Paul writes about goodness in something relatively trivial … eating and drinking; not offending, but respecting, our neighbor; not seeking our own advantage. 

Do we see God’s glory in others?  Do we encourage and affirm the gifts God has given them?  Do we see God’s glory in our own gifts?  Do we joyfully share them with others?  There is a saying:  [If you aren’t giving your best, you are wasting a gift.]  Will we sing an aria … or blend into a choir?  Will we cross the sea and see our name in books … or visit a shut-in, take soup to a neighbor, be a caretaker at home?  God is not impressed by wealth, no matter how great.  God will notice that we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly.  There is no such thing as a small talent or good deed when done with gratitude and joy, with care and compassion fueled by the Holy Spirit.  A seemingly small act of kindness might be just the thing to make someone’s day brightened by God’s light.  And that is big … and glorious … God’s glory.

“All that I am and have, thy gifts so free that each departing day henceforth may see some work of love begun, Some deed of kindness done, Some wanderer sought and won, something for thee.”  Amen

                                                                                                                                                              (Sylvanus Phelps)

Verla Olson