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December 5

The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. Psalm 121:5-6 

He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I Corinthians 1:8 

Psalm 121 is labeled as a “song of ascents” apparently referring to annual religious pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Some think that this Psalm is a “soldiers’ psalm”, written when David looked for God’s protection in battle. However, it is more commonly considered a “traveler’s psalm”, perhaps written by David when he was going abroad. It reads as a dialogue, of confession and assurance, and when used as a “pilgrimage song” may have been said either by one individual, or a group traveling along together.    

We don’t need to be going on a long journey or certainly not a battle, in order to see where this Psalm fits into our lives. Whether we are at home, nearby, or far away on a trip we are exposed to many things that threaten and distress us. The question then is upon whom do we rely? When there is trouble do we try to solve it ourselves without help? Can we depend upon others to truly help us? Sometimes yes, the immediate situation can be resolved but the distress, and worry may persist. David says his confidence is in His Lord alone. In verse 1 he tells us that he lifts his eyes up to the hills, and asks “where does my help come from”. He answers in verse 2 “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” 

And, He is with us until the end protecting us at all times and shading us from danger. During the time of sun or time of moon – we are protected from everything both day and night. We are protected from all that threatens and distresses us.  This Psalm directs and encourages us to put our confidence in God, and by faith to put ourselves under his protection. We can commit ourselves entirely to His care. 

In I Corinthians this is reinforced; God will be with us and strengthen us until the very end of time. All those worries and things that stress us are nothing compared to God’s compassion and grace. He has ensured our salvation at the end, making us blameless through Our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Thank you for your protective covering, God. Your Holy Spirit anoints us with a balm of blessing and a screen of safety. Let us live with boldness and give praise to you this day. God, like a newborn’s mother, you wrap us up in your protecting arms. We adore you forever. Keep us from everything that assails; build us up for our journey and watch over our every step. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen. 

Chris Gabel



December 4

I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord. Ezekiel 37:14

The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 1 Corinthians 15:26

The fable is told of a Bagdad merchant who sent his servant to the market to pick up some goods for him. While the servant was making the purchases in the market place he found himself face to face with Death! In great fear he returned to his master and told him that Death had given him a menacing look and that he must have a horse so he could escape to Samara, a city some distance away. The master quickly gave his servant a horse, and then went to the market place to find Death. When he found him he asked, “Why did you give my servant a menacing look?” Death replied, “I wasn’t looking at him menacingly, I was merely surprised to see him here in Bagdad; for, you see, I have an appointment with him tonight in Samara.”

“I just sat there. I just held Shelby’s hand. There was no noise, no tremble, just peace. Oh God. I realize as a woman how lucky I am. I was there when that wonderful creature drifted into my life and I was there when she drifted out. It was the most precious moment of my life.” Steele Magnolias 

Dying is part of living. Death is not an exception, but the norm. Faith recognizes that living and dying is what all of God’s creatures do. Dying is part of living. That we will die is not open to question. What is open to question is how we die. Dying is part of living, but that doesn’t mean we don’t fear death. Woody Allen said, “I don’t fear death. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Dying is the most universal of human customs. And wanting to not talk about dying, wanting to not even think about dying is almost as universal as well. We are sad when a loved one dies. We are afraid when we think about our dying. Dying leads us into unknown territory. Fearing death is a natural, normal human response. It is even healthy to be afraid of dying – our fear leads us away from dangerous situations. It is in dying that we glimpse the humanity of God, who enters human life and human suffering, living and suffering with us. And it is in dying that we grasp the divine destiny of humankind created in the likeness and image of God.

How mistaken we are about death. We think that we are going from the land of the living to the land of the dying. Not so. We are going from the land of the dying to the land of the living. Jesus Christ has said it, and it is so.

Father, when I imagine that I can secure my own safe place in this world, call me out of that foolish fantasy and into your land of promise. When enemies threaten to attack me, show me that your nail-pierced hands are stronger. Help me to learn your song of victory over death so I can sing it for others. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



November 30

The lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is the Lord’s alone. Proverbs 16:33

Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all of these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

God has a plan for each one of us. Also, he has given each of us the ability to decide for ourselves. Will we follow his plan, or will we try to go on our own ignoring his guidance in our lives? Life can be discouraging and difficult. Sometimes it can seem as though God isn’t advocating for us. Our basic needs may be met. Our homes are comfortable; we have enough food; the thermostat keeps the temperature just right; there are friends and family who care, etc.

Yet, life can seem overwhelming. Sickness, death, loss of employment, family issues can loom to make us ignore the blessings we take for granted. We try our best to accomplish what can only be accomplished with the help of our Lord and Savior. His guidance gives each of us hope and a more positive perspective on whatever befalls us.   When we return to letting God be in charge, we can see the light of hope in the midst of all of our concerns. Our concerns may still be real and difficult; however, it is much comfort to walk this walk with the help of God who gives us what we need.

Joseph Scriven said it well in a favorite hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” I remember singing this with Grandma. She struggled mightily and knew well the power of turning life over to God. What a nice memory for me to know the power of faith in her life. How fortunate I am to benefit from a legacy of faith to follow and to share with others. 

“What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry Ev’rything to God in prayer!

Oh, what peace we often forfeit; Oh, what needless pain we bear–

All because we do not carry Ev’rything to God in prayer!
 

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged–Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful Who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our ev’ry weakness–Take it to the Lord in prayer.

 

Are we weak and heavy-laden? Is there trouble anywhere?

Precious Savior, still our refuge–Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer.

In his arms he’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.”

Dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Lift us up to look to you no matter what happens in our lives. Strengthen our faith and help us to share our faith with others. Help us to always know what a friend we have in Jesus. Amen.
 
Florence Smallfield 


November 29

Lord, let me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.  Psalm 39:4

Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one.  I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades.  Revelation 1:17-18

I love the holiday season.  The decorations, the outside lights that brighten the dull brown landscape, and now our snowy one.  I don’t mind the waiting in line to get a table or to make a purchase.  I feel full of good cheer, (most of the time).

I love the Christmas season in church.  We wait patiently for the Christ child to come again (and still and always). The old and well-loved carols appear, some that we can sing without looking at the words.  We light the Christmas tree and the Advent wreath, buy caramel rolls and poinsettias, donate gifts to Ebeneezer and cookies to our home bound friends. It is the season of giving and light.  It is a blessing in our lives.

Our waiting ends.  The story is again told.  And we rejoice. Thanks be to God.

Holy Lord, I pray for those who do not have Christmas in their hearts. May your blessings pour down on all people.  May we be instruments of your peace.  Amen.

Joan Perlich



November 28

“May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there ‘so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place.” I Kings 8:29 (NIV)

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God. Ephesians 2:19

The verse from I Kings is part of Solomon’s prayer (verses 23-52) dedicating the Temple in Jerusalem. In verse 27 he wonders if God can really dwell on earth since the highest heavens cannot contain Him. Yet God has promised to be there, to be at this glorious temple that Solomon has built. If anyone wants to communicate with God, there is now this place on earth that they can go to. Solomon implores God to keep His eyes open, to be watching this temple, so that any who come to pray or sacrifice will heard by God in heaven. What if you can’t get there? Apparently there is provision that if you cannot pray in the actual location, you can pray toward the location of the temple. Thus any of the Israelites has access and Solomon prays that God will hear and will forgive.

The temple has been built for the Name of God which was important; knowing and using the Name signifies that God has revealed His character, that He has a personal connection to His people. This is not a distant God who created everything and then departed, this is a personal God, one who cares for His people and listens to and answers their prayers. But, does this mean that there is only one spot on earth that God dwells? Does prayer need to focus on a geographical location? Of course not, as Solomon says, even the heavens cannot contain our Lord, He is everywhere. We can connect and pray to Him at any place, and at any time.

We also are part of this chosen people of God. In Ephesians we are reminded of just how big this family is; it includes every person on our earth. We are all united by the death and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. As Jesus did come and dwell on earth, part of Solomon’s question is answered – Yes, God can dwell on earth. And in heaven. And in everywhere. We can pray secure in the knowledge that God is listening whether we are in a temple, church, gathering of people, at home, or outside. Absolutely anywhere we go, God is already there, ready to listen, to heal, and to forgive.

Thank you, Lord, for placing us as fellow citizens and believers among the people of this world. We thank you that your love crosses all human borders and makes no distinction of race or class. Lord, open our hearts to all who profess your name, and open their hearts to us that we may all be united through your spirit in the bonds of peace. Amen.

Chris Gabel



November 27

Although these nations do give heed to soothsayers and diviners, as for you, the Lord your God does not permit you to do so. Deuteronomy 18:14

Do not bring us to the time of trial. Luke 11:4

How do we know what God’s will is? How do we figure out what God wants for our lives? What road do we take to be a teacher, a doctor, an engineer? How do we know if God is calling us?

Some people chose to ignore God because they think that their path will be less difficult. We sometimes forget God and we fail to hear him. God is always trying to help us, but how can you help someone if they aren’t listening.

There are many ways to listen to God. We can listen through nature, people, and we can listen in our heart. You see, God speaks to us in various ways and at numerous times. The problem is we often don’t recognize His voice. God wants to fellowship with us, to communicate with us. He created us to have a personal relationship with Him.

Try to listen reverently. Stand in awe of God, never take Him for granted. Don’t think God is here to do our bidding and pleasure. We are here for Him, He isn’t here for us.

“Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble.” Frank Tyger

Lord, you yourself guide us with the power of the Holy Spirit – who needs astrology? Thank you for continuing to reveal your will for us daily. You promise to be with us in times of trial so that we may discern what is true and what is good. Remind us to listen to you first, dear Lord. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



November 21

Devotion for Wednesday November 21 2018

Better is a little with righteousness than large income with injustice. Proverbs 16:8

No one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins. 1 Thessalonians 4:6 NIV

Sometimes it seems as if our possessions are the most important thing. People want to acquire more and more, whether they have the means to do so or not. We hear on the news of those in positions of trust embezzling money to buy things they want like trips and fancy cars. The proverb says that righteousness is the way to go, having money and possessions, especially with injustice, are not. Nothing wrong with having the money and possessions per se, but a lot wrong if they are acquired in a way that is unjust to others. Paul too warns against wronging to taking advantage of a brother or sister. Those terms include the whole community, not just close relatives. Whatever one does that is unjust, causes harm to many others.

When I read and hear the news these last few weeks I see so many that have lost everything in the fires in California. There was a woman on the news this morning happily getting some clothes as all she had was the burnt shirt she was wearing. We see many coming to help from firefighters, to medical personnel and those that bring much needed food and clothing. We also see homeless shelters where there are fires, evictions, and people who just need a safe place to live. And, again, we see many who are there to help with blankets, food and efforts to find shelters. We who have much certainly should be thankful and share from our abundance.

On this Thanksgiving Eve, I would like to share a prayer from Bread for the World:
A Prayer of Thanksgiving
“God of all Creation

The abundance of your provision gives us pause to gather
around the table to give thanks with those we love.

As we enjoy the food now before us, we are mindful of those
who do not have a place at any table and of those who have too
little or nothing at all to eat.

Nourish and empower us with this meal to work toward your vision
of abundance, which extends to all your beloved children,
knit together as one human family

May your hope, peace, joy, and love
compel us to end hunger.

Amen”

Chris Gabel



November 20

O Lord our God, we set our hope on you. Jeremiah 14:22

We wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Titus 2:13

During the funeral of her husband, Brezhnev’s widow carries out a silent protest. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev’s wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband’s chest. 

There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, and that that life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that the same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband. 

True hope is a uniquely Christian thing, like faith and love.

Merciful God, thank you for the life giving hope that you continue to provide for your people. Give me persistence and patience, trusting in your abiding faithfulness. Help me to spread your hope by the way I live, including what I choose to do today. Amen.

p.s. This repeat is one of my favorites. Thank you.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



November 19

I will not fail you or forsake you. Joshua 1:5

Your pain will turn into joy. John 16:20

I opened my devotional book one day and read these words, “Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (JESUS ALWAYS by Sarah Young, p.326 ) Not the words I wanted to think about as I started my day.  However, the words are true, no day will be perfect in whatever way we would like it to be.

Joshua was God’s chosen man to guide the Israelites after the death of Moses. His success depended on his courage, his strength and his daily meditating on God’s word.  The people were whiny and full of complaints.  There would be trouble for sure, for Joshua.

We cannot compare our daily lives to those of Joshua or the tired and whiny Israelites.  Our troubles are different but perhaps just as tiring and draining. Think of a teacher who struggles daily with a wayward student or a mother who worries constantly about her addicted child.  We all have worries and troubles, they are part of being human.  There is much to be worried about in our turbulent world.

Corrie Ten Boom said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, it empties today of its strengths.”

How do we not worry?  I don’t think that we can eliminate worry from our imperfect lives.  But God has promised to help us in our struggles.  His words to Joshua are just as timely today, Be strong, have courage, and meditate on my Word. 

I love these words from the late Billy Graham.  “I’ve read the last page of the Bible.  It’s all going to be all right.”

Most holy God, we know that you are bigger than all of our troubles.  We need you, the whole world needs you.  Thank you for your steadfast presence in our lives, for your everlasting promises and your love.  Amen

Joan Perlich



November 16

“Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me; to those who go the right way I will show the salvation of God.”  Psalm 50:23

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:18

A friend gave me a block of wood that reads:  “Start each day with a grateful heart.”  Most days I take a little time to feel my cheek on my pillow and know gratitude for having a home, bed, and pillow I call my own; not to mention a warm coat and hat, mittens and boots; a full cupboard; clean tap water.  I wonder what those living in tent cities, those sleeping under bridges, in fire shelters, might be thinking.  God knows their names just as surely as he knows mine.

Recently I was talking with my grandsons about Malala Yousafzai, shot in the face for attending school in Pakistan.  We thought how important her education must have been to her parents, a right for both boys and girls that we take for granted.  We also mentioned voting, that we have a choice and feel safe at the polls, while many don’t.  I grumbled when my alarm woke me up to go to work, not thinking how fortunate I was to always have a job.  I wake up feeling grateful but then … I mope washing windows, without feeling grateful that I have a house to live in.  I “stew” about grocery shopping, forgetting I buy anything we might want, more than we need.  I wonder what to make for supper, not thinking others wonder if there will be rice left for supper – or not.

Next Thursday Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving.  Some will complain about “all the work” and say they’re glad when it’s over – stuffing a turkey, mashing potatoes, stirring gravy, cranberries and green bean casserole, pumpkin pie and whipping cream.  I wonder what people in Yemen will eat?  But then, they don’t have Thanksgiving Day.

“Praise and thanksgiving, Father, we offer for all things living, created good:
harvest of sown fields, fruits of the orchard, hay from the mown fields, blossom and wood.
“Father, providing food for your children, by your wise guiding, teach us to share
one with another, so that, rejoicing with us, all others may know your care.”  Amen 

(Prayer text:  Albert F. Bayly)

Verla Olson