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December 4

I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake. 2 Kings 19:34 

Meanwhile the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria had peace and was built up. Living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. Acts 9:31

The city of Jerusalem is important to the Israelites. Their temple is there, they believe that is where they encounter the Lord. Having another country conquer it and take the city over as their own would be seen as a sign that the God of Israel was not as powerful as other gods.  Hezekiah the king has prayed that the invaders will not win. And God responds that He will defend that city, the Holy City. It will be defended for His sake – that other nations will see the power and salvation of Israel’s God. One battle, with the angel of the Lord killing lots of the enemy soldiers, and Jerusalem is saved, at least for the moment.  There may have been peace for a while, but further wars and exile ensued.

Can we have peace in our troubled world? In Acts the disciples have been busy, and they have established religious communities in various places. After Saul’s conversion, and rescue, the church has a time of peace. According to the NIV text note, the verse doesn’t refer to any specific church or any formal church, but rather to the whole body of Christians that was growing as the Word was spread.  It is church in the sense of a universal church with the districts listed an indication of the areas where it was Flourishing.

It was a time of peace, believers encouraging each other, respecting the Lord. Jesus had promised to send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit and that had happened.  Whether there were times of trouble and unrest, or peace and prosperity. It doesn’t matter. It is always time to gather together, to worship the Lord and accept the Comfort of the Holy Spirit. Although peace in our world is beyond our abilities, it is not beyond the ability of an all-powerful God.

Lord, we pray today for peace that reaches all the troubled spots on earth and in our communities and homes. We praise and thank you, almighty God, for your providential protection that brings us peace. Help us to proclaim this good news and to turn to you each day, trusting in your mighty hand to save. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Chris Gabel



November 27

You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. Leviticus 19:2 

In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures. James 1:18

Holiness is a main emphasis of Leviticus; the word holy appears more often in Leviticus than in any other book of the Bible. And here in chapter 19 it is what the Lord tells Moses to tell the people. The chapter starts out with this and then goes on to list many of the rules, related to the Ten Commandments to be followed in order to be holy. The Israelites were to be totally dedicated to the Lord; and holiness expressed in every aspect of life. Of course, there are lots and lots of rules listed: what to eat and not eat, what to wear, and how to be properly purified among many others. So, being holy must mean learning lots (and lots) or rules and then following them.

Of course, we aren’t able to do that. We do try to follow the Ten Commandments but fall short each and every day. So, how can we be holy enough for a God that is holy? This is not something we can do on our own, and God knows this and has planned for our salvation. It is God’s will that we be holy, and as He makes us holy we are to be like God as far as is possible for us creatures.  Tanking time to be still and listen to God’s word, and accept His grace all go into becoming holy as He wishes us to be.

In fulfillment of God’s own purpose He gives us a new birth, not just the one where we are created but one of regeneration, of being born again through our faith in Jesus Christ. The verse in James, directed initially at the first disciples, refers to believers as “first fruits” indicating that more fruit will follow. It is up to us who have learned of the holiness of God, who accept His saving grace, to then go on and share this Good News with the rest of the world.

Lord, you are holy! We give you thanks for our birth from the word of your truth and for allowing us to be considered a kind of first fruit of your creatures. Show us how best to emulate your holiness so we can be a witness to your love and forgiveness to all people. Help us to take time to be still and know that you are holy.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

Chris Gabel



November 26

You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Exodus 19:6

Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5

It is an oxymoron, “living stone.” Think about it — stones are, by definition, inanimate. They are not biological entities. They are not alive. Stones are hard. In every sense of the word: They are rigid and firm, and they are difficult. There’s just no flex to them. But it seems that God intends to build something with stones. (Maybe God gave up on the dust and clay idea after creating humans.)

For centuries castles, fortresses and city walls were built of stone whenever it was possible. The strength of stone made it the best material to protect human communities from outside threat. Stone can be a foundation that can support life and community. Stone can be the protector of life and community.

“Living stones” — sounds like a great combination: “Stone” means solid and reliable and durable. “Living” means growing and changing, flexible and adaptable. To be a living stone is to be solid and reliable and yet still growing and changing. What better material could there be for building God’s church? What better material could there be for building our lives? When we become too rigid, we shatter and break. When we flex and change too much, we weaken and dissolve. But living stones might provide both solid stability and flexible change for growth, a foundation that can support life and community. A foundation for faith.

Thank you Lord, for the great diversity of people you have formed into your Church, living stones built on the foundation of Christ. Forgive us when we follow human conventions instead of your commands to share the forgiving love of Jesus with the world. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



November 25

“Light dawns for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.”  Psalm 97:11

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  Matthew 5:4

Minnesota Gopher fans know about waiting.  A psychologist recently described our “condition” as defensive pessimism:   Don’t set your expectations too high; prepare for disappointment.  But … we have learned hope.

We who live in a northern climate know the season of darkness, waiting and longing for light to return.  We know it will come.  We know toward the end of January we will see it and feel it.  We know the prophecy of the West Wind is true:  “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”   

We don’t always hear Shelley’s trumpet.  Many wait and wonder when, perhaps doubt if, light will return.  Waiting, waiting … when, when?  When will it rain?  When will it stop raining?  When will I find a home for my family?  When will the fighting stop?  When will it be safe to return home?  When will we be moved from these tents into housing with warmth and running water?  When will this pain stop?  When will she/he come to visit?  For many the west wind just keeps blowing and Spring seems far behind, out of sight.

My Confirmation is Psalm 27:14:  “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.”  Our celebration of Thanksgiving for blessings just precedes the church season of Advent, waiting in darkness with hope for the coming of light, our Savior.  We who have “seen a great light” do not need to practice defensive pessimism.  The long-expected Jesus has come, is with us.  Our hope is in God.

“Longing for light, we wait in darkness.  Longing for truth, we turn to You.
Make us your own, your holy people, light for the world to see …

“Longing for peace, our world is troubled.  Longing for hope, many despair.
Your word alone has power to save us.  Make us your living voice …

“Christ, be our light!  Shine in our hearts.  Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!  Shine in Your church gathered today.”   Amen                            (Bernadette Farrell)

Verla Olson



November 20

My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to you; my soul also which you have rescued. Psalm 71:23

Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves. Ephesians 5:19

As we look out in a dreary November day, we might not be feeling particularly joyful. Psalm 71 is apparently written by David in his “old age” as he feels his enemies might be threatening him. Part of the Psalm is a plea for help, then it turns to praise as David confidently anticipates the Lord’s help. He will praise God with his lips, his words, his songs and with the lyre.

In Ephesians, Paul admonishes his readers to avoid living unwisely and not to be foolish but wise. They are to be filled with the Holy Spirit and not with the things of the world. Then they are to sing together, to praise God. They are to sing all types of songs among themselves, to sing and praise with their fellow believers. Verse 20 completes the sentence: “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

No matter how dreary our day is, or how anxious we are, we can keep joy in our hearts. It doesn’t matter how well we can carry a tune, or if we know all the words of the song. We can come together and sing praises and Thanksgiving to God.

We thank and praise you, O God, for the gift of speaking and singing your promises through psalms, hymns and songs. Help us join our voices with others in singing your praises.  Forgive us when we get bogged down with burdens and forget that your word is already placed in our hearts. Help us share the joy you give us. Amen

Chris Gabel



November 18

You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Psalm 139:5

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, not rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from tho love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35, 38-39.

Recently, Pastor Craig Simenson, the interim pastor at Christ the King, gave a sermon in which he discussed the meanings in the Negro Spirituals. It reminded me of my thoughts on Negro Spirituals. I think they are an amazing example of how man cannot stop God from reaching the hearts and minds of us, his children.

Slaves were not allowed to read, were tortured, raped, brutally beaten and killed, and bore atrocities beyond description.  Yet, these downtrodden children of God knew the love of God and used the Bible stories they heard not only to pass messages among themselves without an overseer’s or owner’s knowledge, but also to instill and affirm the love of God among their own.

Now, these Negro Spirituals are a treasure of American music and still inspire thousands who hear and love their messages. They continue to bring God’s message of unconditional love to hearts and minds just as they did when they were shared by word of mouth and song among the slaves. 

Indeed, nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. This knowledge allows each one of us to live a courageous life for our Lord. May we be willing to share this remarkable message with others.

Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

What a promise, Lord! Thank you for treasuring each one of us, undeserving as we are. Thank you for promising to be with us in every day in every situation. May we boldly share this amazing truth with someone who feels separated from God’s love.  Amen.

Florence Smallfield 

 



November 12

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. Our God comes and does not keep silence. Psalm 50:2-3

Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” Luke 9:35

God whispers in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain. C.S. Lewis

Have you heard God speak to you today? I’m not sure I have either. Maybe a better question is, have I been listening for God? This is a difficult question.

For starters, how does God speak to us? From the Bible, for one.

Well, you say, everybody knows that the Bible is the Word of God – that God “speaks” to us in the Scriptures. “But,” you say, “that’s just too conventional – that’s no fun –I want a personal message to boom down from the clouds with maybe a little lightning and thunder thrown in to impress the neighbors. I upped my tithe this year; it seems like God could turn up the knob on His amplifier just a little bit. I don’t want to strain to listen – I want stereo with hi-fidelity. I wouldn’t mind if I even needed earplugs.” But God doesn’t speak to us like that. And I think we already knew it.

If we pay attention, listen intently, we can hear God in the Bible. It’s not glamorous, but it He is talking to us. Another way that God might speak to us is through prayer. If we don’t faithfully and regularly go to God in prayer – how can He speak to us through prayer? Yes, God does answer our prayers. Sometimes He says “yes,” sometimes He says “no,” sometimes we have to wait. Probably, more than we like to admit, He answers, but we don’t listen close enough to hear Him. We really do need that amplifier, don’t we? But think about it – what wonderful, soothing “words” God provides when He answers prayer. What would you rather receive – a loud, 30-second sound byte from heaven proclaiming, “I feel your pain” – or the gentle peace that surpasses all understanding to calm your soul that only God can provide?

God’s voice comes to us more like the voice of our conscience than from some celestial loudspeaker. It may not be loud, and you have to pay attention. Quiet yourself to listen for the still, small, gentle whisper of God. Don’t miss it. God is speaking to you……..just listen.

Lord of heaven and earth, you promise not to keep silence when you gather us, your children, to be near you. You gave us your Son and told us to listen to him. Give us ears to hear and hearts that desire to follow him with words and deeds that serve our neighbors in our world. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



November 11

“God gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.”  Daniel 2:21

“The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.”  James 3:17

When talking about bad decisions, my husband sometimes cites Miles Kington:  “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.”

It is important to learn as much as possible so we can make informed decisions, rather than “just wing it”.  On the flip side, what you know can make you smart, but not consequentially wise.  One might score high on every test and be able to recite a lot of facts, but still make bad decisions and do “stupid” things.  One might be well aware of consequences but still take risks that lead to trouble.  “I wish I had done things differently.”  “She/he knows better … how could she/he do such a thing?”  Sometimes what we think is surely a wise decision turns out to be yet another error of judgment.

Being the most successful or strongest or winning doesn’t mean one is the wisest.  Scripture doesn’t attribute wisdom to power or achievement, or any self-made accomplishment.    We have nothing to boast of.  In the book of Proverbs Solomon, like Daniel, frequently connects wisdom and understanding, not of our own merit but guided by trust in the Lord.  James’ description of wisdom, a gift from the divine, serves as a guide to respectful relationships, not by domination and force, but by understanding others and their circumstances, with empathy and compassion, tolerance of differences, doing what is right with what we know for the common good.

Holy Spirit, Guide our thoughts, words and actions.  Help us to trust in your presence and guidance to lead us on the path of “mercy and good fruits”.  Amen

Verla Olson



November 8

For we are aliens and transients before you, as were all our ancestors; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope.  1 Chronicles 29:15

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.  John 14:2

David, even as King, considered himself an alien on the land where he ruled.  He knew that his real home was with God and he recognized that life on earth was fleeting.  And so it is true for us as well,  life is short, ( though sometimes it seems too long.)

How blest we are to have Christ’s words in John.  He goes to prepare a place for us.  US!  Do you wonder, as I do, what our place will be like?  I once heard a devotional speaker say that we will have our own property in heaven.  Perhaps our names are already written on the door posts.  Can it be true?  Yes, for we have God’s assurance that we will live with him forever.

No matter how we think or conjecture about the afterlife, it remains a mystery to us. Just the way that our Lord planned it.  We have only to believe the divine promises and live our short lives in confidence and wonder!

Dearest Lord,  not only do you meet our needs here on earth, but also forever.  It is hard for us humans to fathom the depth of your love and mercy.  Be with us when we lose control, fall apart, feel lost. Lift us from our fear and let us hear again your voice, saying, “you are mine.”  Amen

Joan Perlich



November 6

All the nations you have made shall come and bow down before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. Psalm 86:9 

This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14 

Jesus disciples have asked him a question that many people wonder about. When will the “end of the age” happen? Will the world end and when is that supposed to occur? Plus, it would be really nice if we could have some sort of sign, so we would know it was coming and could be sure and be ready. This is apparently a private conversation between Jesus and His disciples. They have left the temple and are now at the Mount of Olives and the questions are asked. Jesus tells them a number of things that might happen – and if we look at the lives of the disciples, many of them did happen. There would be deceivers, false Christs, persecution, and death. Probably not what they would be looking forward to as part of following Jesus. He then tells them that the end will come once the gospel reaches the whole world; when all the nations have heard a testimony. 

When these words were spoken, the “whole world” was a bit smaller then we might think of today. It would encompass the Roman Empire, and lands surrounding Israel. There was no thought of going to the far southern reaches of Africa, or to what we call China. Plus, there was no knowledge of a few more continents; North and South America were not even known. So the disciples focus would be on spreading the Gospel throughout their world – the Roman Empire. They had no planes or trains or cars, they had to either walk, or ride an animal if they had one. And travel they did. Disciples went throughout the Mediterranean countries, northern Africa, and Thomas is said to have made it to the Kerala province of India. And, they were persecuted, some put to death, and an end did come as the temple in Jerusalem fell. 

Today we have the same mission to carry on. It is our turn to carry the good news of the kingdom to the whole world. That can be to our next door neighbor, our surrounding area or to any point in the world. We can share our testimony to let others know of the wonderful Good News of Jesus Christ, our savior, and God’ 

Lord God, since the word became flesh your gospel has spread throughout the world. As we await your return, we shout your praises in jubilant times and bow in silence in reverent times. Help us bow today to your saving grace and spread the Good News wherever we can. Your name shall be glorified to all the nations! Amen. 

Chris Gabel