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May 17

The Lord will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.  On their hands they will bear you up , so that you will not dash your foot against a stone. Psalm 91:11-12.

Are not all angels spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?  Hebrews 1:14.

I had not given much thought to angels until I read the scripture verses for today.  So in order to write this devotional, I decided to become an an angelologist for a little while.  Angelology – the study of angels and how they relate to human beings and also how they serve the purposes of God.

Angels were and are created by God to do his will. They are spiritual beings without physical bodies, though in the Bible, when angels appeared to humans, they did have a physical appearance. This does not happen today; if God sends an angel to help you in some way, you will not see him or her.  In art, angels are usually depicted with wings, but contrary to what we might think, angels do not fly.

Angels appeared and ministered to God’s people many times in the Bible.  An angel guarded the tree of life after Adam and Eve sinned.  Jacob dreamed of angels ascending and descending a ladder.  Moses was guarded by an angel while in the desert.  An angel saved Daniel in the lion’s den.  Mary was visited by Gabriel to tell her the big news from God.  An angel also visited Joseph to tell him what he must do.

Jesus was comforted in the Garden of Gethsemane.  And angels appeared to Mary at the empty tomb.  These are but a small example of angel visits in the Bible.

There is clear testimony in the Bible that angels are real and sent to us by God to guard and protect, although not everyone has a guardian angel.  One theory is that God sends one to a person who is in trouble.  Thomas Aquinas, a medieval theologian, wrote that he believed that angels influence humans by lighting the mind with an idea.  Could it be that Jamie Kloss had a personal angel who watched over her and gave her the idea to run?

“He has put his angels in charge of you.  They will watch over you wherever you go.”    Psalm 91:11

Most holy and excellent God,  you amaze us with your love and care.  Thank you for angels who comfort, guide and protect.   Help us in our faith and keep us on the Way.  Amen

Joan Perlich



May 15

You have made human beings a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.  Psalm 8:5 

 

It is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.  Matthew 18:14 

 

What a thought the Psalmist has – we are created a little lower than God!  I seem to remember a translation where it says a little lower than the angels. My NIV version says the “heavenly beings.”  Whichever, it sounds like we were created and favored by God.  Psalm 8 is wonderful to read – all about God’s creation and how wonderful He is.  Then, it goes on to say that we are just a little lower than God and we have the power to rule over parts of creation.  We are to take good care of the plants, and animals and planet. 

 

In Matthew we have a little more to think about – we are to remember that everyone and everything is important to God.  The little ones, the children who were being ignored, are just as important as the adults.  In fact, Jesus tells us to become like little children.  We also have little (and big) animals that God gave us the responsibility for, to care for and to protect. Plus all the other things in our world, the plants, the soil, the air, all are a part of the wonderful creation of our Lord. 

 

And, we even get a crown – at least in our verse from Psalms it says that we are crowned with glory and honor. This has nothing to do with our actions, what we do or don’t do. This is solely due to the way God created us, and all the rest of creation.  In response, we need to care for His creation, down to the smallest creatures and the biggest too. 

 
Creator of all, you have given us royalty status to oversee your creation.  Forgive us for misusing that power and not doing your will.  Teach us to care for even the smallest members of your Creation.  Change our hearts today to see this world through your eyes and to serve it so that all may know your saving grace.  Amen
 

Chris Gabel



May 14

The Lord says, “Those who love me, I will deliver.” Psalm 91:14

 

Jesus said to the healed man, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:19

 

“We live by faith, not by sight” 2 Corinthians. 5:7. Paul could certainly turn a nice phrase. His words seem to capture the essence of the Christian life to which each of us is called.

But what is it to “live by sight”? If we can understand what it is to live in this state, it can give us an appreciation of what stands in opposition to it—what it is to live by faith. To live by sight is to live as we must live. There is no escape from living by sight, so long as we are human.

To live by sight is to reason inductively. It is to use the same reasoning that enables us to conclude that the sun will rise tomorrow. The sun rises and sets, the tides are raised and lowered, we follow the four seasons. In Minnesota, even a couple more.

This is the very type of reasoning that we call “common sense.” All people have it (even if some of us have more of it than others).

To live by sight, however, is to live a life of great anxiety. While it is comforting to see the world go by us with such wonderful regularity, we are daily tormented by the great uncertainties in our own lives: Loss of job or friends or family, wrecked cars, broken bones, poverty, disease, —the list of things that can go wrong is so long as to be endless. And yet it is not the length of the list that deserves our attention, but rather the potential suddenness of the entries as they should happen to make their appearance in our lives. While I may be certain that the sun will rise tomorrow I nevertheless cannot be as certain that I will even wake up in the morning.

That is the great anxiety of living by sight: That we might die. Not for nothing did Paul use the term “earthly tent” to describe the human body, for daily we face the prospect that at death we will no longer be covered by this “tent” 2 Corinthians 5:4

To live by sight, then, is to live a life of great uncertainty, and thus anxiety. While we are certain of permanence in the world, we are given no such certainty as it concerns us individually.

The Christian does not have this anxiety, or this uncertainty, for we live not by sight, but by faith. Faith that we will be with God, faith that Jesus died for us, faith that our Father will always, always be there for us. Faith.

 

Lord of life, you have promised to deliver me from trouble. When I am in despair, you will love me back to life. Yet I continue to fall short. I do not trust you to be there when I need you. Forgive my ingratitude. Turn me towards you, Lord, so that I may give you the glory. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



May 8

You saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as one carries a child, all the way that you traveled. Deuteronomy 1:31

 

So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. I John 4:16

 

Moses reminds the Israelites of all the time that God helped them along the way from Egypt to the Promised Land. The times when He carried them, as food and water were provided, as Pharaoh’s army was stopped from following them. They should be happy about this, but being human there were lots of complaints along the way.  Of course, there was that 40 years of wandering making a short trip into a very long one, apparently in reaction to their disobedience.

 

Many times God has been portrayed as an angry God, one who seems to be waiting for us to make mistakes so He can wreak vengeance on us. There certainly are verses, and portions of the Bible that reinforce that opinion including portions of Deuteronomy. I am thankful that this is not the God we see portrayed when looking at the Bible as a whole. Instead we have the interesting image of God carrying us as a parent carries a child. A couple days ago, I saw lots of parents with children when downtown at Hennepin County medical centers Specialty Clinic building. Some small ones were walking along holding a parent’s hand; many were smaller and in strollers getting pushed to their destinations. As I was leaving, a woman entered carrying her child – who looked to be 4 or 5 years old – over her shoulder as he was sound asleep.  That reminded me of this verse where God carries us whether we are paying attention, or not, and sometimes when we just sleep through it and don’t notice.

 

John tells us that as believers we know that God loves us; we can rely on this love. The rest of verse 16 adds: “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”  This love was there for us before we were born, as it was there for Moses and the people of that day, through history to us and beyond. We cannot escape the wonderful all-encompassing love and care of God.

 

Loving Father, you carry us when we can’t carry ourselves. Your presence enfolds and comforts us. We thank you for your loving embrace as we feel your arms around us. Even when we fear that we have lost you, there you are, forgiving our faithlessness and leading the way. Help us to care for and lift up others today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Chris Gabel



May 1

There is nothing better than that all should enjoy their work, for that is their lot. Ecclesiastes 3:22

Give joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:12 NIV

We all have work to do in this life. Whether we go to a job and paid for our efforts, work in our own business, keep a household running we all have work to do. Sometimes we enjoy every minute, and often we just want to get through the day. Longer ago people worked in the trade of their fathers. Carpenters sons were carpenters, seamstresses daughters were seamstresses (hope they actually were good at carpentry or sewing.) Now we get more opportunity to choose, we take aptitude tests, and we can change careers along the way.

In Ecclesiastes we hear that all should enjoy their work. What work might that be? Well, it looks like the work that is our lot, so we might as well enjoy it anyway.. “People complain that they want what’s coming to them. Well, they have it! What you presently have is your lot, portion or share. All we have in the present is our allotted portion…Appreciate what you have today! We cannot see what the future here holds, but we can trust God and enjoy what we have today.” (from a Mark Dunagan commentary.)

Yet is this the only work we have been assigned as our lot? Is there some work we also need to be doing to ensure our salvation? Or to have joy on earth? No matter what our daily work entails we can also be doing the work of God. Our Lord has already done the salvation part, and we are to give joyful thanks to Him. So, our works are not needed to save us. However, part of our response to this wonderful saving grace is to be about God’s work. This can be done no matter what our actual employment is. We can show Christ to others by our actions throughout our daily lives. 

Creator God, thank you for granting us the privilege of working with you to help establish your reign on earth. Help us to boldly claim the tasks you have chosen for us. Lord, some days we feel our work is a burden. Forgive our shortsightedness and renew our spirits as we join your saints in the joyous holy dance of your kingdom. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Chris Gabel



April 30

You shall not cheat one another, but you shall fear your God. Leviticus 25:17 NASB

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

Our sinful pride creeps in too often to cause us to think that we are better than someone else. On the opposite side we may feel or that someone else has life, things, whatever much better that we do, and we don’t deserve what has befallen us. Or, we may feel that we should have the best deal no matter what befalls another.

One can seem to have it all–wealth, power, fame, notoriety, etc. However, this is played out on such a person’s life, at the end of his or her life, others count in higher regard the good such a person did throughout a lifetime.

Lindsey Schmidt is a nursing student at Gustavus in St. Peter. She spent a month this winter in Tanzania among some of the poorest population learning of the peoples’ lives and their medical care. In her interesting presentation recounting her trip,  she told of the kindness and goodness of the people she met, of how they cared for one another, of how welcoming they were to the students, and of how giving and overworked the staffs were in the medical facilities. These were the important insights that she gained. Status among those she met didn’t matter. These people loved God and dedicated themselves to helping one another. They shared what they had and were most welcoming to the students. These are God’s children doing his work. What an inspiring example of the humility it takes to regard others as better than ones’ self.

Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Thank you for the guidance you have given us for how we should treat one another. You humbled yourself, even to death on the cross. Help us to see others as you see each one of us, your children. Vanish our egos and help us to always offer gratitude even as we encourage others.

Florence Smallfield 



April 29

For God will bring every deed into judgment, in clouding every secret thing, whether good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:14

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8

Do you have a secret?  Some past event or action or even a thought hidden deep inside?  Maybe it’s a good secret which will be revealed in time, such as a surprise party for a friend or family member, or perhaps a new baby coming.  Anticipation and excitement usually go along with those kinds of secrets.  But what if its a bad secret, something shameful or despicable or shocking, something that you don’t want anyone ever to know about you?  That secret you carefully guard, along with the uncomfortable feelings that the secret generates.

Who among us does not harbor something in our minds that we do not wish to share with anyone? We are human after all.  None of us are completely pure.  But can we, even in our humanness, be “pure in heart”?

God does indeed know everything about us, our innermost secrets, good or bad.  And we will be judged.  But I believe that God looks mostly at our hearts, and I believe that our hearts will be pure for God will see his love for us mirrored there.  And if we are loved by God and have his love in our hearts, we cannot help but follow his commands and do his bidding. We are blessed for we will see God.

Dear God, thank you for blessing us with faith.  Complete us in your image, that we may be pure in heart and at home in your kingdom where we will see you in all your glory.  Amen

Joan Perlich



April 26

“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?  Listen carefully to me and eat what is good.”  Isaiah 55:2

“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”  John 6:27

We have read accounts of careers, reputations, even personal freedom squandered.  Crazed by wealth and possessions having enough is not enough, nor is having a lot, nor is having more than we can imagine ever spending.  Never satisfied, there MUST be more.  In Luke 12:13-21 Jesus tells a story about a man who obsessed with building bigger barns to hoard his excess.   That night “the fool” would die.  Material obsessions would mean nothing for his soul. 

It’s good to want to do well at our jobs.  It’s normal to want to provide adequate food, clothing, and shelter for our families; and to afford necessities as we age.  It isn’t bad to want to own a dependable car, perhaps travel and learn about other places and peoples, maybe philanthropize if something left over. 

We put away our variety of groceries and produce … with gratitude?  Or indifference?  Statistics vary, but I heard recently that 40% of this cornucopia will go into the garbage.  What is enough?  Last year in Guatemala, after installing a soot-free stove and water filter in a windowless, dirt floor kitchen, the woman offered each of us a small cake and a BOTTLE of clean water.  She does not have enough, but she found a way to share. 

In our Easter sermon we heard Wendell Berry’s challenge to “work for nothing”.  What are you willing to do for nothing – no financial reward or material gain?  For whom?  We have just journeyed with Jesus through Lent, his death and resurrection.  Jesus did not ask “What’s in it for me?” He just gave and gave … his body and his blood …. for us, enough for all … to fill up our souls. 

“You satisfy the hungry heart with gifts of finest wheat. 

Come give to us, O saving Lord, the bread of life to eat.”  Amen

(Prayer text:  Robert E. Kreutz)

Verla Olson



April 25

Your people say, “The way of the Lord is not just,” when it is their own way that is not just. Ezekiel 33:17

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15

When reading the verses for today I was reminded of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt to the promised land of Canaan. Through Moses the Lord told the Israelites exactly what to do and provided for them along the way. Were the Israelites satisfied and thankful? At first, they seemed thankful as they praised God for delivering them from the oppression of the Egyptians. God provided potable water for the Israelites to drink and food for them to eat during the entire forty years of their sojourn. Each time God helped the Israelites they praised and thanked God, but soon they would be complaining and asking for something more.  God helped the Israelites defeat Amalek. God commanded the Israelites to make no other gods while Moses was on Mount Sinai, but did they obey? No, they decided to make their own god, a golden calf, out of the jewelry and metal available to them. Then they worshiped the golden calf. God was angry and wanted to destroy these stiff-necked people. Moses intervened on their behalf, but when he saw what the Israelites were doing, he broke the tablets at the foot of Mount Sinai, burned and ground the calf, spread the ashes on the water, and made the Israelites drink ash-infected water. God forgave his people and continued to show them his way for them to follow.

How many times did God forgive them? How many times must he forgive us when we decide to follow our own way and not listen to what his word teaches us? Every one of us sins and falls short of the glory of God. We do not love him enough to always keep his commandments. Yet he loves us enough to continue to open his arms to welcome us back into the fold. We have just celebrated the resurrection of Jesus who rose from the dead in expiation of our sins. The love God has for us that he would sacrifice his son and continue to save us from our sinful selves is beyond our understanding of how much he loves us. He is just in asking us to keep his commandments.

Dear Lord and Savior,

We love you and your just ways. Sadly, we often choose to go our own ways even when we are wrong. Help us to recognize our waywardness and lead us back to you. Thank you for loving us enough to give your only begotten Son for us. Help us to love ourselves and one another. Amen. 

Florence Smallfield



April 24

My eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord; in you I take refuge – do not give me over to death. Psalm 141:8 (NIV)

He showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. John 20:20

Times of anxiety and worry are in both of our verses for today. David is praying for deliverance from “the wicked and their evil ways” in Psalm 141. Throughout the Psalm He alludes to hands, mouth, lips heart, head, bones and eyes. In John, we read of the disciples after Jesus has died on the cross; they are worried and anxious and hiding in a room with a closed door. They both refer to seeing, to fixing eyes on the Lord, to actually seeing the wounds of Christ.

When we assemble in Christ’s name He is there among us, just like He actually appeared to the disciples in their closed and locked room. But, they weren’t all present in that room. Thomas was missing as were many of the multitudes that had followed Jesus throughout his ministry. They didn’t get to see Jesus on that day of resurrection. Those that were there had a responsibility to speak about what they had heard, to speak about what they had seen.  Well, we weren’t able to be there either, so how is it that we see Jesus?

We just read the portion of John talking about “doubting Thomas” a couple of weeks ago in Sunday school. There were questions for the kids to think about.  Why did Thomas feel he had to actually see and touch Jesus in order to believe in this resurrection? How do we believe without this tactile, sensory experience? Thomas does get to actually see Jesus a week later, he does get to see and touch the wounds left by the crucifixion. Then he goes on to spread this very Good News.  He travels to India, to the area where our Kerala congregation comes from, and establishes Christianity in that region.  He did what all the disciples did and should do: build one another up in faith by repeating what happened to those that were not there, and by relating their experiences of seeing Jesus.

David says in Psalm 141 that his eyes are fixed on the Lord. He has a single focus in his distress at being waylaid, once again, by his enemies. No matter what, he is sure that his help comes from the Lord. His plea is that God not let him die, and of course God doesn’t. David writes many Psalms of joy and praise at this wonderful saving Lord. The disciples too rejoice when they realize that Jesus is the Messiah, that He has arisen just as He said He would. They rejoiced, they told others, they made it possible for others to see and fix their eyes on our Lord and our salvation.

Jesus, we are reminded of your sacrifice as we contemplate your wounded hands and side. May we cast our eyes heavenward and rejoice as those who saw your wounds, yet also saw you rise up to glory. We sing your name in praise and thanks, reaching out to our friends who need to see you and fix their lives on you, the author of eternal life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Chris Gabel