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May 16

The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made. Psalm 145:9 

Creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans 8:21 

Interesting term that Paul uses in Romans – that the creation is in “decay”, he even says that it is “in bondage to decay. “ Is this what we see when we look around at the world we live in? Right now it looks lovely, trees are leafing out, things are turning green and we can go for nice long walks around lakes or in parks. However, it doesn’t take much looking to see that we have polluted this lovely world that God created. We have dumped all kinds of chemicals into water and on land, we’ve had factories spewing pollutants into the sky, we have managed to destroy rain forests, prairie and oceans. 

Having just had Earth Day I looked back at some of the history. It all started in 1970 – that was the year the Environmental Protection Act was signed and we began to clean some things up. In April of that year Sen Gaylord Nelson (from Wisconsin) created first Earth Day; about 20 million American demonstrated in various cities leading Congress to pass the enabling legislation in December 1970. Following that many things were cleaned up – factories had to emit cleaner air, no more dumping of toxic substances onto land, and much more. Currently the emphasis is on eliminating plastic from waste streams that have it ending up in the ocean where it causes harm to many ocean creatures. 

As humans, we manage to lead this creation we were given into decay, and, as humans, we can try to clean it up and renew it. But, this is not something mere humans can accomplish. Paul is speaking of a time of “future glory” when all of creation will be restored. Our natural world is not destined for destruction, but for renewal as a new earth (along with a new heaven) as Rev. 21:1 says. Living things will no longer be caught in a bondage to decay and death. This is something only God can do. The plan He has for our salvation is for all creation and for all people everywhere. As the Psalm says, “the Lord is good to all” not just those we might think should be included. His plan is for the entirety of Creation. 

“But in the end, what matters is that God understands. We are reminded again that humans are not able to fix creation on their own. We can learn, we can create, we can build, all in an effort to fix the problems around us. But only God gives us hope that God alone will liberate the creation from its bondage and bring creation into his freedom and glory.” (from The Groaning Creation by Carl Fictorie, In All Things website) Meanwhile, we have work to do – to continue to do the best we can to clean up the mess made of Creation, and to share the Good News of God’s love and plan of salvation with everyone. 

Lord, your compassion brings us hope. Sometimes we see only decay and destruction but your loving mercy gives us a new vision. We eagerly anticipate a future where all creation is renewed. Give us patience while we wait for the fulfillment of your promise. In the name of Jesus, the redeemer of the world.  Amen.   

Chris Gabel



May 15

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

You were bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:20

Do people know I’m a Christian? When I meet someone new, can they tell I believe in Jesus? Am I a good Christian?  Is my heart clean? Nope…….my heart is not clean. In fact, even though I very much want to do the right thing, when it comes right down to it, I sometimes don’t. I don’t always love my neighbor, and then I want his new car. I cut someone off in traffic,  and then yell at someone who does it to me. I loose my temper quickly while waiting in line at Target, well, you get the picture. And even though I’m not out robbing grandmothers and creating mayhem, I’m not necessarily doing good deeds. 
I can do better. I have to remember that my Christian life is not a momentary collusion with God, but a continuing communion, not a single hit-and-run convertion, but a life long walk with the Lord. Not just “Create in me a clean heart,” but also “renew a right spirit” day by day by day.

Father, inside myself I may know that you are Lord, but can anyone see that faith as I walk through life? When I hear your Word and take and eat your Supper, give me a new heart, pumping your love into my veins so that I can move past my fears and regrets. Help me to glorify your body with mine today. Amen.
 
Susan Hanson


May 14

The earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.  Psalm 33:5

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. Matthew 44-45.

As I was browsing in a home decor shop the other day, I spotted a wooden plaque which had these words printed on it; “While waiting for God to open another door, praise Him in the hallway.” I chuckled, then pondered the words for a time and decided that it was good advice.

Life sometimes can seem mundane, too ordinary, almost boring. Where is the excitement of a new project, a new door opening as the plaque said? Days go by and we forget to notice the beauty around us, the promise of a new day, the moments of grace.  Chances are, we have all experienced a time when our routine seems a bit stale. Life is change and we have ups and downs, highs and lows, peaks and troughs as C.S. Lewis calls them.  As long as we live, there will be times of dryness, dullness, apathy, even doubt in meaning or purpose.

There is one constant in all of our days, and that is the all encompassing love coming from our Lord. If we but lift our heads, there He is, waiting to enfold us and give us what we need, peace in our hearts and spring in our steps. He sees us and knows us and will not leave us forlorn. His wish for us is joy and contentment.  Thanks be to God.

Holy and steadfast God, your love is amazing.  Remind us when we are in the doldrums of life, the hallways, to praise you for all you have done for us. Life is your wonderful gift to us and we don’t want to waste a moment, a day, a lifetime. Thank you.  Amen

Joan Perlich



May 11

We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that your name is near. Psalm 75:1 NKJV

You may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9

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.

Christ be our light 
Shine in our hearts 
Shine through the darkness 
Christ be our light 
Shine in Your church gathered today.*

Have you ever been afraid of the dark? I know that when I was a kid I often fell asleep with a small lamp on next to my bed. It was meant to be used for reading in bed (which I still do), but I have to admit that I was more comfortable falling asleep with a light on, even if it wasn’t a very bright light. The glow from that little lamp was enough to comfort me and make me feel safe as I closed my eyes. As we become adults, the dark is a fear that most of us outgrow, but I don’t think we can ever be completely free of being afraid in the dark.

Out of darkness into his marvelous light is an idea that you can relate to, especially if you have ever sat by the bed of a loved one in the hospital, have endured a night (or nights) of insomnia, or if you have lived with anxiety or depression. That’s something that can feel especially bad at night when you can’t seem to fall asleep and feel completely alone, no matter how many people are in the house with you. You can also be afraid of/in the dark during the day when the world, or our heart or our mind can feel like a very dark place.

As hard as it is to think positively in those moments of despair, this is a good time to try to remember the words we sing in the Holden Evening Prayer by Marty Haugen, Jesus Christ, you are the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome.

This is also our chance to care for and to help others when they are in despair, like being there for others to reach out to during the day or the night. We can hold the light of Christ up for them to illuminate their path and show them that they are not alone.

The verse from 1 Peter reminds us that it is Christ who called us out of darkness by dying to take away the sin of the world. One way we can love and serve him is to lift others up by sharing His light.

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for the ever present light that you hold for us, even when we forget to open our eyes to see it. Fill our hearts with your light and love so that we can not only rejoice in them ourselves but pass them on the people who think they are alone in the dark. Amen.

Lynda Tysdal

 

*Hymn written by Bernadette Farrell



May 9

n repentance and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength, Isaiah 30:15 

Jesus answered Martha, “You are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 NKJV 

This is a familiar story about Martha and Mary. Martha is not really doing anything wrong, after all hospitality is important, and people needed to be fed. Meanwhile she sees Mary as just sitting there doing nothing when there is all this work to be done. Martha is rightly concerned with her hostess duties but perhaps she is focusing solely on them.  “Worldly business is a snare to us, when it hinders us from serving God, and getting good to our souls. What needless time is wasted, and expense often laid out, even in entertaining professors of the gospel! Though Martha was on this occasion faulty, yet she was a true believer, and in her general conduct did not neglect the one thing needful.” (Matthew Henry commentary). The commentary continues about Mary, and those focused on listening: “Sitting at Christ’s feet, signifies readiness to receive his word, and submission to the guidance of it.” 

The people Isaiah is addressing are having a little trouble with this idea of repentance and resting in the Lord; of quietly listening and trusting to get the strength to overcome their fears and their enemies. Chapter 30 has a title over it “Woe to the Obstinate Nation.” Rather than quietly and faithfully putting their trust in the Lord, they are unwilling to listen or even to accept that they could have rest and salvation by just following God’s plan. They have actually rejected the messages they have received from the prophets and are following their own plans. We all know how that works out – not so well. 

Just like them we often are busily worried about our own worldly duties, and fears and anxieties. A recent poll from the APA (American Psychiatric Association) published Tuesday says that anxiety among Americans is very high. The main reasons to be anxious are health, financial and safety concerns. How often do we stop our focus on these concerns, and return our focus to our Lord who told us to ask Him in prayer and it will be given to us. He has a plan for our lives; we don’t need to go inventing our own even though we may have a little trouble following His. Just like Mary, and those Israelites who paid attention, we need to focus on the message and listen to God’s word for our lives. 

O Jesus, you are our rest and salvation. When we are troubled, you are the one we need. Forgive us when we allow the chaos of life to distract us from your plan for our lives.  We venture out each day, worried by the world’s demands. Lead us back to you, O Lord, our shelter and refuge. Grant us wisdom that we may understand that you are the one thing necessary. Then we will have peace, a peace that transcends all understanding. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen 

Chris Gabel



May 8

You should not profane my holy name. Leviticus 22:32

Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel. Philippians 1:27

 If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning. Catherine Aird

 Being a role model is a huge responsibility, easy to mess up. Think about the people you’ve come into contact with this week: how they affected you, how they changed you. Think also about the more generalized role models that influence you; the social stereotypes and cultural icons that shape us simply because we live in this culture. There is no shortage good role models in this society, just an overabundance of bad ones. And so we must be wise. We must understand and own the role-modeling process.  And we must be good players of it.

God is the author of role-modeling. In the first, place, God created each of us with the capacity and desire to learn. While we each have our own unique style and pace of learning, all of us have had plenty of turns as participants in the role modeling process. It’s one of the best ways to learn: keep your eye on someone more experienced than you. Child watches parent; student watches teacher; rookie watches veteran, and so the culture and wisdom of the ages is passed on.

If the greatest goal of our lives is to become like Jesus we must find those who are serving him well and imitate them as they imitate Christ. They are seldom found among the high profile, wealthy, influential individuals often held up as “role models.” True spiritual role models will usually be found among the low profile, humble, selfless servants who go about their business of following Christ whether anyone is watching or not.

When we think of role models, we think of those who we look up to, admire, and respect. We think of those that set an example for us to follow. We think of those that portray values and virtues that should be imitated.

Father, this is easier said than done. The very congregation that unites heroically against outside adversaries then divides bitterly over something like the flowers in the sanctuary. We’re only worthy of your gospel because we need it to live. Help our lives to be consistent with your grace so that we’re a lively part of your blessing to others. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



May 2

Take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work, for I am with you, declares the Lord Almighty. Haggai 2:4 

So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. I Corinthians 3:7 

Ah, it seems like spring has actually arrived this year. After all that snow and sleet we now have “normal” spring temperatures. And, for many of us we are ready to dig in the earth, to plant seeds, to mulch and water them. Then, we hope to sit back and enjoy the harvest, after removing lots of weeds of course.  How is it that we make those seeds grow into large plants? One little tomato seed becomes a big plant giving us lots of tomatoes, not to mention how many zucchini arrive from a few little seeds. Now, we can not do our job well, we might not have prepared the soil or cultivated it properly, we forget to water, we let weeds grow up and choke out our desired plant. Or, we can plant, we can water and fertilize, but we really can’t actually make that seed do what it is supposed to. The seed has within it what it was created to do, germinate and grow into the kind of plant it was meant to be. 

Paul reminds the Corinthians that he had initially planted the seed of the Gospel among them, then another disciple “watered” or helped them grow in their faith. One person was not better than the other, as each person has their role where they use their particular talents to serve God. Above all, it was God who actually was the one who made this faith grow, and spread to many more people. Just as it is our Creator God who made seeds that will grow when we care for them properly. 

Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. (Psalm 127:1, NIV) God is with us in our work. For the people in Haggai’s time, the prospect of rebuilding the temple must have seemed like a huge undertaking. They could look at the ruins of their temple; those older could remember how glorious the temple of Solomon had been. They needed encouragement to get on with the task of rebuilding. This is pretty great encouragement – go ahead and work because the Lord is with you. That is a great assurance to have. But we do not all have the same skills. Some people have a “green thumb”; others might think they do not. Some have lots of monetary resources, or skills in building, preaching, teaching while others do not. Yet we all have something to contribute using the gifts God has given us. From a commentary by Matthew Henry, “Though our gracious God is pleased if we do as well as we can in his service, yet our proud hearts will scarcely let us be pleased, unless we do as well as others, whose abilities are far beyond ours.” 

We all have work to do and it is so great to know that God gives us the assurance that He is right there with us. 

Lord, there is so much to do! We are overwhelmed by the need; at times, we are overwhelmed by the danger. May we be steadfast and faithful in our service, yet always remembering that success does not depend only on us. Remind us to depend on you, dear Lord, and when we seek rest, may we find it in you. Remind us that you alone are the one who gives us growth and life. In Jesus’ name. Amen 

Chris Gabel



May 1

The Lord makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters. Isaiah 43:16

Peter answered him, “Lord if it is you, command me to come to you in the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. Matthew 14:28-29

Water is sacred, water nourishes all living things. It is primitive, original, primal. You can do without sex, books, movies, cell phones, cars, even food for quite a long time. But……go without water for a mere 72 hours, and you are dead. Water is essential to life. It is life. Without a doubt, water is the sacred birthright of every living thing. As water gives life, it also comes with the possibility of death. Yikes. Floods, tsunamis, drownings, and countless other ways humans can die from water. We aren’t fish, after all. We cannot deny the power and fury of water. It changes landscapes, roads and homes can be washed away by overflowing rivers. Shore lines are eroded. You learn to respect it.

For Christians, water is symbolic of our relationship with God, carrying the image of renewal, promise and hope. It is through water we are baptized and welcomed into the Christian community.  Water is essential to all life, connects with the rest of creation, and is a gift from God. As a gift from God, it is meant to be shared.

Isaiah says that when the poor and needy are thirsty and seek water, but have none,  God will not forsake them. God will provide rivers, ponds, springs, pools, fountains. While it may not seem like that today, it is still true. God does provide. There is enough water for all – but only if we use just what we need, and make sure that all have access. And this is where we as Christians come in.

“When I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink.” Jesus describes himself saying in the kingdom of heaven.  “Just as you did to the least of those who are family, you did it to me.”

You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.
Rabindranath Tagore

Father, when my world begins to feel like a stormy sea, you quiet my soul and direct me with your Word. Help me to remember that my neighbor is not just across the street, but across the nation and across the world. Amen.

Peace, 
Susan Hanson



April 30

I held our my hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices. Isaiah 65:2

God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Many years ago we remodeled our kitchen. The task included installing new cupboards and appliances. As the cupboards were being torn out we found a letter behind one of them. It had been written by two girls who were about 10 years old. They had been given the task of watching two little siblings while one of the moms went next door for less than half an hour. Instead of watching the younger ones the sitters went outside to play and left their siblings alone in the house. One of the ten-year-olds lived in what was now our home and, the other lived in the house behind ours. Luckily, the younger children were okay when Mom returned home. The moms talked to the sitters, and, evidentially, punished them appropriately. 

The sitters knew they were wrong and did their best to let their moms know that they were sorry. In the letter the writers confessed their negligence and said how sorry they were. They promised they would never do such a thing again and that they loved their moms and siblings, etc.; you can imagine. It was such fun to share this letter with their moms as the negligent sitters were, by that time, college students. What, at the time could have been serious, turned out well, and the moms loved reading the letter and sharing it with their daughters. All had been forgiven long ago. 

I know this is a simple example of following our own devices instead of what we are supposed to do, but it is also an example of how God works in our lives. He shows us the way and tells us what we need to do. Then, sometimes, we decide to do it our way and not do as God has directed. Somehow, we often realize our self-centered ways and turn back to God. He is there to help us see our wrong, and, no matter what, brings us back into his fold and forgives all. Just as the babysitters were forgiven, we are forgiven our sins over and over and over… How blessed we are that God remains steadfast in his love for each of us. 

Dear Lord and Savior,

Thank you for always loving each one of us no matter what. Your love is beyond what any of us can imagine. You take us back when we turn from our self-centered ways. Help us to help others. Amen. 

Florence Smallfield 



April 27

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits.  Psalm 103:2

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Ephesians 1:3

 

Bless the Lord, O let everything that is in me bless his holy name! (Psalm 103:1)

 

What a wonderful verse to start out the day as you wake up in the morning. There’s no exclamation mark after that verse from Psalms in the Bible, but as I say it to myself, I feel that it really needs one, to shout out my thanks to the Lord for another day, yet another chance to do his will, whether I succeeded in that yesterday or not. After all,

He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:10),

but

As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him. (Psalm 103:13)

Really, I could just write this whole devotion with verses from this particular psalm, but you can do that yourselves. There is just so much for which we should give thanks and praise to God. Everything, in fact.

Even the things that we think we have done for ourselves, the work that we do for a living and the good works that we do in the name of the Lord, things we think have made us successful in life, we owe to God.

When we volunteer at a food shelf or at Feed My Starving Children, it is most likely because another person invited us. Does that make the person who asked us to help more holy in the eyes of God? Even that person did what they were doing because God has planted the seed in their heart and/or their mind to help, giving them and us a holy “nudge” to open our eyes and see the need.

I have received thanks and kind comments for the devotions I have written, which is appreciated and gratifying. I get a lot of pleasure from writing and I like the feeling of knowing that my choice of words have pleased them, but am I taking credit where it isn’t due?  The words come from God, I believe, and to God be the glory. I owe the fact that I write them to the person who invited me, and she owes that to God putting the thought in her head that it might be a way for me to use a gift (writing) that God has given me. 

Does this mean that I don’t want to hear what you think of the devotions I write, or that other people have written?  No! It’s from talking with others that inspiration comes, and something that you say might be the seed that God is planting in me through you for the next one I write. 

The point of what I’m writing (and there is one, I hope) is that God has blessed us with our gifts, and it’s to us to share our gifts to the glory of God.

 

As Fanny Crosby wrote in one of her famous hymns, To God Be the Glory:

To God be the glory, great things He hath done,
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life our redemption to win,
And opened the life-gate that all may go in.
  Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
  Let the earth hear His voice;
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
  Let the people rejoice;
Oh, come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
  And give Him the glory; great things He hath done.

 

Dear Lord and Savior, how wonderful you are, in all that you have made and in all that you have done for us! May our praise for you ring out like loud music to be heard by others that they may come in and be welcomed and find a place in your house.Amen

Lynda Tysdal