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April 26

Joseph remained there in prison.  But the Lord was with him.  Genesis 39:20-21

The light shines in the darkness.  John 1:5

I watched an interesting program last night.  Paul Douglas and others talking about global warming.  Still a controversial topic to some people, but strides have been made in scientific discoveries which document how the earth has warmed.  Scientists have tested the temperatures of thousands of years old ice by drilling down 200 feet to obtain samples.  (This took place at the Arctic Circle) Also, others have obtained shells from the ocean floor for testing.  Both experiments show that temperatures thousands of years ago were lower by a significant number.  Imagine the amazing minds of the men and women who are concerned about the earth’s environment and are developing ways to gain the knowledge that is needed to plan for the future of our survival in a warmer world. 

The Lord God has shined a light on the topic of global warming.  We were in the dark about this phenomenon until some of his people to whom he has given those amazing minds and the will to learn and discover, set out to explore new fields.  Thank you God for scientists.  And for the journalists and television producers which bring us knowledge about our world.

This is but one example of how God is aware of our struggles on this earth and meets our needs.  So much goes on that we don’t know about. We are taken care of by unknown persons to whom God has given his gifts of knowledge and grace.

Dear Lord God,

You have  promised to care for us and this happens in so many ways. Let us always look to you for our sustenance and comfort.  Forgive our wayward ways and continue to light our paths to our eternal home. Amen

Joan Perlich



April 25

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. Job 1:21b 

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 

A Haitian proverb says: “God gives but He doesn’t share.” We heard this quoted at the Bread for the World workshop this past weekend. This sounded like an interesting saying so I had to look it up. This proverb was shared in a book, Mountains Beyond Mountains by Paul Farmer about life in Haiti. From the Global Orphan project website: “Paul Farmer shared this Haitian proverb in the book Mountains Beyond Mountains, a fascinating read on life in Haiti. The point is not to paint God as a miser. God has provided more resources than we need as a human race to live*, but rather to highlight the reality that we do have a role. It is our responsibility to share what He provides. 

Job is a story about a man who has lost almost everything. First, God has given him everything and he is the “greatest man among all the people of the East.” (Job 1:3) Then everything goes wrong – his livestock are killed, or carried off, his servants killed and finally his children too are dead. Job’s response is to bless the name of the Lord. This is not at all what Satan was hoping for, he was trying to show God (can he really do that?) how Job’s faithfulness was only because he had so much material wealth and a big happy family. Take that away and surely Job would curse God. 

But Job is a man of faith; he has a personal relationship with his Lord. He prayed and offered burnt offerings for his children regularly. After these disasters occurred, he reflects that the Lord gives and he blesses the name of the Lord. Verse 22 tells us that Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. The next verse tells us that Job then gets illnesses, a skin disease with painful sores. Now even Job’s wife tells him to curse God and die. What does Job say? He certainly doesn’t curse God but says “shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” (verse2:10). It also says that he did not sin in what he said. 

Paul tells us in Romans that all things do work well for those who love God, who are called by Him, believe and who follow Him. No matter how bad things are, we probably aren’t as bad off as Job, who blessed God and didn’t curse Him. Now we may have some bad times too – and there are certainly those who sustain the loss of everything in floods, fires, and wars. For some it might be the loss of a friend or family member to death, or loss of a job, or our own illness.  We may think that God has totally deserted us, or what is the point in praying and blessing God when things aren’t going well. It might be that things are going well, but we still don’t bless God as we take the things we have for granted without thinking about who is the source of all Creation. No matter what our situation, our faithful and loving God is right there with us in good times and in bad. 

Loving and faithful God, as we walk through life with you at our side, we know these words to be true: “All things work together for good for those who love you.” We trust your hand to lead us into green pastures even when we see only trouble. Accept our grateful hearts and teach us to share the bounty you have provided. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. 

Chris Gabel



April 20

Solomon said, “Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built!” — 1 Kings 8:27

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. 1 John 4:12

When looking for a great prayer in the Bible for inspiration — and there are so many to choose from! — I will have to make a note to remind myself to read this chapter of 1 Kings again.

As a Christian, I believe that God hears all prayers, and answers all prayers — though the answer must sometimes be, too often for our taste, no. But still…though I consider myself a writer, of novels and of these devotions, I am very critical of my own words. Novels and other writings can be edited over and over again until you either feel that they are right, or “good enough, I can’t bear to rewrite it anymore” or until the deadline is reached and the words must be turned in.

My point is that as I pray, I catch myself feeling that my own prayers are not good enough, that they can never be worthy for God to hear. Or that my own words are disorganized or selfish, that I neglect to pray for the important things of the world. Maybe it’s that the prayers in the Bible are so much more in every sense of the word than I can even imagine coming out of my mouth. In this one example, King Solomon’s words in 1 Kings 8 as he dedicates the new temple seem to be a combination of prayer to God, (praising him and asking for forgiveness and protection for himself, his father David, and the people gathered there), and sermon or education of the people. It is, like just about anything written in the Bible, beautiful and moving and… worthy. Solomon is praying and teaching and worshiping God all at the same time.

There are the Psalms, David’s songs and prayers to the Lord, of course there’s the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13 where Jesus teaches us all how to pray, and even Romans 8:26 where we are told what happens when we can’t manage to find the words to pray for ourselves: In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

I love to listen to the prayers at Christ the King, whether they’re said by our current pastors, Rory and Maria, or any of our previous pastors, lay leaders, and especially prayers that have been shared with me by Stephens Ministers over the years. Of course, many, if not all, of those people who lead prayers have studied prayer, studied theology, studied their Bible. How can my own flimsy little words ever be enough? How dare I bother God with my silly little thoughts?

And that is when I remember most  of all that I need to pray. Not because God needs to hear from me, but because God wants so much to hear from me, so that he can make me feel all over again the joy of knowing deep in my heart and soul and mind how much he cares about me and loves me, even when I am feeling like my words are meaningless or wrong.

Lord, teach me each day how to pray, and teach me how to pray every day. I want to tell you everything I feel and think, all that I am happy about and everything that I worry about and fear, at the same time that I want to try to hide my sins from you. I know that you know already what is in my heart and what is going on in my life, thank you for that! In fact, thank you for everything! Amen
 
Lynda Tysdal


April 19

Joseph remained there in prison. But the Lord was with him. Genesis 39:20.21

The light shines in the darkness. John 1:5

Each day we are reminded of how precious we are to our Lord and Savior. Even on cloudy stormy days the sun shines above the clouds and gives us daylight. Just knowing that we are made to take the next breath lets us know that we are in God’s hands. 

That doesn’t mean that we escape the worries and turmoils of life. Our souls can feel the darkness of the deepest night; yet we know that Jesus will bring us peace, because he is the Light of the World.

Joseph was imprisoned wrongfully, but God was with him. How often have we felt that we couldn’t bear what was happening to us? Each one of us has had losses that at the time left us inconsolable. When one’s heart is broken somehow someone will touch us with a thought, word, or action that gives a glimpse of all that God wishes us to be and to have. When that happens the person can begin the road, which may be long, back to peace and light.

It’s been a long winter, but we know that spring is coming soon. It gives us hope and a sense of wonderment each time we see the signs of spring and new life. Just as when we face most difficult trials in our own lives we know that God’s peace and light are ours to have. God has granted them to us, and nothing can take God’s presence from us.

Dear Lord and Savior,

Thank you for your presence in our lives. Help us to return to your light, comfort, and joy when darkness enters our minds and hearts. you reached out out claim us. Help us to always feel your presence. We are blessed indeed. Amen.

Florence Smallfield   



April 18

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord. Psalm 127:3 

Then little children were being brought to Jesus in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Matthew 19:13 

In the verse from Matthew we read about children begin brought, presumably by their parents, to see Jesus. These were “little children,” perhaps too young to walk to Jesus on their own, maybe they were carried, or came hand in hand with a parent. They wanted Him to touch their children and to pray for them. I can see this scene where Jesus has been teaching the disciples and crowds gathered near to hear. Then these parents show up with some noisy, restless, or perhaps peacefully sleeping kids. The disciples rebuke them; they didn’t think it was appropriate to bother Jesus with some children.  After all it must be more important to be teaching the adults that were there, continue to answer the Pharisees questions, than to take time for some insignificant children. 

We don’t know exactly what was in these parents’ minds when they brought their children. Was it that their children had some illness and they were looking for a cure? They probably had heard of the many cures that Jesus had effected, as it says in verse 19:2 that Jesus had healed the large crowds that followed Him. Childhood illnesses and death were not uncommon, so they may have wanted Jesus to keep their children safe from future illness. Or, they just wanted to have a blessing and prayers for their children from someone they regarded as a true Holy Man.  It was a custom to take infants to have them be blessed by rabbis in the synagogues. The laying on of hands was symbolic of having a blessing. We continue this tradition on many occasions the Christian church today. 

From many verses in the Psalms we can read that having children is a blessing. Just as at any time parents worried about the health of their children; it was also important to have children to work around whatever trade the family had, to be there to care for parents as they aged. Having children was seen as a blessing; those without children were sometimes considered cursed. Jesus obviously welcomed children. He said that the kingdom of heaven belonged to “such as these.” He tells His disciples to become as little children (Matt 18:3) in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. 

So, what does this all say to us in this busy age? Parents still bring their children to church, they are baptized and at that time parents and sponsors and the congregation promise to teach the children. To bring them to services and into an encounter with God’s word. Parents and guardians have their job, and the rest of us have ours, to provide for this education, to encourage kids, to be a welcoming place for kids of all ages. 

We praise you, Lord, for considering all children as your beloved. Loving Savior, we are grateful for the honesty and innocence of children. We look to you as our example for welcoming and loving them. Remind us that as you enfold them into your loving care, so you welcome us. Give us the enthusiasm to witness to and pray for the children in our lives. Amen 

Chris Gabel 



April 17

I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord forever; with my mouth I will proclaim you faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 89:1

He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.   Mark 7:37

We are a singing people. We have been created to sing (especially Lutherans)! And maybe  there is a reason for this. The reality of God and Christ and creation and salvation and heaven and hell are simply too great for mere speaking; they must also be sung. Nations have national anthems; armed forces march to martial music, colleges have alma-maters. Almost every organization you can think about has a theme song. Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts,…we sing in the shower, we whistle while we work, at times we even find ourselves pausing along the way to hear a bird chirping in the trees. We, by our nature, love to sing, even when we sound terrible.

When we come to the Bible we find that the God of Creation and Redemption IS the God of Song. When the universe was brought into existence, Job 38 says……The morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy. When God brought the Children of Israel out of bondage to Egypt, the Israelites sang the song of Moses. Ex 15………One day when this world is over and God’s plan of redemption has reached its consummation and we’re all gathered before Him, we’re all going to sing the song of the Lamb. See, singing is evidence of our life.

Martin Luther, wrote: “Next to theology I give to music the highest place and honor. Music is the art of the prophets, the only art that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.” In the history of all the world’s religions, only two have developed the art of music to any degree of proficiency. Those two world faiths are Judaism and Christianity. Only these two have developed music as an integral part of their worship. In other religions you’ll find the dirge and the chant, but little — if any — of the height of sound you will find among those of us who worship Jehovah. The nations which have given the world its greatest sacred music are those which have embraced the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Whether it’s a praise chorus or cantata; a hymn, an anthem or a doxology, whenever Christians gather together to worship God, you’ll find them singing. We know that singing must matter to God, because He talks so much about it. The Bible contains more than 500 references to singing, including 50 direct commands to sing to God. So we sing, we sing for the Glory of God. We sing to Praise Him. We sing to spread the Good News.

Thank you for the melodies of praise that you Lord, bring to my lips and ears. May your steadfast love and faithfulness fill my whole being and flow out to others so that they will hear of your love for them. Amen.

Peace,                                                                                                                                                                      

Susan Hanson



April 13

Behold, here I am, let the Lord do to me as seems good to Him. 2 Samuel 15:26

Simon Peter said to Jesus, “Yes Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said him, “Feed my lambs.” John 21:15

Feeding or eating is mentioned so many times in the Bible. There are shepherds feeding their flocks, or watching over them as they feed, references to people eating together, especially the Last Supper, all four gospels have the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand, and there are so many verses that mention hungering or thirsting, whether it’s spiritual hunger for righteousness or human/mortal hunger for sustenance.

That’s what I was thinking about when I first read these verses.

Then I decided, on further reflection, that that’s not what this devotion is meant to be about. Somehow this verse from John feels different.

It’s not that Jesus is repeating the message to Peter, that’s nothing new. We know from Bible readings that Jesus often repeated things to his disciples, whether it was to emphasize the message, or more often, to clarify something that they didn’t understand the first time. I understand that frustration that they must have felt, wanting so much to understand what their teacher is telling them and not getting it. I’ve had that experience plenty of times at work, having a trainer explain what they need me to do, and just not getting it, whether it’s my lack of understanding or the way the trainer is explaining it.

I wonder if the disciples talked among themselves of the frustration they felt when they didn’t understand something that Jesus was trying so hard to teach them. When I have to ask for help with a question at work, or clarification, while doing a job that I’ve done for more than twenty-five years, I feel embarrassed for not understanding what a boss tells me the first time, or that I need help at all… “shouldn’t I know this already?” I think.

Maybe it’s that in the verses that follow this one, Jesus asks him two more times if Peter loves him, and the verse specifies that Peter felt hurt. I wonder if he thought to himself, Jesus, I have been following you all these years, I have done what you and God have asked of me, why are you asking me this now? Is it because I denied you three times? You told me I would, and I promised that I could never do something like that. 

We do let Jesus down in our sinful ways, no matter how many times we tell ourselves (and God) that we’ll do better this time. And yet God continually forgives us. Even as he rebukes a disciple or speaks to one of his followers, and here as Peter feels hurt by Jesus questioning his love, I see in my heart that Jesus is asking it with a look of compassion and love in his eyes, not only for Peter, but for all of us — feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep. 

Jesus loves Peter so much, he is asking him to look after his followers, to be responsible for the word of God to be spread through the world.

Lord Jesus, we see how much you love us in so many ways, most of all in that you became truly human and died for our sake. One of the ways I see that you love us is your expression as I imagine it from reading your loving words in the holy Bible. Your love for us is already in our own hearts if we will only let it come forward in our actions to share your love with others around the world.  Amen

Lynda Tysdal



April 12

Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  Isaiah 43: 18-19 

The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree.  Luke 13:19

Do you ever feel really set in your ways?  Or perhaps have it pointed out to you by a well meaning friend?   I think you know the feeling.    Most of us love our routines!

The thing about routine, while comforting, is that we often end up using it as an excuse to not think or feel differently.   Sometimes that comfort keeps us in a difficult situation instead of taking a risk.   It is the having what we know versus the fear of thinking or acting differently which can be more frightening than making a change.  We get too confident with expressions like “nothing will change” and “I know what is going to happen.”  Because of that I think for many of us we end up missing out on opportunities because of that fear and that comfort.

In my own life, I am faced with some difficulties as my parents age.  There are things that need to be done.  However, the hope that things will work out without a change is always there.  As is the idea that just maybe this is as good as it gets.  But when I really take a hard look, I know better.  Doing nothing is not helpful.  Things need to change and why can’t it be for the better?   

I think God wants us to be more confident taking risks sometimes. The challenge we have is to trust in God while knowing there is a very real consequences of taking a risk.

But that is where our Faith comes in.  We know God is always on our side, and he is the ultimate giver of hope.  With each sunrise we are given countless opportunities, and to some extent it doesn’t really matter what happened yesterday.   The reality is, the future has not happened to us yet.  It may be pre-ordained by God, but we don’t know what is going to happen. Perhaps more things are possible than we realize.

Perhaps something is weighing you down today or you in that awkward spot between the comfort of routine and taking a needed risk.   Whatever you do, know that God is with you always.

Out of little comes much O Lord.  Thank you for the gift of your abundant love and grace.   Lord plant in hearts today the seeds of your love that will grow to bear everlasting fruit.
 
Al Rivers


April 10

I will heal their disloyalty; I will love them freely. Hosea 14:4

And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples-for there were many who followed him. Mark 2:15

“Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian, that’s a tough call. That’s rebellion.” Alice Cooper

It’s hard to express some things in words. Whether we’re trying to describe a stunning sunset, or a profound feeling of gratitude, or a gut-wrenching emotion, words often seem to fail us. That’s why we often resort to exaggerating. “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse,” we say, without really thinking we could consu me a thousand pounds of food, or without any desire to hurt some poor animal, or without any particular love of horsemeat.

Speaking of love, our words quickly run out of gas. Sometimes when we’re filled with adoration for someone we say we say, “I just love you to death.” Exactly what do we mean? Are we back in the “eating-up” mode? I love you so much I could kill you? I doubt it. Don’t we really mean something like, “I’ll always love you, until the day I die” or perhaps “I love you so much I’d give my life for you” or maybe even “Death itself can’t make me stop loving you”?

Well, God loves you to death. That’s it. God loves you to death. And how can you know this to be true? We know, because Christ died on the cross for all of us.        

Because God loves us, God doesn’t easily let go. He wants us all. That’s why God sent his Son, and that’s why God follows us through our unfaithfulness, our sometimes mean attitude to one another, our self-centeredness, and even our unholy messes. 

Healing, loving and loyal Lord! Thank you for inviting me to come back to you. You know all about me and still love me beyond all I desire or imagine. Let me never hide my naked need from you, but return to you again. Heal me and form me into a witness to your forgiving, welcoming love. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



April 11

Who is as mighty as you, O Lord? Your faithfulness surrounds you. Psalm 89:8 

Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. Revelation 1:5 

Faithfulness is defined at dictionary.com with several entries including: strict or thorough in the performance of duty; true to one’s word, promises, vows, etc.; steady in allegiance or affection,  loyal; constant, reliable, trusted, or believed. The writer of the 89th Psalm is reflecting on and mourning the downfall of David’s dynasty and starts out with “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever.” How can he say this when he is sad? The Psalm uses the word and comments on the faithfulness of God several times. In verse 5 the heavens praise the faithfulness of God, verse 11 says God’s faithfulness goes before Him, and relates God’s promise “nor will I ever betray my faithfulness.” (Verse 33) 

This Psalm goes on for 51 verses in which the Psalmist implores the Lord for help, after reciting why he knows that this help is coming. God is faithful – simple sentence, should be simple for us to remember and trust in. To use some of the dictionary terms, God has promised us salvation and kept that promise in sending his son Jesus Christ as our savior; He can be trusted and believed. Constant? We have a God who is always there, always ready to hear from us and answer prayers. 

Then we go to the last book of the Bible, Revelation, not a book that is as understandable. There we read that Jesus Christ is also faithful along with some other titles. This is at the beginning of Revelation when John is greeting the seven churches to whom the book is addressed. Now, Revelation can be a bit hard to figure out.  Luckily there are commentaries for help.  Regarding this verse, from Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:

The triple title applied to Christ corresponds to the three ideas of this book. These are Christ the Revealing Prophet, the Life-giving High Priest, and the real Ruler of mankind. God’s faithfulness to us His people goes all the way from creation from the time everything was created and termed “good,” to the end when Jesus really is the ruler of all. With a faithful, promise keeping God, sending a savior, sending a Holy Spirit that is always with us, we with the Psalmist can sing about God’s great love forever. 

Thomas Chisholm wrote “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” as a testament to God’s faithfulness through his very ordinary life.  Born in a log cabin in Franklin, Kentucky, Chisholm became a Christian when he was twenty-seven and entered the ministry when he was thirty-six, though poor health forced him to retire after just one year. During the rest of his life, Chisholm spent many years living in New Jersey and working as a life insurance agent.  Chisholm explained toward the end of his life, “My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now.  Although I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness.” 

 

Great is Thy Faithfulness 

Great Is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father!
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Great Is Thy faithfulness,
Great Is Thy faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto me! 

Holy God, your ways are beyond comprehension. As we walk with you in trust, faithful God, show us plainly how your divine might is not of this world, but is made known in Christ Jesus, our Lord. We trust through your Son and word that all things are in your hands. Thank you for your eternal faithfulness. May we be a bold witness to your amazing deeds. Amen 

Chris Gabel