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November 20

“You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God.”  Deuteronomy 4:2

“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”  Luke 8:21

An old W. C. Fields story:  A friend noticed Fields thumbing through the Bible.  Surprised, the friend asked, “What are you doing?”  Fields replied, “Looking for loopholes.”  The above verses would not have soothed Fields’ soul.

A command imparts responsibility and expectations.  It is our Christian duty to love God with all our being, and our neighbor as we would be loved.  But we are easily distracted away from God, and some people are hard to love.  We might control outrageous sins such as murder and stealing.  But Martin Luther said murder includes hating, and stealing includes wanting what belongs to someone else.  And then there are sassing our parents and gossip.  We all need “loopholes”, some way to work around our bad behavior and clear our conscience. 

If not per se, Luther was looking for a “loophole” as he searched Scripture.  He could not accept that hopelessly sinful human beings could achieve peace with God on their own.  He found it when he “discovered” grace in God’s Word.  Our “loophole” is not our own excuses but God who is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love”, a Savior who took our blame upon himself.  It’s not unlike, though much bigger than, the unconditional love shown by my parents as I crept in late and made excuses – more than once.

And so Luther wrote the words people like to quote:  “Be a sinner and let your sins be strong (sin boldly).”  But Luther went on “… but let your trust in Christ be stronger …”  Luther was not advocating  unconscionable bad behavior, but acknowledging the weak resistance of human nature and the reassurance of God’s vast mercy and forgiveness.

Prayer:

“There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea.
There’s a kindness in God’s justice which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth’s sorrows are more felt than up in heaven.

There is no place where earth’s failings have such kindly judgment given.

“For the love of God is broader than the measures of the mind.
And the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more faithful we would gladly trust God’s Word,

and our lives reflect thanksgiving for the goodness of our Lord.”  Amen

(Prayer text:  Frederick William Faber)

Verla Olson



November 17

Your dead shall live. Isaiah 26:19
 
Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord. “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labors.” Revelation 
14:13
 
Facing death is never easy. If one dies suddenly, the individual’s suffering may have been less, but the shocked mourners are left reeling. When families watch a loved one linger long with little future of anything but suffering, it means a time of struggle for all involved. Hope grounded in faith makes all such times more bearable. We know that there is a positive future ahead for us to be united with our loved ones, because we know the assurance of salvation through the promise of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
 
I once heard pastor say that our time on earth is just a blip in the plan that God’s promise of eternal life grants to each of us who believe. As we think of those about whom we care and who have gone before, it is comforting indeed to know that they are no longer suffering the negatives of earthly life–no more sickness, worry, frustration, war, hunger, death, pride jealousy, etc. Also, all others in Heaven will not have to endure the maladies of life on earth either.
 
I am reminded of the first verse of Frances J. Crosby’s beautiful hymn, “Blessed Assurance.”
 
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. …
 
Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
We all grieve family and friends who have gone before. They live in our hearts and minds, but we miss their touch, embrace, voices, etc.  Thank you for the greatest gift of all–Resurrection. When we feel overcome with grief, you raise us up with your promise of glory divine. We are blessed to walk in your ways and with your promise in our hearts. Amen.
Florence Smallfield


November 15

Devote yourselves completely to the Lord our God. I Kings 8:61 

Paul wrote: Who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 1 Corinthians 6:17 

In the book of  I Kings, chapter 61 begins just after the Temple is built. The first part tells of the Ark being brought into the temple, then Solomon stands before the altar and prays a long prayer acknowledging God’s power and praising Him. He has recounted many of the things that have happened among the people, and now thanks God for giving fulfilling His promises and bringing rest to Israel. Then, he speaks to the assembled people telling them  that since everyone in the world can see this spectacular temple, “all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there I no other.”  (8:60) He ends by telling his listeners that they need to remain devoted to God, completely devoted for this to happen. 

How else can people know about God and Jesus unless they see believers acting out their faith? An accusation often leveled against Christians is to point out the hypocrisy of many. Where Jesus taught love, and peace and acceptance, that is often not what people see Christians doing. So, we too are to devote ourselves to the Lord. Some do this more obviously. There are orders of nuns and monks that spend their entire life devoted to prayer and working in the church. The rest of us do have lives to live and incomes to earn. However, we can devote ourselves to our Lord. 

This can include taking time to read the Bible, to think and meditate and what if means for us, and to pray regularly thanking God for all He has done and asking help to live our lives. We pray for assistance to serve God through Jesus Christ. We have assurance that we too have the same helpful and loving God that Solomon is thanking through his dedicatory prayer.. God made the first moves, made promises that were all kept, and wants us to be devoted to Him. How can we do otherwise?

 From the song “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord”:

Lyrics by Peter Scholte,

 written when he couldn’t find a song for a series of ecumenical interracial events: 

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that our unity will one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah they’ll know we are Christians by our love 

Love is patient, love is kind
Never boasts, not full of pride
Always hopes, always trusts
The evidence of Christ in us 

We praise you God for the lives that we have in you. Thank you for making us one in spirit with you. We regret those times when we forget this closeness and we move away from you. Thank you for patiently waiting and calling us back to you. God of all things, every aspect of our lives can be an act of worship. Remind us to work, play, and serve in the joy of salvation

Your unconditional love for me is the shelter and strength that I need. Amen 

Chris Gabel



November 14

They sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” Ezra 3:11

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

It’s hard, sometimes, to count our blessings. There is an enormous amount of tragedy in this world right now. But I think that is when we should sit down and count our blessings, the good things in our lives. We all have problems and they tend to overwhelm us. It is just in this kind of situation that we need to pause and remember our blessings in order to see our problems in proper perspective.

We could make a list………….life, food, shelter, clothing, family, friends, the beauty of nature, living in a land of freedom and opportunity…….children of God.

My list also included the fact that we have the capacity to think, the capacity to make choices and the ability to love. God has made us in his own image, and all of these factors play a part in our realization that we are living souls, and that we will live on eternally. If we would be happy, and if we would be pleasing to God, we must count our many blessings. We must learn to count our blessings and not our troubles. The great spiritual blessings which God gives are to be found only with Him. The natural physical blessings are for everyone, but the spiritual blessings are for those who are willing to follow the Lord and thereby show gratitude to God, the giver of all good gifts, for the many blessings that have enriched and blessed our lives.

You have blessed us, Lord, and we cannot stop praising you for all you have done. Thank you for making us a new and different people by your death and resurrection. May we all gather in your choir of praise as we carry the good news of your risen life into the entire world. Amen.

Susan Hanson



November 13

Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress.  Psalm 25:17

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.    

Philippians 4:7

The above verses are comforting and welcome when we are troubled in our hearts and minds.  God is speaking to us through these verses.  One morning as I was preparing to write this devotional, I first spoke to God  about some problems which were causing me unease.  I then opened my bible and read the scriptures for today.  Surprise and delight.  I felt that He was answering my prayer right then and  I felt better.  So often it seems that our distress occurs because we are so focused on our selves rather than what God offers.

I recently heard the term “brain chatter”.  Brain chatter refers to the conversation with ourselves going on in our heads.  Usually, there is a lot of this chatter going on. It can be quite distracting especially when we are praying and trying to listen to our Lord.  But it is imperative that we turn off the chatter and make our minds quiet so that we can receive not only answers but also the peace that surpasses all understanding.

There are many ways that God speaks to us.  When we hear the words “I love you”  spoken directly to us, it is God speaking  through our loved ones, for God, who is love, is the source of that love. Or perhaps we receive a negative message, one designed to reveal a part of ourselves which is not so nice. We do well to ponder those words, maybe we need to change.

God speaks to us through nature,  A beautiful sunset, a sparkling lake, the green of the trees in springtime are sights which inspire me to thank and praise Him for his creation which speaks to us of his glory and might.

Have you ever listened to a sermon and felt God speaking to you thru the pastors words?  Just another way that God communicates with us. Communication, so important in all our relationships . The ability to say what we want and mean and the opportunity to listen and understand.  Thanks be to God for this gift and for listening to us and speaking to us in many different ways.

Holy God, help us to be aware of your presence for you are always with us. May we be alert to the ways that you communicate with us. May we listen with minds and hearts always ready to hear your words.  Amen.
 
Joan Perlich


November 10

“You are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Nehemiah 9:17

“Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:13

An old story: Someone was being tailgated by a stressed out person on a busy street. Stopping at a crosswalk, the person hit the horn, screaming in frustration. Still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a police officer. After license verification and questioning the policeman apologized. He said, “I’m very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you, and cussing a blue streak. I noticed the ‘Choose Life’ license plate holder, the ‘What Would Jesus Do’ bumper sticker, the ‘Follow Me to Sunday-School’ bumper sticker, and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk. I assumed you had stolen the car.”

Last Sunday Jesus’ Beatitudes were the Gospel reading. “… Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy … “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” The children’s sermon reminded us to ask ourselves who has been a blessing to each of us, and that we are to be a blessing to others. We were also reminded to “Let your light shine … so that others may see and glorify God.” Have you “worn your Sunday clothes” all week, or did you “change” when you got home? Might someone think my “car is stolen”? We are not a blessing when we snap and treat people unkindly. Not just “What would Jesus do?”, but what would he see and hear? Are we Christian only in name, or are we Christ-like in our actions and words? Is mercy a word of forgiveness on Sunday mornings, or is mercy our way of life?

“’Forgive our sins as we forgive,’ you taught us, Lord, to pray,  but you alone can grant us grace to live the words we say.” Amen

(Prayer text: Rosamond Herklots)

Verla Olson



November 9

The Lord has sent me to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God.  Isaiah 61:1,2

The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.  Mark 1:15

When I first read these verses I shook my head thinking – what am I going to say about these?    The first verses with “…the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God” followed by the second “…the kingdom of God is near.”   Kind of out of my wheel house.

My mind went to the recent events of last Sunday.   Another mass shooting. In a Church no less!  People and politicians are running out of patience.  Yet as a country we seem paralyzed to truly respond with action. 

It seems real life is pretty far away from these verses.  Or perhaps it is the other way around.  But regardless, it certainly feels like something is out of sync.

Or is it?

Forgetting about the rest of the world for a minute, think about us as individuals.   How do these verses apply to me and you?   

Proclaim the year of the Lord for example.  Isn’t God’s work within me – and my desire to have a relationship with God – reflected on how I act?  Don’t my every day actions and values demonstrate my belief.  Living my Christian values.    Isn’t that proclaiming and doing?

From the other verse.  The kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.   Could it be that the kingdom of God is not just near, but on some level it is here?  Here with us every day?  Having faith in God and the confidence that he is taking care of me (us).   That our hearts and minds are open and wanting God in our lives, isn’t that part of all this?   And doesn’t that show up too in who I am and how I live my life?

As for the vengeance part of the first verse. I’ll be honest. Not entirely sure what to say.  Vengeance and God would seem to be about some pretty serious big actions well beyond me.  But I wonder if the context here, today, is more about emotion rather than action.    Is this maybe that those who don’t have a relationship with God sort of have a “Kid looking in the candy store” type of situation?   The irony being that unlike a real candy story, they can walk in and have some candy, they just need to do it.   The vengeance being that while we have confidence that God has us, they don’t have that and they don’t know what their missing out on. 

Boy this is some heavy stuff.   So what does it all boil down too? 

I’m not sure.  But what I do know is that it is easy to lose faith.  It is easy to throw up your hands in the face of the chaos and unrest of society and say “God, where are you?” and give up.  If you are reading this, you haven’t given up.  I think we need to look in the mirror and stand tall confident in our relationship with God.   So go out there today with your faith on your sleeve in how you act and how you respond to the world around you.    You can’t control how the rest of the world acts, but you can control how you act and respond.

I thank you God for bringing your Kingdom to me.  Thank you for calling me to proclaim its coming in how I act and live in your love.

Al Rivers



November 8

Lord, remember and do not break your covenant with us. Jeremiah 14:21 

God has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David. Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant. Luke 1:69, 72

God keeps His promises. Have you ever promised to do something and then completely forgotten to do it? Or really wished you hadn’t made that promise? We might wonder if God ever wishes He hadn’t made some to the promises we read in the Bible. After all the things He did for the Israelites, and the wonderful covenant, they kept right on doing their own thing instead of God’s.

Then we read Jeremiah, praying to the Lord to remember the people and not break the covenant.  That seems a little strange, after all the people have managed to break the covenant themselves by worshipping idols, and ignoring many of the things God wanted them to do. The covenant referred to here is, according to the NIV study notes, found in Leviticus 26:44-45: “ Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them. I am the Lord their God. But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God. I am the “Lord.”

God has made promises from the beginning of creation, and has had a plan for our salvation from the beginning. In Luke we read what from the song of Zechariah, after his son is born and his sight restored. He praises God and saying that He has raised up a Savior, a mighty Savior, Jesus the Messiah from the house of David. This Son of God has the power to save. Zechariah  realizes that this is in fulfillment of the covenant that was there from his ancestors, continued to that time and right into our present time. We too are redeemed as God truly remembers His promises.

Praise to you, Lord, for your covenant with us. You have freed us from ourselves. You take away our sin and replace it with your glory. We thank and praise you, God! Merciful God, we give thanks for the new covenant you made with us through Christ Jesus. As we are all called to be God’s servant people, let us show the world we are Christians by our words, and actions and love. Amen. 

Chris Gabel



November 7

I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord, the praiseworthy acts of the Lord, because of all that the Lord has done for us. Isaiah 63:7

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 1 Peter 1:3

According to scholars, Peter started to write about 30 years after the resurrection of Jesus. He was writing to a society in trouble, they were persecuted by the authorities, they were threatened by their neighbors, and the threat of violence was very real. Where was their hope?

I can ask myself that same question today. How, when my life is in jeopardy, or my job, or my marriage, or my health, or my respect in the communities—how can I rise up with joy and bless those who abuse me and devote myself to labors of love? To busy myself for love’s sake takes power in the very best of circumstances. But to spend myself in love to others when my own life is falling apart, that takes a power of soul which is beyond me. If that is what I am called to do, then that power has to come from some source greater than my human soul. And……….Peter tells me that the tougher the times are the greater the need to live life of love for others. Wait…….what? There is no slackening in the call to live like Jesus, even when life is really tough. Peter doesn’t lighten my load by saying I don’t have to live like Jesus in hard times. Instead he writes to help give me the power to love, the power to hope. Peter tried to equip those beleaguered saints in the power of hope. If they/me, are going to love like Jesus loved, even in times of great stress and worry, then they/me must be filled with hope. And the word of God is that hope, it is living and effective. It is a strong confidence in God, which then, has the power to produce changes in how I live.

God, from every quarter comes a continuous flood of news about human triumphs or disasters. But you call your people to bear witness to your resurrection that creates life eternally through the living Jesus Christ. Keep your Church steadfast in the proclamation of this Good News, for the sake of the life of the whole world. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



November 1

Can you deceive God, as one person deceives another? Job 13:9 

The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

The book of Job – the conversation among Job and his three “friends” – our verse from today is spoken by Job after the first round of advice he receives. At this point he feels they are no longer trustworthy, and (according to a study Bible note) accuses them of showing lying to God about Job. How silly this would seem to be. How can anyone lie to God about another person?

His point seems to be that among humans we can lie and deceive in an attempt to win a decision from another person, but this will not work with an all-knowing God. Earlier in chapter 9 Job extols the power of God – he can move mountains, he shakes the earth, He could make the sun not shine and much more. Job feels that he cannot possibly listen to him, but at least He would know the truth and see through the lies.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that God’s word is active among us. Not just some words written down long ago that are nice to read, but something that lives among those who read and act on it. “Sharper than a two-edged sword” sounds dramatic, but emphasizes the power of God and His knowledge of us. He can judge our thoughts and our actions, and the intentions we have before we do something. Yet, this is not something to fear. As Job finally realizes at the end, God does listen and give us a hearing. He says, “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand on the earth” Job 19:25. 
Watchword Verse for All Saints day: Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb! Revelation 7:10

Almighty God, we cannot hide from you the true nature of our own hearts. We thank you for your living word that works in us to remove the things that separate us from you. Help us be open to your word and it grows and stretches us spiritually. We ask for your grace to give us courage to walk in your way. Amen. 

Chris Gabel