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September 20

And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. You sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Joel 2:28(NIV) 

Peter said, “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear.“ Acts 2:33

We have a generous God. He doesn’t give out little bits of help, or tiny pieces of His spirit to different people at different times. No, the Bible says He pours out His spirit. The next verse from Joel: “Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my spirit in those days.” Everyone gets a portion of the Holy Spirit.

In Acts, Peter quotes this verse and extends the promise to the whole world. Not just the chosen people of Israel, but to everyone; none are to be excluded. The foot note in my NIV Bible mentioned that this fulfilled Moses’ wish. In Numbers 11:29
, at a time when Joshua is protesting that there were others prophesying and this couldn’t’ be right. Surely only the 70 elders were to be the prophets. “But Moses replied, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would his Spirit on them!’”
 
In the video shown this past Sunday morning in the Open Forum after church we heard about disciples and Jesus’ choice of who were to be His disciples. Who did Jesus choose? Not the accomplished scholars or experts in the Torah and Talmud, but plain ordinary people. He picked fisherman, tax collectors, average people working at their trade. These were not the special people, akin to the 70 elders in Numbers; they were people just like us! I think there was reference to the “B” team. To be disciples we don’t have to know the entire Bible by heart, but we should read it regularly. We don’t have to be scholars of Lutheran theology, but we can listen and learn about the Reformation on this 500th anniversary. And, we certainly don’t have to behave perfectly. Thank God that through His grace we are forgiven and can be good disciples.

Lord, thank you for the generous pouring out of your Spirit, freely available to all of us. Jesus, be with us when we are afraid, when we are struggling with new situations, when we feel alone and angry. Set our spirits free so that we can live the joy and Spirit filled lives you intended for us. Forgive us for looking and listening for life in other places than the life we have through the Holy Spirit. Amen 

Chris Gabel



September 19

I hereby command you; be strong and courageous. Joshua 1:9

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Matthew 10:28
 
I have a question, why do we go to church? Ok, that’s probably not the best way to start out a devotion but it’s something I think about once in awhile.   What is the purpose of being a part of a congregation? What are we trying to accomplish by gathering together on Sunday morning? How will our lives be any better as a result of singing, taking communion, visiting with our friends, and of course, listening to the sermons?

After all, if there is no point in being there than you really have to wonder why we bother getting up early on a weekend, putting on uncomfortable clothes and spending a couple of hours with people that you might not normally see in a typical week. If our lives are not changed for the better then it’s just a couple of hours that you’ll never get back in your life.

I don’t know about anybody else, but I go to church and participate to recharge. I go to church in order to worship God through song and prayer. I go to church to see my brothers and sisters in Christ, to be a part of their lives, to help one another and to be helped when we are down. I go to church to take communion because I need to be reminded each and every week about the price that Jesus paid to rescue me from my sins. And I come to hear a sermon so that I can grow in the Lord by having the Bible explained to me in such a way that I can app ly the principles of God’s word to my daily life.

In a nutshell, I come to church to find the strength that I need to live as a Christian in a world that is very complicated. And I need that strength.

Lord, with you as captain of my journey, I can walk with confidence in your saving grace. Sometimes my heart sings out, encouraged by the power and strength that you give me. But when my heart fails, Lord, remind me of your presence. For I know if you are with me, there is nothing I need to fear. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



September 15

“Do its cool waters from distant sources ever stop flowing?  Yet my people have forgotten me.”  Jeremiah 18:14-15

“Listen!  I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.”  Revelation 3:20

Our pastor recently told the story of a man stranded on a rooftop, water rising all around.  He prayed to God for help.  Someone offered him a ride but he refused, saying God would help.  A helicopter dropped a lifeline but again the man refused.  He would wait for God to come.   The water engulfed the man.  In heaven, he asked God why God didn’t save him when he prayed.  God answered that he had sent a ride, and also a helicopter.

Truth be told, I do not expect a man with long brown hair, wearing a white robe and sandals to physically appear when I cry out.  I do not look for a flaming chariot to lift me above stormy seas.  Healing and comfort didn’t end with written Holy Scripture.  The waters of justice and compassion, the waters of grace and redemption still flow.  Jesus sent out other human beings, us, to carry on his healing ways to help those who are awash in problems of some kind or other.  Likewise, we need to realize, accept and appreciate the help offered to us by others. 

True story:  I worked with a lady whose husband worked tending bar.  The night before a man had given him a $1,000 tip.  The man had also been in the night before and explained that his plan had been to “down a few” and then go home and take his life.  The compassion of the non-judgmental bartender had lifted the man from despair onto a new course to solve his problems.  I’m not advocating sitting on barstools, but that we recognize our lifelines.  And you and I might be that lifeline for others, the ride to a safe harbor … with God’s guidance and support, the answer to someone’s prayers.

“We are pilgrims on a journey.  We are brothers on the road.

We are here to help each other, walk the mile and bear the load.”

“I will hold the Christ-light for you in the night time of your fear.

I will hold my hand out to you, speak the peace you long to hear…”

“… [I] pray that might have the grace to let you be my servant too.”  Amen

(prayer from “The Servant Song”, Richard Gillard)

Verla Olson



September 14

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance?  You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.  Micah 7:18

God canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross.  Colossians 2:14.

 

Near our condominium, there is a church building with a large banner which reads: ”BE THE CHURCH”. It caught my attention and I have thought about it often.  What does it mean to be the church? 

We often say, “I’m going to church” when we actually mean “I’m going to worship”.  If I am the church, I’m already there.  The building where we worship is only a building, for you and I are the church.

I don’t know why, but as I sat at worship last Sunday morning on the lawn along with so many of you I felt so proud to be a member of CTK. It just felt so good and so right to be praising God together in the open air.  I hoped that neighbors and people in cars driving by could hear us and wish they could be here too.

                                                WE ARE THE CHURCH.

We “be the church” when we gather together to praise the Lord as we did Sunday morning and every Sunday, when we pray for all those who are sick in body, mind or spirit, when we give our money, when we serve free meals to our neighbors, when we give quilts to those in need, when we think and serve globally, when we study and discuss together about the issues in Bloomington, in our state, our country and the whole world.  The list could go on and on. But there is always more to do and God isn’t finished with us yet.  We have more growing to do.

We can accomplish much collectively, but what of our individual churchness?  Do we love our neighbors as ourselves and all that that implies?

We heard loud and clear Sunday morning, “no worries”! Tomorrow will bring its own worries.  Thanks be to God that we can trust in his promises to meet our needs.

Holy God, help us to know what it fully means to be your church.  Help us to be Christ to each other. In Jesus name we pray, Amen

Joan Perlich



September 13

The Lord says: I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go. I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Psalm 32:8 

So He said to the Jews who had believed in Him, if you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. John 8:31-32

In Psalm 32 David talks about the joy of having sins forgiven. He first talks about how awful things were when he did not confess his sins to God. He was crying and felt his strength completely drained. After he confesses to God, he is forgiven and happy. Then our verse, God tells him that there are instructions. God himself will teach us, show us the way to go. We even are promised a counselor who will watch over us. David tells us that those who confess and are forgiven are blessed by God.

First it seems that we need to learn, we need to learn what it is that God has to teach us. Where might we be able to do this? There is the Bible to read, Bible studies to help us understand and apply the words, and sermons from our pastors to explain and again apply the teachings. We could learn the Bible well, be able to quote lots of it, but that is not quite the same as learning. Maybe this is all you need if you are a contestant on Jeopardy for the Bible category, or in a trivia contest, but there is more for us to do to truly learn.

Once we learn, we need to apply these teaching to the world we find ourselves in. Jesus, in our verses from John, is speaking to those Jews who have listened and now believe in Him as their Messiah. A commentary on this verse from Henry’s writings says that Jesus   encouraged them to attend his teaching, rely on his promises, and obey his commands, notwithstanding all temptations to evil. Thus doing, they would be his disciples truly; and by the teaching of his word and Spirit, they would learn where their hope and strength lay.

Jesus says we will then now the truth, the truth that He is the living Son of God sent as our Savior. How do we know this truth? We continue in the Word that we received, that has been taught through the generations; truth that we can believe. Then we are truly free in God’s grace.

God of all truth, we rejoice to sit at your feet and hear your life-giving words. Forgive us for those times when we wander off, confident in our own wisdom. Thank you for your patience, to teach us again and again. Set us free to proclaim the truth: your love in word and deed today. Amen. 

Chris Gabel



September 12

My God sent his angel and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O King. Daniel 6:22

Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. Acts 12:7

We were innocent once…….’til we screwed up and got kicked out of Eden.

Some say America lost its innocence with Kennedy’s assassination or Nixon’s presidency; others count it from the end of our terrible misadventure in Vietnam. Certainly, by 9/11, our innocence was long gone.

So, how should we as individuals respond? The song says “let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” Well, it must begin with me: if I am not at peace with myself I cannot do justice, practice mercy and loving kindness, and walk humbly with my God

The words of Dr. King: “We must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear; only love can do that. Before it is too late, we must narrow the gaping chasm between our proclamations of peace and our lowly deeds which precipitate and perpetuate war. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.”

 God, you are the source of life and peace. Hear our prayer in this time of crisis. Your power changes hearts. Help those who were estranged to join hands in friendship and nations seek the way of peace together. Give to us understanding that puts an end to strife; mercy that quenches hatred, and forgiveness that overcomes vengeance. Empower all people to live in your love. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson  



September 6

We do not present our supplication before you on the grounds of our righteousness, but on the ground of your great mercies. Denial 9:18 

We believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus. Acts 15:11 

Many people are raised with a faith that tells them that the wrath of God is to be feared. If they do not follow all the proper rules, and behave in the proper ways, they will feel the wrath of God. If they want to be saved, there are lots of rules to follow. Daniel acknowledges that the people have not always done what they were supposed to, but could depend on the mercy of God to restore their city and land. 

In the verse today from Acts, Paul is talking with the newly Christian Jews who want the Gentiles to be circumcised and follow all laws of Moses. Paul replies that even the best Jews cannot follow these rules, so why should these new Gentile Christians be given this unachievable burden? Rather, salvation comes from the grace of God; not any act that we mere humans can perform. There is not a magic formula, certain rules we must follow, no sacrifices to make. 

When my father was dying he told me he wanted to see my mother again. He knew she was in heaven but he wasn’t sure he would be going there.  He still carried guilt for things he had done, and I couldn’t think of anything to tell him.  I brought this concern to our pastor, Morrie Wee, who told me not to worry; this was in his job description.  He spent three hours with my Dad the Saturday before he died, and told him: “Fortunately we don’t have to be perfect; God’s grace is enough for us as we believe in our Savior, Jesus Christ.”  Pastor Morrie also was excited to learn that my Dad had bowled a 300 game, perfection, and used that in his sermon at the funeral to remind all of us that we do not have to be perfect to be saved. 

If only everyone knew, how great is the love of God that not only are we saved from His wrath, but He actually sent Jesus, His only son, in our place. He has grace for all and to spare for the entire world. 

Merciful God, we come into your presence today aware that we have not been the people you create d us to be. However, we believe Lord that you have saved us through the cross of Christ and His glorious resurrection. And, we believe that is enough. We offer you our lives, and trust in your mercy to meet our needs. . Be with the sick and dying, be with the lonely, the weak and those who are afraid. Amen. 

Chris Gabel



September 5

Ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16

This I admit to you, that I worship the God of our ancestors, believing everything laid down according to the law or written in the prophets. Acts 24:14

Witness, one human soul, telling the story of that soul and God to other human souls. Witness, as in telling the world what God has done in your life.

If you’re like a lot of folks, words like “witness” and “testify” conjure up images of courtrooms and juries, not church. For some of us, these words remind us of being trapped in uncomfortable conversations with over-zealous coworkers, or of strange, teary people giving witness on televangelists’ TV programs. For others, they may not really mean much at all.

We don’t use those words very often. Why that is, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because we’re worried about offending others or trapping them into sitting through our stories, or because we’re rightly concerned about overstepping our bounds in a religiously pluralistic society. Perhaps it’s because we’re worried, here in our largely rational, scientific, overeducated context, about the reactions we will elicit from our hearers. Perhaps it’s because we just didn’t need to learn to tell our faith stories because everyone we knew was already i n church with us.

I suspect it’s a little of all those things. And yet, witness and testimony are—have always been—deeply important in the Jewish and the Christian and Islam traditions. They are the primary way the story of our God has traveled through the human world and to human hearts.

When Jesus needed the towns and villages to be prepared for his coming, he sent the disciples ahead of him into a dangerous and unstable world. And so the news spread, and grew. And once the people started telling their stories, not even death, not even Jesus’ death, could put a stop to it.

Witnessing is not all that easy. But the world needs our witness and our testimony. There are broken and aching people out there, longing to hear a hopeful and a healing word from someone who knows. And God needs your witness, too. As Jesus sent the disciples out to prepare the people’s hearts for what they would meet and receive in him, God sends us out, too, to make the way ready for God’s own coming into the hearts of those we meet. As surely as we have received and lived the good news in our own lives, we are called to tell the story of that living to those whom we meet. It is not easy, it will not always be well-received, it is embarrassing, it takes practice, but it is our call and our sending. 

God of all, our world is so divided over what to believe. Help us to bear witness fearlessly to what you have shown us in your holy Word. Help us also t o respect those who differ from us, since they, like us, are made in your image. Let us know and love your Truth. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



August 31

“Come; for everything is ready now.”  Luke 14:17

God grows an abundant garden.  God sets a great, big table.  Come. God invites us every day, every moment to feed our spirits, to talk with God, and listen.  It is a massive gathering, opportunities to rub elbows and mingle, to learn, and be fed.  In Jesus’ story some refused this generous, lavish invitation.  They were busy taking care of their places and possessions, a new spouse.  What are my excuses?  They might be the same.  I have to take care of this or that first. 

Come.  Everything is ready.  But not everyone is welcome at the table, some say.  A recent Time magazine featured writings by various authors about hate and its history in America.  Hatred and fear are not history, but sadly current. 

God’s feast is not a lunchroom clique – the “in crowd”.  God is not asking just me, and those “like” me to sit next to him.  The invitation went out to the poor and the crippled, so the house would be full.  We are the body of Christ, God’ ambassadors, here to help with the harvesting, preserving, and sharing of God’s garden.  Whom will we invite?  Or judge as unfit?  Can we include those of different ethnic, race, and socioeconomic traditions and lifestyles – as told and shown through the grace pf Jesus Christ?  Hyatt Moore painted a beautiful interpretation of Jesus’ last supper.   Jesus’ friends/guests do not look the same.  Their shirts, hats, skin are very different from each other.  My Jesus, our Jesus, everyone’s Jesus has invited “… those from every tribe and language and people and nations.”  (Rev 5:9)  Come; for everything is ready now.  Are we?

“Let us build a house where love is found in water, wine and wheat;

a banquet hall on holy ground where peace and justice meet.

Here the love of God, through Jesus, is revealed in time and space.

As we share in Christ the feast that frees us … all are welcome in this place.

“Let us build a house where hands will reach beyond the wood and stone

to heal and strengthen, serve and teach, and live the Word they’ve known.

Here the outcast and the stranger bear the image of God’s face.

Let us bring an end to fear and danger.  All are welcome in this place.”  Amen

(Prayer:  Marty Haugen; Text © 1994 GIA Publications, Inc.)

Verla Olson



August 30

He is the living God, enduring forever. His kingdom shall never be destroyed. Daniel 6:26

Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Luke 11:2

Today we hear more about the devastation of the hurricane in southeast Texas. How hopeless it must feel to look out of what was your neighborhood to see nothing but chaos. This is just one of the many catastrophes occurring though out our world, of course, but it is one fresh on our minds this week.

One of the amazing events that happen after any devastation is the willingness of people and organizations throughout the world to reach out in love and with help. I know that there are still problems, but victims realize the wonder of neighbors from near and far, many of whom they do not know and have never met. Those who have lost all their worldly possessions suddenly find there is an overwhelming amount of recovery to do, but they are not doing it alone. God’s love works through those who come to be of service to those in need. Hurting people of faith realize more poignantly that God endures and cannot be destroyed even in the midst of such loss. He is there always and is all that we really need.

My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less*

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

No merit of my own I claim,

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

Chorus:

On Christ the solid rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils his lovely face,

I rest on his unchanging grace;

In every high and stormy gale

My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, his covenant, his blood

Sustain me in the raging flood;

When all supports are washed away,

He then is all my hope and stay.

When he shall come with trumpet sound,

Oh, may I then ion him be found,

Clothed in his righteousness alone,

Redeemed to stand before the throne!

Dear Lord and Savior,

Thank you for being the hope and salvation for all who believe in your covenant.  Give us the willingness and strength to share your word with those longing for the comfort only belief in you can give. Fill all who suffer with hope and the will to let you be their guide. We feel blessed to know the presence of your power throughout our days. Amen. 

*Text of hymn by Edward Mote from Lutheran Book of Worship

Florence Smallfield