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July 31

I will remove the guilt of this land in a single day.  Zechariah 3:9

Christ himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness.  I Peter 2:24

I googled ” Lutherans and guilt” and came across two quotes from well known people which both expressed what I had been thinking about.  The first was from David Letterman, as we all know, a comedian. He said, “I am just a towering mass of Lutheran Midwestern guilt”.  The next quote was from a man with a very different kind of humor.  Garrison Keillor said in his book, LIFE AMONG the LUTHERANS,  ” Lutherans are a calm stoical, modest people, haunted by guilt – – -“.

These may have been “tongue in cheek” statements from both men, but is there a truthful ring to those words.  And if so, why?  Are Lutherans really full of guilt?

It is a good question to ask ourselves.  We know that Jesus died so that our sins would be forgiven but we still tend to feel guilty.  Jack Zapada, in his article “Living Free of Guilt “says that God’s new covenant with his people is a legal contract. In the Old Testament, people had to atone for their sins but not so with us. We are forgiven free and clear after an honest confession of our sin.

Zapada also says that our human selves think that forgiveness is too good to be true.  After all, don’t we have trouble sometimes forgiving others? And maybe a friend has not forgiven us for something.  However, none of us is God.  We are to take him at his word and to remember that our feelings can fool us. The fact is that just because we still feel guilty doesn’t mean that we are.

The subject of guilt is more complicated than the above words.  I think that as a child the guilt I felt helped to bring me to Christ. It was healthy guilt.  Victor Frankl , a holocaust survivor, said that ” healthy guilt is a gatekeeper and boundary maker.  It helps us to discover where we shouldn’t go in life, what we shouldn’t do. And it helps us make amends when we do cause others pain.  Guilt helps us find our way back toward what’s right – – -“.

 Merciful God,  help us to accept your words fully and completely.  Thank you for loving us.
Thank you for your spirit who helps us with our unbelief. We pray in the name of our Savior Jesus.  Amen.

Joan Perlich


July 28

Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God, and wander about for lack of food? Job 38:41

The Lord is generous to all who call on him. Romans 10:12

We know that the Lord is generous beyond all that we can imagine. Yet we often find it difficult to share our faith with others. In Mark 16:15, Jesus said to his disciples, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” We are his disciples also. He expects us to share him with all others, because he said to share the good news with all creation.

We are able to love as we ought, because he first loved us and showed us how to love one another. When we love as he taught us we often are rewarded as much or more than the person we help. Help can be in giving to someone in need, praying for someone even if they are unaware, sharing a story that brings good memories to someone who is in need of hearing them, being kind even if the recipient does not know who you are, etc. There are countless ways to show our faith and confess his name before others. He was raised from the dead to save us. We must try to tell others of this unfathomable gift.

Dear Lord,

Open my mouth to share my faith when you see the time is right. I am looking forward to seeing the amazing things you do in their lives as you draw them into a beautiful relationship with you. I am ready for you to use me to help them grow as faithful followers of you. In your precious name I pray, dear Lord. Amen.*

*From a prayer by Pastor Allen Werk, The Lutheran Prayerbook, p. 35, pub. 2013.

Florence Smallfield



July 27

 

Surely to obey is better than sacrifice. 1 Samuel 15:22

Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it!  Luke 11:28

Obey.  That is a tough word.  It brings up a lot of connotations for sure.      And honestly in my mind, most of them are not good.    Maybe your mind went to the same place – the evil god creature in a movie shouting “obey or die” or just the rough sound of the word itself.  

Not only is that a hard word, but who really wants to obey all the time anyway.    What fun is doing everything you are told and not learning the value of why boundaries are the way they are?  And you know what they say about work – the best way to hose your boss is to do exactly what he/she tells you to do.   I doubt God intended that interpretation here, but nonetheless…

So is that really the idea?  Obey, listen to God, and everything will be great?   Hmm..  Maybe.  The Samuel verse lays it out as one or the other.  Obey or sacrifice.  Probably a good call to obey.   The Luke one..blessed and obey, yeah probably true.

But how do you apply that to real life? 

Hopefully we do our best to be good people and try and live our faith.   But we are human and we stumble.  We do things that are exactly contrary to God’s plan or our faith.  So even if we simply embraced the direction and proceeded we would still fail.  

So where does that leave us?  An impossible task from a loving God?

No.  I think the real life component here is more about how we approach life than some of the finer details of what we exactly do.      Approach life with the best intent of our Christian values in mind.  Stay on the high road and live our faith.  Do our best to be that positive example of living life with a loving God at your side.  I think that is the essence of obey here.  And yeah, I can do that.

Dear God, I know we often fall off the high road when we are living our daily lives.  We forget to embrace you and your word sometimes.  But your love is constant and we are grateful for your patience.

Al Rivers



July 26

Bless God in the great congregation. Psalm 68:25

 

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:5-6

 

Jesus came as a Savior for everyone, not just one special group. Yet it didn’t take long for disagreements to come along, to split the group of believers into many groups that thought they had the only right answer and way to follow Jesus. The same belief underlies all Christian churches – that Jesus Christ came to live, die and be raised for us. We may not, and surely don’t, agree on a lot of the details, but we can all agree to disagree in love for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. We see in the verse Psalm that we are to get together in the whole congregation to bless and praise God.

 

Why can’t we as individuals just go about believing and praising God all on our own? First of all, it is hard to do that as we get lots of support from our fellow believers. But I think it is also that we can do so much more as a “great congregation.” We can accomplish so much more through groups like Lutheran Social Service, Lutheran World Relief, and Global Health Ministries than we could on our own. It takes a group of people to have Sunday school and other educational opportunities in our church.

 

What better way to praise our Lord and Savior than through our outreach efforts within and without our congregation, welcoming everyone to join with us. Romans 15:7: “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”

 

And, to gather to sing such hymns as this one by William H. Clark and Ralph Hudson:

Blessed Be the Name

“All praise to Him who reigns above

In majesty supreme,

Who gave His Son for man to die,

That He might man redeem

 

His name above all names shall stand,

Exalted more and more,

At God the Father’s own right hand,

Where angel hosts adore

 

His name shall be the Counselor,

 The mighty Prince of Peace,

Of all earth’s kingdoms Conqueror

Whose reign shall never cease.”

 

O God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, you are the fountain of life. Heavenly Father, you are our rock, our refuge, our place of strength. Bless us as a community of faith and bless us as one belonging to you. We glorify you and praise your name. Grant us wisdom to seek harmony with you and one another. Amen

 

Chris Gabel



July 25

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time on and forevermore. Psalm, 125:2

God will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:8

There are two kinds of people when it comes to comfort, those who need it and those who give it.

Maybe you could use some comfort from God or from other people. Life is tough, jobs are lost, homes are lost, and people are cruel to each other.  Then there are those who need to provide comfort. You know, the whole people need people thing.

The apostle Paul was a hand holder, and he was an encourager, and he encouraged other people to in turn to help and comfort each other. And this is very important because we become hardened, we can become cynical, and we can forget that people need people. We have to be reminded that God wants us to have soft hearts, not hard hearts.

“God didn’t promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, sun without rain, but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way.”

Lord God, what a comfort to hear that you surround me in such a marvelous fashion! Forgive me for not always seeing that you are doing this for me. Open my eyes to see where you are present and working in my life so that I can encourage someone else in their walk with you. Amen.

Susan Hanson



July 24

“Love the Lord, all you his saints.”  Psalm 31:23

“If I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”  1 Corinthians 13:2

To me, 1 Corinthians Chapter 13, is one of the most familiar chapters in the Bible.   Depending upon the number of weddings in any given year, I may even hear it read more often than the telling of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection. This chapter does include beautiful words to begin married life and practice in our homes throughout the years.

Paul was not writing advice inside a card of “congratulations” to two individuals beginning a household.   He was writing to a congregation – a wide mix of people with varied behaviors and opinions who likely did not always get along with each other.  We can imagine there were disagreements and bickering, even dislike, as can happen so easily between human beings.

It was this diverse group of people that Paul was reminding to love, to be patient and kind, not boastful, not insistent on having one’s own way.   It is a reminder of Jesus’ commandments for each of us in our daily lives: 

            Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.

            Love your neighbor as yourself.

In Paul’s letter, surrounding text describes the church being one body, made up of many parts with different functions, depending on and supporting each other, thereby strengthening the whole body.  Care and respect for each other is essential in all places, at all levels, across ages, between differences, for unity and peace.

Paul’s words are beautiful words for weddings.  They are also good words for each of us to live by as we begin each day anew.

 

“All who live in love art thine.  Teach us to love each other” – everyone, as ourselves, as you commanded.  Bless us with the gifts of your Spirit – patience, kindness, and gentleness – as a way of life, toward everyone we meet today.  Amen

Verla Olson



July 14

“Praise the Lord!  How good it is to sing praises to our God.”  Psalm 147:1

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.”  Colossians 3:16

I remember a conversation awhile back with good friends as we hiked a section of the Superior Hiking Trail on the North Shore of Lake Superior.  We came across a downed tree with the clear cut facing the trail.  Attached was a brass plate inscribed “Now THIS tree has a story to tell.”  We had fun making up what that story might be.  One of our group suggested simply that we should see the rings and be aware of the life of this tree – its life is its story, the story of all trees.   I recall talking on about this and asking ourselves questions.  Are the number of rings at the narrow top as many as at the wider bottom?  If the width between rings reflects moisture, then where you cut the tree might give different information, and so on.  We looked down and examined the roots, then looked up toward the majesty of golden sun and clear blue sky; fall shades of red, yellow, and green that would make Sherwin Williams blush.

As happens so often outside, on that walk I stopped thinking about science and looked and listened for God.  There is so much to see and hear and smell and touch – and taste if huckleberries and blueberries are still in season.  We have only to stop and use our senses to behold and feel God’s glory.   The woods was full of song:  the harmony of breeze, creeks, and creatures; the percussion of a ruffled grouse “riffing” feathers,  woodpecker drumming, leaves rustling; the crescendo of laughter with friends. 

Humans build churches; God created a sanctuary.

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what are [we] that you are mindful of [us], human beings that you care for [us] …?”  (Psalm 8:3-4)  You have blessed us with a beautiful, bounteous earth.  Move us to care for it, as your gift to all generations.  Amen

Verla Olson



July 12

”I will not hide my face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out my Spirit on the house of Israel,” says the Lord God. Ezekiel 39:29 (NKJV)

Having believed, you were marked in Christ with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13

The words in Ezekiel must have sounded great to the people in exile. Ezekiel is in exile with them while war is raging around them. Then Jerusalem falls and they must have felt even more despair. Yet it is at that time that the message of the prophet changes to words of hope for his people. With all the bad things happening, with God having turned His face away from them, now it is time for hope and a future as they are to be restored.

Ezekiel tells them that God has said He will no longer hide His face from them. They are still the children of God, even though they have badly strayed from what they were supposed to do and believe. Now the spirit of God will be poured out on them. If you continue reading into the chapter 40, Ezekiel reports on the vision of a new restored and rebuilt Jerusalem.

The Holy Spirit is poured out – not just a little sample, or a bit her and a bit there. It is poured out upon the people.  These people that had disobeyed God and been exiled, are now receiving what was promised by the God who love d them all the time. They will be restored.

This is the same Spirit that we received through God’s grace in our own baptisms. We too have managed to disobey God as go through our lives, and although we are not in physical exile, we would be exiled from God’s presence. Yet, He sent Jesus for all of us, and poured out the Holy Spirit upon everyone at Pentecost. We were marked with this seal at our baptisms and continue to have the healing, helping presence of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives.

Dear Savior and Lord, may we shout the good news that you are with us, and that your loving grace is sealed within our hearts! We are grateful Lord, that when you poured out your promise upon your people we all got wet. Thank you for including us in your household of faith. As we walk the earth this day, we give you thanks for your spiritual presence. Unseal our lips so that we can share your words of grace today, tomorrow, and always. Amen

Chris Gabel



July 11

They will look on me, the one they have pierced. Zechariah 12:10

Pilate said, “Behold, you King!” So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” John 1:14-15

Christianity is a religion of grace. We sing about grace, we write poems about grace, we name our churches and our children after grace.

But for all that, grace is not well understood and often not really believed. We use the word a great deal but rarely think about what it means. It’s probably true that most of us think infrequently about God’s grace. For every discussion we have about grace, we have a dozen about the church budget or the church programs or more likely, whether or not we’ll live to see the Vikings win the Super Bowl. If you ask us, we certainly believe in grace, but outside of the worship services, the word is rarely on our lips.

Grace teaches us that God does for others what we would never do for them. We would save the not-so-bad. Grace is a gift that costs everything to the giver and nothing to the receiver. It is given to those who don’t deserve it, barely recognize it, and hardly appreciate it. It is given to us!

Merciful Lord and Savior, thank you for never rejecting us, even when we rejected you by our actions and neglect. In your merciful name, we remember especially those who are weary and those who have grown cynical. May we be ready as your faithful servants to bring them a fresh sign of your grace today. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



July 5

I have ventured to speak to the Lord, although I am but dust and ashes. Genesis 18:27

Devote yourselves to prayer being watchful and thankful.  Colossians 4:2

Devote yourselves to prayer – in the next verse also asks for prayers to have door opened for the message. He gives some specific things that he would like believers to pray for. In Ephesians 6:18 we read:  “Pray in the Spirit at all times, with every kind of prayer and petition. To this end, stay alert with all perseverance in your prayers for all the saints.”

In Genesis, Abraham is praying very earnestly to God, bargaining for the city of Sodom to be saved.  How many righteous men would need to live there to have God spare the town? He initially asks if 50 righteous men live there, shouldn’t it be spared? When God agrees, Abraham continues with the words in today’s verse – a bit in awe that he can speak to the Lord, and feeling humble. In this Bible story, the Lord is right there having enjoyed Abrahams’ hospitality. As He leaves, Abraham goes along for a ways and speaks to him.

How audacious of Abraham to not only speak directly to God, but to argue to get Him to change His mind. He knows how far he is from God, saying he is but dust and ashes. Created by God from the dust of the ground, yet he also has chosen to follow the one true God.  He had close contact with God, listened and obeyed the words he heard, and felt he could talk to and even argue with God. That would make it easier – Abraham got to actually walk with the Lord, we don’t get to do that. However, the promises that were made to him were also made to his descendants and to us.

We see the promise fulfilled in God sending Jesus to die for us, and to be raised again. This alone should make us thankful and full of thanksgiving in our prayers. To devote ourselves to prayer and do it at “all times” seems a little challenging, but doesn’t mean that we don’t do anything else with our day..  The best advice I have heard is to start the day with prayer, especially prayers of gratitude. Note that Paul says to be watchful and thankful as we pray, focusing on what God has done for us, and what He can help us do in this world He created to further His kingdom.

Dear Heavenly Father, we pray because you have first spoken into our lives. Lord Jesus, Our Loving Savior, how wonderfully reverent we come to you in prayer! Take our fears, help us to bear our pains, lift us up into your peace. Help us boldly remain your faithful servants living upon your grace. Amen

Chris Gabel