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November 6

Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars! For he commanded, and they were created. Psalm 148:3, 5

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. Revelation 4:11

“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrow like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
‘It is well, it is well with my soul.'”

The words to this song have a very sad history. The author, Horatio Spafford, wrote these words on a ship that was passing over the spot where his four daughters perished on a sinking ship, his wife the only survivor of his family. And yet, he found the courage and faith to pen these beautiful words of praise.
None one of us will go through life untouched by disappointments, hurts, frustrations or pains. We know better. In the face of this certain difficulty, we need to discover there is a refuge to be found in the midst of inevitable turmoil. There a place of refuge, where we can face trying times with confidence and assurance. If we are struggling with difficulty, we can praise Him for His presence in our lives. If we are enjoying rest, we should praise Him for His peace. If we are battling an illness, we can praise Him for his strength. If we are enjoying good health, we should praise Him for His healing. If we are battling serious financial need, we praise Him for what he has provided. If we are enjoying an overflowing cup, praise Him for His bounty. Praise Him; praise Him, for His presence in our lives.
It was All Saints on Sunday. A day of remembrance and honoring. A day that can be difficult for many. Part of the service was singing the hymn above. A song I have always had a problem finishing. Sunday was no exception. But there is a promise in those words. A promise that God himself made to us. A promise that we are loved and a promise that He is always with us. Through the good times and the bad. He will never forsake us, or leave us or forget we are His children.
God of all Creation, thank you for being the one true God who formed the whole universe and all that is in it. I am grateful that you gave me the gift of life and knew me even before I was born. Show me again the wonders of your Creation. Help me to praise you with my life today. Amen.

Peace,
Susan Hanson



November 1

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  Psalm 73:26

That night the Lord stood near Paul and said “Keep up your courage!”  Acts 23:11

 Webster defines courage as “the ability to overcome fear or despair.” Paul was afraid, there were threats against him.  He needed the courage to continue his work in spreading the Word and following the Way.  His charge, to build a church!  Imagine his fear as he continued to defend his actions and spread the word about Jesus’ death and resurrection.  His total belief and trust in God was rewarded with God’s encouragement.

Fear is built into us humans, along with all other emotions that we may experience.  Fear can be a good thing when it warns us about about danger, and not just physical danger.  Fear can also be a bad thing, when it is not based on reality.  Nevertheless, we all know what it’s like to be fearful.  God knows about our fears, after all, He designed us.

Our daily lives seem rather bland and unchallenging sometimes.  Not many of us are commissioned as Paul was, to leave home, to travel many miles, to face difficult situations and even danger.  But in our day to day moments, we do face situations in which we are required to face our fears and even conquer them.  And the good news is that God is on our side, ready to love us, understand us, and encourage us.

“Fear not, I have created you.  You are mine.”  Isaiah 43:1

Loving God, this world may be too much for us at times.  We can be worn down but never emptied because you have filled us with love and hope.  We are yours, forever and ever.  Amen

Joan Perlich



October 31

Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people.” Exodus 32:11-12

Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Romans 8:34

Moses interceded for the Israelites when they took off their jewelry and cast the calf. Then they worshiped the golden calf, partied, and turned aside from the way that God had commanded them. God was filled with wrath and wanted to destroy these stiff-necked people. God changed his mind when Moses interceded, and God did not destroy the Israelites. They were punished by the consequences of Moses’ wrath when he came down from Mount Sinai; however, they were spared God’s will to destroy them. 

We who believe in Christ as our Savior and Lord are the benefactors of Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection. Recently, I visited with a friend who was mourning the loss of two of her life-long friends, one of whom died, and one who can no longer communicate with her because of illness. One of the things we talked about was the fact that, as difficult as it is to lose loved ones, we are comforted in the knowledge of the promise of salvation. We know that we will be together again with those who have gone before and will be sharing a far better life in the place God has prepared for us.

Think of the discouragement our sinfulness, just as it did with the Israelites and their transgressions, must bring on God as he watches us each day. When we think this way, we rejoice in the knowledge that he still cares enough to save us for life in the our heavenly home. Belief frees us to be his messengers throughout our daily lives. To God be the glory.

Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

When we come to you for mercy and forgiveness, you are compassionate and forgiving. You hear us on our level and free us from guilt an apathy. Help us to turn to you daily for all that is necessary in our lives. Help us to share your truth with others. Amen.

Florence Smallfield   



October 30

Break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord. Hosea 10:12

No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. Luke 9:62

When I was a kid living in northern Minnesota, each summer my town would have a parade. It wasn’t a big town, so the parade was usually just a string of fire trucks, a few Shriner cars, the High School Band, a clown or two, and then a line of cars who didn’t realize there was a parade today and got stuck behind it. We always waved to them anyway.

One of my favorite moments was right before the parade started. We would take our seats on the curb and turn toward the direction from which we knew the parade was coming. As it approached, we couldn’t see anything yet but we could hear the sirens blaring and the local high school band playing. We would crane our necks, jump up and down, stand on our chairs, and say to our parents, “Do you see it yet? How about now? What about now?” We could hear the sirens; we knew it was close. But we just couldn’t quite see it yet.

A woman, who lived to be 100 years old, was asked for her secret to living so long. She replied she always had someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to.

Life can be hard, with many of us struggling just to make it through the day. We all need someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to. But we have something to look forward to. Beyond this life, beyond our nagging questions and doubts, we have something to look forward to. Think of it like driving a car, the rear view mirror is smaller than the windshield in the front of the car. That is exactly what it means in life. We do not drive in reverse always looking out the rear view mirror. We look out the windshield, forward, to the future.

The truth is that the human situation is not hopeless. The crises in our lives, both personal and global, are not hopeless. Life is not a despairing wait for an inevitable end. Life is the eager anticipation of the realization of God’s promises, especially the promise that death is not the end. Life is the straining to see the start of the parade. It is the perseverance through the struggle of childbirth in order to experience new life. Life is not hoping for something; it is hoping in Someone, the One who promised us redemption and called us to work for the redemption of all of God’s creation. “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.” Do you hear it? Can you see it? I’ve seen glimpses. A kind word. An answered prayer. A stand taken for one’s faith. A hope realized. Do you hear it? Can you see it? Then live it.

Lord, you give us the glorious task of working in your field so that the harvest will be plentiful. When I look into my past rather than toward your future for me, I miss the grace of this day. Give me steady hands and clear eyes to focus on you alone as I follow you today. Amen.

P.S. This a repeat devotion.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



October 25

I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord; I will remember your wonders of old. I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds. Psalm 77:11-12

Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

God looks on us, flawed as each of us is and still performs works and deeds to the benefit of all of us. Yes, there are many times when one can wonder if God is there; life can be such a struggle. Yet, we look around and beyond our own cares and worries and know that God is good and consistently confirms his love for us and our world.

We live in a time when many of us receive our basic needs without the struggle experienced by too many in our world. Famine, strife, war, storms, disease strike with strength and leave many with few obvious options. Amid such, there prevails a glimmer of hope to restore faith and defeat despair. Famines are fought with ingenious ways to teach those afflicted how to grow their own food even as they are given food for the moment. When natural disasters strike, teams of hundreds or thousands gather to rescue survivors and to restore lives and living conditions. We hear of medical science making strides against conditions for which formerly there was little help or hope.

Then we can look around us and see the wonders of God’s creation. He has provided food, beauty, and intelligence to put all that he has given to use for the benefit ourselves and others.

Can you imagine the wonder, anxiety, doubt, and worry Mary felt? If she could trust that God was including her, a young woman just beyond the age of being a young girl, in his great plan, how can we not be assured that each one of us is included in God’s purpose? His mighty deeds are done for each one of us.

Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Thank you for your works and deeds that confirm your love for humanity. Forgive us when we become ensnared in our own struggles and forget your faithfulness to each one of us. Help us to have trust in you just as Mary did. Help us to always share your love and faithfulness to us with those around us. Amen.

Submitted by Florence Smallfield



October 24

Can mortals make for themselves gods? Jeremiah 16:20 

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. Colossians 2:8 

When you read the question Jeremiah asks, it seems obvious. Humans cannot make gods; in fact it is God who made humans. So why ask such a question? In Jeremiah’s time there were gods worshipped by many of the peoples that surrounded God’s people. They had sometimes incorporated worship of these gods and idols into their lives. Jeremiah in the 16th chapter mostly talks about disasters that will befall them. However, for a few verses there is a more hopeful message. He says that the Lord is his strength and fortress and refuge and reminds his people that there is only one God whose name is the Lord.   

OK, so that was a long time ago, we certainly don’t worship idols in our modern age, or do we? It seems that we can make idols of many different things. It might be something to do with our job, with getting and spending money, perhaps sporting events. There also are many who make idols out of celebrities, movie stars, sports figures, even political figures. Jeremiah 16:20 concludes with “”Such are no gods!” There is only one true God, the one we know and follow. 

Paul looks at another aspect of idolatry, a dependence on human philosophy and ritual in place of dependence on following Jesus Christ. Some notes on this verse from Colossians from the NIV Study Bible: “Paul was counteracting the Colossian heresy, which, in part, taught that for salvation one needed to combine faith in Christ with secret knowledge and with man-make regulations concerning such physical and external practices as circumcision, eating and drinking, and observance of religious festivals.” 

We do not need all the rituals that are often part of the worship of idols. There is no magic formula or special words we need to say. Because of God’s grace in sending His son as our savior, and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit we have all the “special knowledge.” The message of love God above all and your neighbor as yourself is readily available to us through Jesus’ teaching and those who have taught through the years.  Our response to this saving grace is to love our neighbor in return. Not to try to solve all the problems out there, but to have faith and trust in our strong saving Lord who loves and cares for us and all the people in this world and the next. 

Omnipotent Father, in a world churning with technological advances, may we always remember that all wisdom and knowledge comes from you. We are sorry for our desire to solve the world’s problems with our own power. Forgive us for placing our actions above your gracious act of salvation. We are awed by your capacity to teach us. All credit and praise belong to you. Thanks be to God!   

Chris Gabel



October 23

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14

The disciple woke Jesus up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ”Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased. Mark 4:38, 39

Fear, worry, anger, resentment, guilt, and regrets keep us awake at night. When you pray, you can pour out your heart to God just like you’re speaking to your best friend—because you are.

Ask God to reveal to you whatever it is about you that needs to change, and ask him for the strength to do it.

When you find yourself alone and troubled, instead of rehashing the past, search your heart for answers about your future. The only right sacrifice you can offer God is your heart. Even if it’s broken, troubled and weary, God will accept it. Offering your heart to God means offering yourself to God, putting your hope, trust, and life in his hands.

The key to a heart full of peace is having a heart completely surrendered to God. The process of getting to that point is one of pouring your heart out to God, examining your heart before God, and offering your heart to God.

Prince of Peace, thank you for the calm that you bring to my life’s storms, to know you is to know peace-without you there is none. Guide the leaders of the world to become peacemakers. Bring your healing to troubled hearts and homes. Make me an instrument of your peace today. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



October 22

“Go, and may the Lord be with you!”  1 Samuel 17:37

“Whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”  1 Corinthians 10:31

It is easy to see God’s glory in the “big” – gazing across a valley from the top of a mountain, at the horizon across Lake Superior, at the wild patchwork of color adorning autumn trees.  It takes intention to see glory in the “small” – greening buds, a baby’s fingernails.

It is easy to see God’s glory in big actions.  David was an overachiever.  Perhaps not much more than a boy, poorly armed, he was sent to face a mighty enemy, and succeeded.  Paul writes about goodness in something relatively trivial … eating and drinking; not offending, but respecting, our neighbor; not seeking our own advantage. 

Do we see God’s glory in others?  Do we encourage and affirm the gifts God has given them?  Do we see God’s glory in our own gifts?  Do we joyfully share them with others?  There is a saying:  [If you aren’t giving your best, you are wasting a gift.]  Will we sing an aria … or blend into a choir?  Will we cross the sea and see our name in books … or visit a shut-in, take soup to a neighbor, be a caretaker at home?  God is not impressed by wealth, no matter how great.  God will notice that we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly.  There is no such thing as a small talent or good deed when done with gratitude and joy, with care and compassion fueled by the Holy Spirit.  A seemingly small act of kindness might be just the thing to make someone’s day brightened by God’s light.  And that is big … and glorious … God’s glory.

“All that I am and have, thy gifts so free that each departing day henceforth may see some work of love begun, Some deed of kindness done, Some wanderer sought and won, something for thee.”  Amen

                                                                                                                                                              (Sylvanus Phelps)

Verla Olson



October 19

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.  This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”  John 3: 1-3.

While I was talking with a friend recently, the subject turned to religion.  She asked me, “Have you been born again?”  I answered truthfully “yes”.  Then I tried to explain to her what it meant to me to be born again.

 Since that moment, I have done a lot of thinking.  My response to my friend was that it was a new awareness of the meaning of my faith, and also a new recognition of my relationship with Jesus Christ.  While I still believe that to be true,  I also think that there is more to the story than that.

Lutherans don’t talk much about being born again. I think it would be an interesting discussion.  Many years ago I took part in a bible study with women of diverse faith backgrounds.  My recollection of some of their views is that being born again happens in an instant, in one specific moment in time.  Perhaps that is true for some people, we all have different experiences. But I know that it was not true for me.

I was raised in the Lutheran church.  I always took church seriously and did all the things that being religious entails.  And gradually, little by little, God grew faith in me, and sometime, in all those years, I was born again, not of the flesh but of the spirit of God.

C.S. Lewis, in his book, THE JOYFUL CHRISTIAN, does not write about being “born again”.  However, he does write about “putting on Christ”.  He writes that when an individual first begins to pray the Our Father, he realizes that he is not really a son (or a daughter) of God.  Therefore he or she is pretending at that point.  But it is a good pretending, for if there is persistence in prayer, the pretense can become reality.  Could this be another example of being born again?

Most Holy God, thank you for your mercy, love and grace.  Thank you for making us your sons and daughters.  Help us to be like Christ in all that we do. Amen
 
Joan Perlich  


October 17

His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace.  He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. Isaiah 9:7

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever Hebrews 13:8

In the ninth chapter of Isaiah, verses 1-7, we read about a son that is to be born. One who will bring light, lessen the people’s burdens, and make them full of joy. Handel used these verses for part of the Christmas portion of the Messiah. It is a beautiful description of the coming ruler.   In verse 7 we see that this person will bring endless peace. Endless peace, this is what is promised in Isaiah. Endless peace sounds wonderful – no more wars or fighting. No more squabbling among different groups of people, perhaps an end to all those miscommunications and arguments. This foretells the future coming of Jesus Christ who will be born as a descendant of David, and who will rule in righteousness forever.

We, of course, know who this son is that was to be born, because we have the newer testament with the Gospels that tell us all about Jesus. We know of His power and authority over the wind, and the storms, over diseases and demons. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the same no matter what time period we look at. He was there at creation as the Word that was spoken to bring all things into being. He was there as an infant and lived on earth for the years of His ministry, death and resurrection. He is here with us now, just a prayer away, walking with us through our joys and sorrows. And, He is here/there throughout the future, for all of eternity. When we leave this life, Jesus will be there to welcome us home.

How is it that we deserve all this? What is it that we have done to receive this continual presence of God right here with us? We don’t need any fancy regimented rites or strange teachings to learn. All that is needed is the simple grace that is God’s gift to us. What once was true about Christ will always be true about Christ, the same truth, the same treasure. To quote Matthew Henry: “Therefore let us go forth now by faith and seek in Christ the rest and peace which this world cannot afford us.”  Receive Him and be free and at peace.

Blessed Savior, in a world of change and turmoil, you alone are steadfast. We long to live more fully in your peace, both now and in the life to come. As we turn to you in prayer our burdens are lessened, our pressures are made bearable. You are our port in the storm. We lovingly thank you for your unwavering strength and constancy in our lives. In Jesus ‘name, we pray. Amen.

Chris Gabel