The Harvest of Righteousness Religious Web Banner

July 23

The Lord said to Isaac, “Through your offspring, all nations on earth will be blessed.” Genesis 26:4 NIV

Many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 8:11

In chapter 8 of the gospel of Matthew, we read a lot of stories of Jesus healing people who came to him in faith to ask for his help, and these are just a fraction of this type of story in the New Testament. To me, this ties in with the verse from Genesis in today’s reading, that all nations on earth will be blessed. And they were blessed, which is not to say that everything was perfect for the people of God. There were bound to be problems.
 
Yes, all nations did go through trials and tribulations, and yes, all nations of the world still DO go through trials and tribulations, and all sort of things that make us throw up our arms in dismay and say “What now, God? Why are you letting us suffer like this? Why won’t you help us?” We forget that there have been problems in the world from the very beginning and that we are not the first generation of people to suffer the sins of the world, whether caused by our own sin, or brought on by the sins of others. While praying for help doesn’t always bring the quick solutions that we see here in Jesus healing people on the spot, I find that it’s the best place to start, just as bringing people together to work for solutions, regardless of faith or other differences, is the way to work for good in the world. 

Lord, during times of problems, as will always happen in our lives and the lives of others around the world, may we work together to come to You for help and guidance. We thank you for your holy words of guidance and ask for your forgiveness for the our sin and for the sins of the world that we’ve exacerbated by own inaction. Amen.

Lynda Tysdal



July 19

O Lord, it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all. 1 Chronicles 29:12 

An argument arose among the disciples as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child, and put it by his side, and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among you is the greatest.” Luke 9:46-48 

Who has strength? Is it the judge, police officer, guard, or other person in authority who is following the law and doing the duties for which they are trained and for which they have a passion? Or, is it the parent fleeing for safety whose child(ren) is wrenched from his or her arms; the spouse sitting at the beside of the love of her/his life as he/she dies; or, is it the coach who gives up his share of the food and water to make sure his team members have the available, however meager, rations as they await rescue from a cave? I could go on and on.

I believe all of these people have strength for their day and the situation at hand. Usually, all are doing their very best to be fair and to follow the courage of their convictions. The ones in authority bring order to our lives and help in countless ways to make society work as it should.  The ones who overstep their bounds, or deal unfairly, of course, make the news.

Desperate people are often going beyond anything they could ever dream they would be able to do. Strength of body, mind, and spirit cannot be calculated; it comes from a person’s faith and can be an unbelievable asset in facing what lies ahead. Faith, as that a little child, overcomes all and gives believers strength and comfort. When we feel the strength of our faith wrapping its arms around us, we are held close to God. We are all great in his presence. 

Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Lord, you said whoever humbles himself like a child is the greatest in your kingdom. Help each one of us to receive your abundant blessings with the awe and delight of a little child. Thank you for always being the beacon for us to follow and for always loving us and guiding our ways. Amen.

Florence Smallfield    



July 13

I made the earth, and created humankind upon it.  Isaiah 45:12 

God is not far from each one of us. Acts 17:27 

Once again, I sit down to write a devotion and find myself wondering, where is God in this sinful and often hate-filled world? And the voice in my head as I read the Bible verses for today reminds me, gently but firmly, God is here. Bad things can be happening, but God is here to watch over us and care for us, even though we fear and wonder and suffer anxiety about the things that happen to us and even more, to others, we must remember that and have faith, and He will give us peace, if not in this life, than in the next. 

In Isaiah, chapter 45, the Lord reminds us (among other things) that I am the Lord, and there is no other; and I form light and create darkness. A few verses later, he says Will you question me about my children, or command me concerning the work of my hands? In other words, God will not be questioned. 

It reminds me of the book of Job, specifically chapter 38; Job is having a terrible time in his life, and when he wants to know where is God in his suffering, God speaks to him from a whirlwind. It is a long answer, but can be boiled down to this: Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. (Job 38:4) 

Proverbs 21:5 says: When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers. I have faith that justice will be done, but there must be work done to bring the justice. God has done the heavy lifting, but we must help here on Earth. 

Still, we are mortal human beings, and we worry, we have anxiety. I take comfort in the verse from Acts, and the words of the Christmas hymn, Away in a Manger, no matter what time of year it is: 

3 Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask you to stay
Close by me forever and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in your tender care
And fit us for heaven to live with you there.**
 

Thank you, God, for your holy word, helpful in every situation, ever reminding us that we are yours and that you love us. We ask you to bring justice for all people as only you can, and that the world may find love where there is hate and peace where there is war. Help us to remember that we can (and must!) help others with the many blessings you have given us, in your loving name.  Amen. 

Lynda Tysdal

**(Away in a Manger, Christmas Carol, lyricist unknown – Lutheran Book of Worship #67)



July 11

And Isaiah said, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.” Isaiah 6:5 

So then putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors. Ephesians 4:25 

Chapter 6 of Isaiah, where Isaiah gets his “unique commission,” starts out with a glorious scene. Isaiah sees God in heaven with angels singing which sounds like it would be really wonderful. Yet his response is in verse 5 – “woe is me.” He believes that if you actually see God you die and he doesn’t feel worthy at all to be one who can directly speak with God. But God doesn’t intend his death, rather He wants Isaiah to spread His message – so an angel is sent with a hot coal, touches his lips and tells him that God has taken away all his guilt and his sin is atoned for. Now Isaiah is ready, God asks who He can send to the people and Isaiah answers: “Here am I, send me.” The unclean lips he was so worried about are now empowered to spread the truth that God wants the people to hear. 

Telling the truth is supposed to always be the best thing to do. After all there is a commandment about now bearing false witness. Yet how often do we shy away from telling someone the truth, maybe we don’t want to hurt their feelings or we just don’t tell all the truth. Or, maybe we hear rumors and outright lies about someone, or a group, and don’t speak up. Certainly there are times when telling the truth may not be helpful, and could be hurtful; there is a place for a few little “white lies” that are intended to support someone. Yet there is a major truth that we cannot deny. Paul tells us to put away falsehood. He says that in coming to Christ we have put away our old self, and we have been made new. We were actually created to be like God, and, now are new persons that can live righteous, holy lives. 

Ephesians 4:29 tells us to not let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, that we should only say what is helpful for building others up. We are to do this according to what people need, and as a way for others to see and listen. Thus we can speak the truth to our neighbors, our fellow believers and those who are still unbelievers. The truth we have to speak is powerful, and just like Isaiah we can have the help of God who cleans up our lips and can use us to spread the Good News. 

Lord, you know the inner workings of our hearts. Often we are not truthful even with ourselves. When we hear lies told, we are afraid to speak up. Give us the courage to speak the truth. Giver of the most amazing grace, put the words on our lips that speak your truth to a world in need. May the words we say always help others to experience your love in new ways. Amen. 

Chris Gabel



July 10

Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed. Isaiah 1:17

 

Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Hebrews 13;3

I have lived in downtown Minneapolis for many years and have watched the   landscape change fast. New apartments, condos, and office buildings going up over night. Old buildings being renovated into something new and hip. But the one thing I have noticed in particular is the begging downtown has increased. It is sad and disturbing.

Discussing their situation with others has provoked a variety of responses. Some tell me there is no need for people to beg and that there is welfare to help those in genuine need. That argument does not convince me. One does not live on welfare, assuming one is even eligible for it in the first place. By the end of the month, parents are barely feeding their kids, and not eating themselves. 


Now I do not rule out the possibility of there being people begging who don’t really need to beg, but they would be the exception rather than the rule. Likewise, there is the occasional person on the street that makes demands with menaces, but it would be very unfair of us to dismiss them all because of the misdeeds of a few. Most people I have seen had their heads bowed in shame. While some emotional states can be easily faked, it is very difficult to fake abject despair and humiliation. 

We need to remember we are all created in God’s image, and the gospel makes it clear that when we give food to the hungry, refresh the thirsty, welcome strangers, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit prisoners, we do this for Christ. 

If Jesus was in Minnesota this week, we would be lucky to see him in our churches. I think he might visit and make a few pithy observations, but he would not stay because he would have things to do elsewhere. You would be more likely to find Jesus on the fringes, ministering to the poor and the marginalized. You might see him at an AA meeting, at a soup kitchen, or sitting with the homeless on Nicollet Mall. 

Lord God, you sought me, rescued me, and taught me. You joined me in my prison cell and helped me see life in your eyes. I am sorry that I can get caught in my own pain yet show no compassion for the pain of others. Teach me how to do good for others. Amen. 

Peace,

Susan Hanson

(P.S. This is a repeat devotion. I feel it needs to be said again. Peace.)



July 5

“Do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.”  Zechariah 7:10

“Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”  Colossians 3:14

Yesterday we celebrated American independence.  Declaring independence did not make it so. We had to fight and win battles to prove ourselves.  This week is also a remembrance of the Civil War battle at Gettysburg.  Eighty-seven years after declaring that all [men] are created equal, with certain inalienable rights, we continued battling … this time amongst ourselves, to establish whether – or not – all human beings should be indeed equal and free. 

One hundred five years after Gettysburg, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, still battling for equality and basic freedoms for his race.  You may recall the story of Iowa school teacher Jane Elliott.  Just after King’s death, she introduced her classroom to the dynamics of prejudice.  She separated the blue-eyed students from those with brown or green eyes.  She began denouncing the blue-eyed students as dirty, lazy and less intelligent.  The brown-eyed children responded almost instantly, bullying their classmates with blue eyes.  When Elliott reversed the exercise, the students with blue eyes berated those with brown eyes, taking advantage of their newfound power. 

Fifty years since, we are still fighting battles, fussing about and fearing color, language, religion.  If not with sticks and stones (in some places the case), with words and they surely can hurt.  Since the beginning of recorded history there have been divisions and prejudices, a race for wealth and power, greed and oppression. The second great commandment, love your neighbor as yourself, treat others as you would be treated, appears simply too much to ask.  We pray that the Holy Spirit will work in our hearts, clothe us in love, and bind us together.

“Love, love, love, love –

Christians, this is our call.

Love our neighbors as ourselves For God loves us all.”  Amen  

(prayer text – Ralph Johnson
 

Verla Olson



June 29

“You will remember your ways, and be ashamed when I forgive you all that you have done, says the Lord God.”  Ezekiel 16:61, 63

The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the foremost.”  1 Timothy 1:15

There is a small country church.  Years ago a man was deemed unworthy (‘”a drunk”) to be buried within the honored, more saintly cemetery grounds.  So he was buried across the fence, in a neighboring field.  Years later the church needed more room for more graves.  The neighborly farmer sold more land to the church, the fence was moved, and the “sinner” was at last buried with the “saints”.

Some have relatives they would rather not talk about … gambling away the family farm, a “room upstairs”, a still during Prohibition, the “town drunk” – the unwanted man in the small church cemetery.  And we all have our own past offenses we keep quiet.

It is difficult to go to someone and ask forgiveness, where mercy and grace are conditional.  It means admitting a mistake and saying “I’m sorry”.  It means risking rejection, or maybe conditions we cannot live up to.

It is hard for us to forgive others, with our hurt feelings and bruised egos; even to trust others, with our prejudices and fears.   We begrudge and judge others, stereotyping whole races and peoples based on the actions of a few:  Italians – all Mafia; Irish – all drunks; Hispanics – all illegals, criminals; Muslims – all terrorists …

God is more gracious and merciful than human beings.  We have so much to admit we do a “blanket confession” … “The things we have done and the things we have left undone. “  God knows the skeletons in our closets, the dirt swept under the rug, slips of the tongue, disrespectful thoughts, biases and selfishness.  Trusting in God’s grace, we confess our sins and ask for forgiveness, as we forgive those who sin against us. 

“’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.
“How can your pardon reach and bless the unforgiving heart,
that broods on wrongs and will not let old bitterness depart?
“In blazing light your cross reveals the truth we dimly knew:
what trivial debts are owed to us, how great our debt to you!
“Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls, and bid resentment cease;
then, bound to all in bonds of love, our lives will spread your peace.”  Amen  

(Hymn text:  Rosamond Herklots)

Verla Olson



June 28

     “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands”.  Isaiah 49:16

     “My times are in your hands”.  Psalm 31:15

The bible verses above have recently caught my attention.  These passages speak not only of God’s hands but also of us, his beloved children.  Imagine!  The hands that created the world, formed the seas and the continents, made the birds and the animals also holds us and holds us tenderly. How secure we are, how blessed.

We are made in his image.  We also have hands.  Hands with which to create, to write, to comfort and heal, to build, to fold in prayer. But our God who holds us so tenderly also gave us free will.  We are free to use our hands in ways which could tear down, destroy, cause damage, and even cause harm to another.

I have a small picture tucked into the frame above my desk.  It is an image of Jesus’ hands holding a sheep.  Jesus is saying, “my sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me — no one can snatch them out of my hand.” ( John 10: 27-28 )

There are many references to hands in the bible.  Hands are important to God and to us.  Would that we always use our hands to the glory of the one who created and sustains us and holds us in the palms of his hands.

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for holding onto us in spite of our waywardness.  We can rest from our struggles knowing that no one can snatch us away from you. Hold us tight Lord.  Amen

Joan Perlich



June 27

I the Lord will speak the word that I speak, and it will be fulfilled.  Ezekiel 12:25

 

The centurion said to Jesus, “Only speak the word, and my servant will be healed.”  Matthew 8:8

 

Remember the saying? “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me!”  Spoken by kids who probably didn’t believe it, or told to those kids by their parents.  This phrase is not exactly true or even very comforting when words have been hurtful.  Of course words can hurt, they can be very powerful:  a child (or adult) who is ridiculed because of a perceived difference, someone saying they no longer love you, words that are yelled in anger. Words can also be supportive, helpful, and healing. Most of us hear many words of gentleness and peace and of love every day.  

 

How do our words compare with those that God speaks? If our very words can wound someone, what can those of God do? God can speak very powerful words.  His word brought Creation into being, land and sea, plants and animals and people too. The air we breathe, the water we drink and the food that grows to nourish us. The words He speaks will be fulfilled – in Ezekiel, they are words of warning. 

 

The centurion apparently knows what power words can have.  He may not know about God, or even really about Jesus as the Son of God but he sees something in Jesus’ power. He asks for nothing more than a spoken word.  No magic potions, no healing touches, he doesn’t even ask Jesus to come see the servant.   One spoken word and healing can occur. Words of gentleness, concern and care are something we all can speak or write.

 

We have a world created by the Word; through word alone our world was created and is still created daily.  There are new people born, and newly faithful people created.  Our part? To listen to God’s word, focus on it, and spread it among all of Creation. 

 

Dear Lord, in the beginning you spoke and Creation sprang to life.  Your Word has been moving ever since, calling forth life and bringing your children to faith.  Teach our hearts to yearn for the music of your Word that can renew us every day.  Help us to tune out the other voices in the world and listen to you alone. Help us speak gentle words of caring and concern to those around us. In Jesus’ name, Amen

 

Chris Gabel



June 21

O Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you. Psalm 84:12

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed. Romans 4:18 NIV

The first two verses of Psalm 84: “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.” How often have songwriters used this joyful passage to tell of the best promise awaiting all who believe in God. 

Life will be difficult at some point. Disasters strike with little warning; war and famine leave many of God’s children victims of tragedies over which they have no control. Closer to home, loved ones die; accidents change lives forever; jobs can be lost; etc. Yet, because we have hope, we, just like Abraham, believe. When life is overwhelming we know that we are still under the arms and in the loving care of God. 

He sent his Son to die and rise again to give us hope and assurance beyond any difficulties we face. “I know that my Redeemer lives! What comfort this sweet sentence gives!,”* lets each one of us walk in the happiness of hope in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Dear and precious Savior,

Thank you for the blessing of hope even in times of despair. Sometimes life is overwhelming, but we know that you are there when we cry out to you. Your promise reminds us to hope. Help each one of us to trust in your promise of eternal life. Amen.

* From the hymn, “I Know that My Redeemer Lives!”

Florence Smallfield