Stress Mess

By Barbara Crow
September 23, 2021

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, give your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcend all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

Sitting on the side of my bed one evening, I was bemoaning the aches and pains spreading through my back and legs. I couldn’t resist dead-heading flowers while I was watering my flowerbeds that day. I didn’t want the flowers to stop blooming. “Oh Lord”, I cried. I love the flowers, but I just can’t continue doing this”. He waited for me to finish whimpering, then gave me a word of encouragement. “I created flowers to go to seed and die back for their winter rest.” I felt foolish. It seemed like my Lord must be having a chuckle over his silly child.

I am very familiar with the above-mentioned verse from Philippians. It is my mantra which I recite to myself whenever I start feeling anxious. It always helps me to remember God wants me to rely completely on him in every circumstance. Unfortunately, I sometimes let the stress build up to an uncomfortable level before I turn to God. He is very patient with me and waits for me to settle down and come him in prayer.

Once he has settled one concern for me, I find another stresser. Stress is unhealthy. It can complicate a variety of health issues such as hypertension, digestive tract problems and painful muscle conditions. So why do I do these things to myself? I am a slow learner, but I am beginning to turn more quickly to God for help. Then I can relax and have his peace again.

After my gardening problem was solved, I found a new concern which may or not be of any consequence. I had an appointment with my doctor about a new health issue. I became so anxious my stomach started pumping acid. Then I was stressed about being so stressed. I felt I must be losing faith in my loving God, so I rushed to ask God for his forgiveness.  God knows me completely, and assured me he knows my love and trust in him. I didn’t want to have to experience what might be in store for me. I was being cowardly. Once again, God calmed me and set me back in balance. Fear is part of our weak human nature, and my Lord understands it so well. Wouldn’t it be nice if when we are saved, we will no longer be troubled by our pesky human nature?

Prayer

Thank you, Lord. You are always with us to help us whenever we ask you. Thank you for the peace that is beyond human comprehension you give us whenever we step back and give everything to you. And thank you for your precious word which teaches us to do so.

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9-16-21 #57 – Dimitri Berk

How does Operation Timothy relate to

Apostle Paul and Timothy?

Tens of thousands of men and women over the past eighty (80) years have been trained by Operation Timothy. Apostle Paul called Timothy “my true son in faith” 1 Timothy 1:2. Apostle Paul’s Great Love and affection for Timothy is the basis for the relational discipleship experience of OSLC’s Operation Timothy. 

It is important to note that Operation Timothy is for both men and women with men instructing men and women instructing women.

Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you 1Timothy 4: 11-14

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1Timothy 4:15-16

 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1Timothy 6:11-12

**Important: wherever you see the word man, it now means men and women in Operation Timothy (not scripture).

Quoting from Operations Timothy “Operation Timothy is a time-tested discipleship resource tool that will guide a man** to learn more about God and how to be the man God designed him to be. This is a benefit to his work, his family, and relationships. Operation Timothy is based on 1 & 2 Timothy where the apostle Paul mentored young Timothy. Paul trained Timothy to train others to train others. 

CBMC’s discipleship process is a one-on-one mentoring opportunity whereby two men come together to study God’s word, pray, and then apply it to life and business. This is highly relational and involves tremendous personal growth.” (Note: CBMC, Christian Business Men’s Connection created the program).

OSLC has two and soon to be three graduates of the Operation Timothy Program. It is a significant commitment of time and effort, but well worth it!

There are twenty (20) online modules to be studied at home and “Paul & Timothy” will meet each week in-person for 1.5 hours to discuss each module. What is unique and differentiates it from a typical bible study, is at least a third of the time each week is sharing stories and getting to know each other. Invariably a genuine friendship is formed. The goal is for the Timothy to complete the program, become a Paul and then find and train another Timothy. The Timothy can be a non-believer or a believer.

During these tumultuous times it is a comfort to take the time to focus and grow your faith and then assist others in focusing and growing their faith. I was once a “Timothy” and now a “Paul”, reviewing these materials which include videos, podcasts, then discussing the topics, has been invaluable in my continuing growth as a Christian and making good friends at OSLC.

This has not been a traditional devotional, but it is a wonderful illustration of the continuing power of the God’s word. Apostle Paul and Timothy’s relationship has inspired programs like Operation Timothy, that are examples of what we can aspire to become if we devote ourselves to God’s word. Don’t despair in the current condition of our secular world. Love your Christian Brothers and Sister and despite the differences and difficulties, remember that Jesus loves the peacemakers and commands us to love our neighbors. Yes, these are extraordinarily difficult times, but Jesus expects us to overcome all, since we know that he is walking with us every step of the way.

Thank you.

  • Dimitri

 

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OSLC Church Member Devotion – #56                        September 9, 2021

 Forgiveness – A Gift we Give Ourselves

By Marlene Anderson

 “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall

 I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?  Up to seven times?’ 

Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’”

Matthew 18: 21-22 (NIV)

Jesus said forgive seventy times seventy.  We take it as a moral imperative.  But it isn’t just Jesus that tells us how important forgiveness is; science confirms it as well.  In fact, not to forgive is putting a slow death sentence on ourselves as the theologian Frederick Buechner so aptly describes. 

“Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun.

Top lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past,

to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor

to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are

giving back – in more ways it is a feast fit for a king.

 The chief drawback is what you are wolfing down is yourself.

The skeleton at the feast is you.”

Frederick Buechner

Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC

(New York: Harper & Row, 1973)

Most of us deal with the sins and transgressions of others in the moment.  We get mad, pull away, and then make up and go on.  When we are the transgressors, we do the same. With minor goofs and slip ups, we feel bad in the moment, apologize, and then continue with life.  

When we personalize indiscretions or offenses of others, however, we are setting ourselves up for the creation of a “grievance story” as detailed by Dr Fred Luskin, in his book, Forgive for Good. When we hang on to and repeat over and over again our story of resentment, it becomes more and more toxic.  It is hard to forgive the injustices we experience. We struggle with our desire to get retribution or revenge in some way. 

In the book of Genesis, we read the story of Joseph and his brothers.  It is a classic example of favoritism, jealousy, and being wronged.  Joseph was hated by his brothers, and they tried to get rid of him.  He was taken into slavery, thrown into prison but then released because he was able to foretell dreams.  The ruler of Egypt put him in a position of power.  When the dream of an impending major drought came true, his brothers along with others came to Egypt to get a handout.  They did not recognize Joseph, but he recognized them. He was in a position to get revenge and retribution.  But he didn’t. After a few transactions with them, he told them who he was, forgave them and rejoiced that they were together again as a family.

Forgiveness opens the door for reconciliation.  It allows the possibility of a new relationship. It is not condoning inappropriate or hurtful behavior or even forgetting a painful past.  It is choosing to let go of the hurt and pain.  Forgiveness does not change the past but changes the present. You are choosing not to allow the past to continue to hurt you, allowing healing to occur.    

Forgiveness does not mean you condone, deny, or minimize inappropriate and hurtful behavior, or that you will automatically reconcile with your offender.  It does not mean you give up feeling, become a passive doormat or give up claims for justice or compensation.  It allows you to put in place healthy boundaries. It allows you to experience peace by choosing not to allow your grievances to take over your life.  Forgiveness is more for you than the other person.

It is not easy to let go of long held grievances.  But if we want to live a productive and happy life, resentments and bitterness will only get in the way.  Forgiveness – it might be the greatest gift you ever gave yourself.  

“Lord, help us to recognize any resentment we hold. Help us let go of it and replace it with grace, understanding and forgiveness.  As you forgave us, Lord, let us forgive those who might have hurt us.” Amen

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Is there a 5th Gospel?!
by Dimitri Berk

July 22, 2021

Romans 16:17-18 Now I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause dissensions and obstacles contrary to the doctrine you have learned. Avoid them, for such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites. They deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting with smooth talk and flattering words. 
 
2 Peter 2:2 Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of these teachers, the way of truth will be slandered.

 It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period…

Dicken’s first few lines sums up the world and my life as of this writing.  My life is wonderful, yet simultaneously excruciating.  Why?  My son just visited us for two weeks and it was the first time I’d seen him since December of 2019, a COVID driven 1.5 years! He lives and works in Washington DC.  He is a wonderful human being, happily married and life in general is going extremely well for him, except he will not have eternal life; he is a non-believer.  We talked once again face-to-face about Christianity. One of the major components of his disbelief is the “fruit” of Christianity which includes the historical Christian Church and the current Christian Church and the misery it has brought to many people over the centuries as well as currently.  He is a professor at a major college and as you can imagine he can build a strong intellectual and factual case that would dissuade an uninformed non-believer from ever casting a shadow on the front door of a Christian Church. This breaks my heart, because these so-called “Christians”, church teachings and actions he is citing, could dissuade any seeker or non-believer from ever reading the inspired Gospel.  What an utter tragedy! 

I suspect what my son has experienced, is legion and you and I must intentionally combat the evil one’s campaign to obfuscate Jesus’ true message and the corruption of the 5TH GOSPEL.  There is a 5th Gospel? Yes, there is!  It’s not an inspired Gospel but an inspiring Gospel.   The 5th Gospel is us!  Christians and how we live our lives in front of others!   Bobby Conway is the author of The Fifth Gospel with the tag line of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and you. Quoting him, “This was Jesus’ original intention, for ordinary people like us to live inspiring lives, pointing others to the only message, the only person, who can give them hope for not only this life but also the next”.
 
We are a Lutheran Church, and our namesake, Martin Luther, was a strong proponent of going out into the world and teaching the Gospel to non-believers who were called heathens. They were simply non-believers; it was not a pejorative term in Luther’s time.  We as Christians and Lutherans must live in the world to show our love to Luther’s present day heathens. We are called to be salt and light, not dust and darkness.  People who misrepresent themselves as righteous Christians and the 5th Gospel, can be powerful enough to dissuade non-believers from ever picking up the Bible and reading the God-inspired four Gospels.   My son’s eternal life will be determined by his own decisions and God’s. He is responsible to seek out the truth and jettison the untruth.  It is my fervent prayer that he and others like him throughout the world will be contacted and influenced by Christians who are led by the Holy Spirit and are the true salt and light in the world.
 

2 Corinthians 11:3-4 But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one, we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed. 

  • Dimitri

 
Peace be with you

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Candace Spong #54 — 7/15/2021

A Psalm for Your Day

By Candace Spong

 

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

 

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The Reunion

Devotions – July 8 – Carol Curtis

We have a family reunion each Sunday when we gather for our worship service! The return to worshipping and fellowshipping together, in person, has brought immeasurable comfort, peace and satisfaction as we emerge from pandemic isolation. Many of us find ourselves overwhelmed by joy when we see people face to face. This is especially true for our church family.

Reunions of all kinds happen, especially in the summer, when families, former classmates, or those who served together in the military gather to remember the past and celebrate the moment. My high school class reunion is coming up in a few weeks. For several months I have been thinking about those I will meet again after many years. Some of my classmates who still live in the hometown area have spent months organizing the celebration – the food, entertainment, reservations. Individually we plan our travel and personal reservations for lodging. This is our first road trip since the pandemic started, so driving to Montana may be a little different from past trips, but we know the route to get there!

There is another kind of reunion, our reunion someday with Jesus. Each one who believes in the Name of Jesus is invited to this reunion, one that is beyond our imaginations. The plan is in place, as found in these passages:

1 John 14: 2-3: “I go to prepare a place for you…I will come again and take you to myself, so where I am you may be also.”

John 14: 21: “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me…I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Acts 1:11: “Jesus will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

2 Timothy 4:8: “From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord will give me on that day, and not only to me but to all who have longed for his appearing.”

Job 19:25: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth.”

Knowing that God always keeps his promises, we can wait with great hope and joyful expectation for this reunion with Jesus Christ. Now is the time for our preparation.  What do we do, as believers in Christ, to prepare for this reunion? What is the route that we take to get there? Scripture teaches us what we must do:

Colossians 3:1-4: “For if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

Psalms 119:1-3: “Happy are those who walk in the law of the Lord…who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong but walk in his ways.” Read the rest of Psalm 119 to see the many ways God is close to us and guiding us

Acts 2:21: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

“Setting our minds on things that are above” is a lifelong process. Sometimes it is two steps back and one step forward, and sometimes – hopefully more often – it is two steps forward and just one step back. We can always count on the Bible, God’s written Word, to guide us. We may think the Bible is difficult to read and understand. Or we say we do not have time to read it, or we “get enough” about the Bible by attending worship services and church-related events. Let us be careful to not make those excuses!

For reasons only God knows, we are not given the day and time of Jesus’ return. Instead, God knows us and seeks to bless us by providing what we need until his return. God always accomplishes what He knows is best!

Let us pursue a life of substance with God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The greatest blessing of life is a life knowing God and living with him. We await the greatest reunion of all!

 

When the King of Glory Shall Come Again

When the King of Glory shall come again, all his power revealing,

Splendor shall announce his reign, life and joy and healing;

earth no longer in decay, hope no more frustrated,

see your Lord with glory crowned, share in his rejoicing.

Based on Isaiah 35:10

   Christopher Idle, c 1975

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Humility Versus Pride
by Barbara Crow
July 1, 20201

 Though I am saved and blessed, I still have my human nature to deal with.  It is one of Satan’s favorite places to poke me.  I know this is a universal problem.  It continually causes problems with people world over.  We are continually being told to take pride in who we are and what we do by our family, friends, educators, employers.  The problem is in what the Bible tells us.  We are to be humble.  How does that work? 

Pride and arrogance can be blended in a person’s mind.  When that happens one believes he is always right.  His plans cannot fail.  He is not tolerant of other people and their opinions.  That person is the cause of problems at home, in neighborhoods, in business, and in the church.  In Proverbs 8:13 “wisdom” says “I hate pride and arrogance.”  Mark lists arrogance among a list of evils.  We must ask The Holy Spirit to alert us when we begin to think arrogantly, and guide us in our thinking.

So, what about pride?  It is natural to be proud of things we do well.  We may think “Look what I did by my own efforts.  I have special abilities.”  Paul told the Romans not to think of themselves more highly than they ought, but think of themselves with sober judgement.  In 1Philipanns he took that thought a step further by telling them “…in humility consider others better than yourselves.”   

Now let’s replace the word “abilities” with the word “gifts”. 1 Corinthians Chapter 12 announces “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit…and he gives to each one, just as he determines.  So, we ourselves did not create our gifts.  Why should we be proud?  Instead, we should thank God for the gifts He has given us, and ask him to guide us in how we use them.

In the effort to be humble, we must look for guidance to our Lord Jesus Christ.  “Who being in very nature of God …made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…and being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross.  Philippians 2:6-8.

Precious Lord, thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit who guides, corrects and teaches us in the process of leaving behind our old self-centered ways to become your obedient servants.  Help us to always be acute listeners to his voice.

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Mercy and Grace in a Lemon Tree
“Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and
Christ Jesus our Lord.”

2 Timothy 1:12

by Rebecca Wietzke
June 24, 2021
 

At a recent Alpha gathering, one of our table friends asked about the difference between mercy and grace.  A good discussion ensued, and it prompted me to think about how often we hear these words without truly pondering the weight of their meaning.  Author Judy Ponio explains: “Grace is a gift we don’t deserve; mercy is not getting the punishment we do deserve.”  In order to honor what God has done for us, we must recognize that we are in need of mercy and grace, accept His gifts, and grow in extending the same to others.
 

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need.”  Hebrews 4:16

Just as we look for mercy and grace in our times of need, others must be able to receive the same from us as followers of Christ.  For years my sister Susan has patiently nurtured a little Meyer lemon tree on a corner of their front yard in the hot Georgia sunshine.  The tangy fruit is prized all the more for the time and care required to bring about a small yield each year.  One day from her upstairs window she noticed a laborer for a landscape company working in the neighborhood step out of his truck, walk into the yard, take some lemons from the tree, and drive away.  She called the company to explain what had happened and to ask that the workers not take any more fruit.  No insistence for payment or demand of consequence for stealing, only mercy.  The next morning a humbled man, sent by his employer, came to her door to extend his regret.  He had only wanted to experience the taste of the lemons.  Apology accepted, he turned to leave.  “Wait,” Susan said.  Into the house she went, only to return with the gift of a small bag of lemons from the tree for his family to enjoy. Grace.

As people of God we are the recipients of the greatest measure of mercy granted through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  As Pope Francis said, “Jesus Christ is the face of God’s mercy.”  It is “from His fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” (John 1:16) What astonishing life-giving gifts given to us who are so undeserving!  What should our response be to a love so deep?  A life of thankfulness, obedience, joy, and witness that honors God must also reflect His gifts in the way we treat others.  It is not in our sinful human nature to extend mercy and grace.  Each day we read about or encounter situations where hate, anger, selfishness, and revenge are common reactions.  We must admit that we, too, are guilty of these actions in small and large ways. 

Mathew Schmalz, author of Mercy Matters: Opening Yourself to the Life-changing Gift, writes, “Mercy is a love that responds to human need in an unexpected or unmerited way.  At its core, mercy is forgiveness.”  How very hard it is for us to extend mercy when we are wronged, slighted, or hurt, but how very like the Father to open His arms and heart to gather us into His mercy, His forgiveness.  But there is more!  Forgiven, we then receive the fruit of His grace, that undeserved gift of love, favor, and blessing.  This week let’s all look for opportunities to be mercy and grace givers in Jesus’ name in grateful response to our Father’s extravagant kindness.  How can we withhold those gifts from family, friends, neighbors, and strangers when He has given us the ultimate gift so freely?  Mercy and grace…they can be as small as a lemon and as large as the Father’s love. 

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#50 Devotion for week of June 20, 2021                   

 

FREEDOM

 

The year 2021 is a very special year to consider the topic of freedom.

As we approach Independence Day on July 4th this year, it may have a greater significance to us after more than a year of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the last several weeks, we have finally been able to gather at church without wearing masks, doing temperature checks, and sanitizing our hands. We can meet with our friends and broader families without fear of illness.

Freedom is also a major theme of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

After his baptism and temptation in the desert, Jesus returned to his hometown of Nazareth, where he was selected to read from the scroll of Isaiah.  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, and to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

Jesus then told those present that the scripture reading had been fulfilled in their hearing.  For those who knew him growing up, it was too much to take. The year of the Lord’s favor referred to the Jubilee, which occurred only every 50 years. According to the Law of Moses, slaves would be freed, those who had lost their property due to poverty or misfortune would have it returned, debts would be forgiven, and other acts of extravagant grace. When God gave his people laws for establishing their home in the Promised Land, it was with the intent of preventing homeless, generational poverty and servitude. In short, to stand in contrast to the general trends of a sinful world: “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”  But only the Chief Priest could declare a Jubilee year, and Jesus was a carpenter from Nazareth, and from the tribe of Judah, not the priestly tribe of Levi. He had no lawful right to declare a year of the Lord’s favor. Furthermore, no Jubilee year had been declared for hundreds of years, and the gap between rich and poor in Israel had probably never been greater. Among those people expecting the Messiah, it was believed that God’s Anointed One would, among other things, start his mission on Earth by declaring a Jubilee year. For Jesus to say this passage of scripture was being fulfilled was shocking, perhaps even scandalous: was Jesus, the carpenter’s son, really the Messiah?

Not surprisingly, the priests in Jerusalem also hated Jesus for his presumptuousness.  

It was while preaching in the temple of Jerusalem that Jesus had this encounter with his fellow Israelites:     

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves to anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So, if the son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:31, 35-36)

Jesus is speaking to an irony of human nature. Most of his listeners had no concept that they were in slavery to sin. They considered themselves as favored by God, perhaps righteous even, because they were descendants of Abraham, with whom God made an everlasting covenant. 

We see a similar response to Jesus today. Many people don’t consider the Gospel as “Good News” at all, because they do not grasp the gravity of the bad news: all human beings from the time of Adam and Eve are slaves to sin. Some simply deny sin exists, saying that there is no objective right or wrong.  Others view sin as something other people do: lie, steal, cheat, commit adultery, and kill.  Being more enlightened than our ancestors, some people add “modern” sins such as racism and intolerance, but these are practiced by “despicable people.” Others hold the view that because we live in a Christian nation and occasionally attend church or said a certain prayer at Bible camp, well, that makes us right with God. This is the modern equivalent of being “children of Abraham.”

But Jesus said, “Whoever hates his brother in his heart is guilty of murder, and whoever calls his brother a fool/moron/idiot will be liable to judgement; and whoever looks at another woman with lust has committed adultery with her in his heart.” Jesus wanted to make it clear: we are all slaves to sin.

Conversely, it is an interesting phenomenon that it is often easier to come to Christ when our sins are sufficient to cause us feelings of continual shame and guilt. This is when forgiveness and salvation become genuinely Good News. Similarly, it is those who have been deprived of their basic freedom who most long for it, while those born in it live with a feeling of entitlement.

When the Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a young man, his German university professors encouraged him to study at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.  But at Union, Bonhoeffer was disgusted to discover that solid Biblical theology was being replaced by a “new gospel,” essentially, the power of positive thinking. He found many students were dreadfully ignorant and even openly contemptuous of Scripture. 

But Bonhoeffer had the good fortune of being invited to Harlem’s Baptist Church, where he discovered that the black people deeply resonated with their Savior, a man “despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3) The cross was front and center, and the congregants were jubilant in their worship. They were no longer slaves, but sons and daughters of Almighty God, singing, “Whom the son sets free is free indeed.”  Bonhoeffer developed a passion for Gospel music and took recordings with him back to Germany. His time in America taught him that where there is no experience of deep suffering, there is little love for Christ. What was missing in Union Theological Seminary – the Holy Spirit – he found in the black-American churches, where the memory of slavery was fresh, and the experience of daily oppression was real. Perhaps Bonhoeffer’s time in America even helped him stand in resistance to Adolph Hitler once he returned home shortly before the outbreak of World War 2. 

A final thought on Freedom: This past week, Congress passed into law a new Federal holiday: Juneteenth, that is, commemorating June 19, 1865, when 250,000 black-American slaves in Texas were suddenly free after the end of the Civil War. My prayer is that our nation will learn to celebrate this new holiday with enthusiasm, remembering, “In Christ there is no East or West, in him no South or North; but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide Earth.”

                                                                             Arnold Ronning 

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Ezekiel Saw a Cedar

Grant Gard

June 10, 2021

 

            In the reading for next Sunday are several pictures of planting. I’m drawn to Ezekiel 17:22-24 “…the sovereign Lord says: I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it…it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in its branches…I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.”

            Some would say this a foretelling about the coming Saviour. And that certainly fits. God’s new start of His “family tree” comes in Jesus, the “Chosen One.” What looks like a tearing him from life (crucifixion) is used by the Father to restart the “family tree.” God did it!

            It’s only recently I discovered the accuracy of this word picture in Ezekiel. I’ve assumed that evergreen trees were only propagated by seed. It turns out that a skilled nurseryman can take a cedar cutting and thus develop a new tree. It’s renewing to practice applying “I know that He is able to do far more than we ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20). Isn’t God great?

            In the variety of activity in the growing season it’s good to draw deeply on the connection God made with us. By use of “Word and sacraments” and prayer our forefathers described it. Sometimes “stuff” gets in the way. Recently a genealogical search company send me a message about a “cousin” whom I should meet. It turns out the computer got in the way and was telling me about my grandson, and we reaffirmed our direct connection. 

            There’s another facet in the words Ezekiel penned – about the “birds.” Consider who else is in the shelter of God’s family tree…nearby, on the same street, elsewhere in this country, Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas…How blessed if one is aware they pray for us…how opportune to reach out and to pray for them.

            Worth remembering: neither I, nor you, are a “bird” or a piece of wood. Let God’s gift of trees reminds you “Smile, God loves you!” 

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Color My World!
by Elsie Wietzke

June 3, 2021

“The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the firmament reveals His handiwork.” Ps 19:1

“He hath made everything beautiful in His time…”  Eccl. 3:11a
 

Each time I look out our front window, I am astounded by the many shades of green I see on the foliage of trees and shrubs.  I see new growth on the tips of the Maple tree branches, with just a tinge of color; the variegated hues of the ferns; the deep forest greens of the old cedars and hemlocks looming skyward across the street; and the bright yellow-green of moss blanketing the rocks.  As if that were not enough, we are graced with views of our tall, swaying calla lilies whose trumpet-like blooms of soft ivory trumpet their beauty, while fantastically formed iris in shades of lilac, deep purple, and white boast of their intricate design.  The hanging baskets cradle blossoms of scarlet, pink, orange, yellow, and lavender—all beneath a bright yellow sun and a heavenly (yes!) blue sky. 
 
As my eyes savor the scene, I am startled by the arrival of more color!  A deep-blue stellar jay swoops down on the suet block, flicking away a red-winged blackbird and a pink house-finch who had staked their claim.  On the swinging feeder, our little yellow finches peck away at the nyger seed while keeping a wary watch lest the blue-gray dove flaps his way over them. I see a stunning rust and black towhee peering from beneath the heather.  Even closer, against the pane of glass where the hummingbird feeder hangs, bursts of color hover and flit about, as the tiny ruby-throated and the iridescent-green hummers vie for positions on the rim.  Beyond our window, and in climes different from our own, are a myriad of other birds, other colors. 
 
I am convinced that in His grand design for our world, God carefully planned His artistic touch, for all of His creation is cloaked in color!   Perhaps most noteworthy in a consideration of the Lord’s use of color is the rainbow, that magnificent arch of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.  In Ezekiel 1:26-28 the colors of the rainbow are compared to the glory of God, while in the book of Revelation John compares the rainbow colors to the glory or power of God.  After the Great Flood as recorded in the book of Genesis, God set a rainbow in the sky as a sign of His promise to never again destroy all life with the waters of a flood.  To this day, when we see His rainbow, we are reminded of our Lord’s forgiveness and faithfulness. 
 
Scholars, among others, have assigned symbolic meaning and significance to the colors in the rainbow, as well as to colors that are mentioned in the Bible.  There are fifty-three verses about color in the Bible, and twenty refer to the color blue.  Colors are used throughout the Old and New Testaments to reflect meanings or spiritual truths.  They have a symbolic significance and can remind us of God and His plan for our salvation.  But for the purpose of this devotional/meditation, I would ask you to simply bask in the colorful splendor of our world; to meditate on the goodness of our God, who chose the colors with which to enhance it; and to revel as one piece of His creation whom He has chosen to so beautifully color—whether you are red or brown or yellow, black or white.
 
It is not surprising that the expression of awe and appreciation for the color and variety and wonder of God’s creation has found its way into music.  I am thinking of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.”  When I listen to him sing it and consider his words, I think: “For heaven’s sake, Louis, are you sitting here beside me, looking out my front window?”  Listen:
 
   I see trees of green, red roses, too.
   I see them bloom for me and for you.
   And I think to myself, “What a wonderful world!”
   I see skies of blue and clouds of white,
   The bright and blessed day, the dark sacred night,
   And I think to myself, “What a wonderful world!”
   The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
   Are also on the faces of people going by.
   I see friends shaking hands, saying “How do you do?”
   They’re really saying, “I love you!”
   And I think to myself, “What a wonderful world!”
 
Let me share with you that, through reflection and prayer for guidance in preparing this devotion, I was eager to discover music and lyrics that not only expressed awareness of the beauty of our world but also acknowledged the creator of such colorful magnificence. I could hardly believe what I came upon!  It is a simple Mexican folksong whose lyrics were translated by Raquel M. Martinez in 1940, and it appears in The New Century Hymnal.  I came upon it when researching music on-line.  It so perfectly expresses the essence of what I wish to share.  Its title:  “Sing of Colors.”  I was amazed at how closely it reflected what I had felt and what I had written.
 
   Sing of colors that over the hills in profusion are springing;
   Sing of colors that fly outside my window, their canticles singing;
    In the rainbow’s bright colors, God’s promise of hope we recall;
   Sing of colors that make up the earth
   And give thanks to the God who created us all.
   Sing, rejoicing, every creature that breathes,
   Raise a song of the God of creation!
   Sing, rejoicing!  Sing to God who has offered salvation.
   Sing the Good News!  Sing the love of the Savior
   Reflecting the colors of all.
   Many colors that shine from God’s face,
   Many colors that tell us God’s love to recall.
 
And lastly, read the words—or better yet, sing them—of the hymn found on page 546 in our hymnal, Lutheran Book of Worship: When morning gilds the skies, My heart awaking cries,
“May Jesus Christ be praised!”
 
May you be acutely aware of the diversity and color of our world as reflected in all of nature—in the growth of the land and the yield of the air and the sea; in the colors of the heavens—its golden sunrises and multicolored sunsets, its luminous moonlight and its silvery stars; in the skin of those He created in His image.  May you be blessed with a sense of awe and reverence as you meditate on the Creator of all this magnificence—whose greatest gift is Jesus Christ—who brings the color of life and the song of salvation to all who believe!

 
Heavenly Father, color my world with kindness and patience,
with compassion and understanding. 
Color me faithful and thankful! 
I ask this in the name of Christ.  Amen

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Getting to Know Our Savior

By Randy Zielsdorf

May 27, 2021

 

Jeremiah 9:23-24 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Philippians 3:10 That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.

There are so many verses in the Bible that speak to the importance of knowing our Savior.

Getting to really know someone is so important in coming to love and respect them.

One very important and useful way to get to know our Savior is through the Word, and by truly diving in and studying the Word.

Most of us knew what our parent’s occupation was, or is. Knowing what they did was important to us and was a part of getting to know them.

What, if anything, does the Bible say was Jesus’ early occupation?

Mark 6:3 states: Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? And they took offense at Him. Matthew 13:55 says, Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? It was common in those days for a son to follow in his father’s occupation. So, it makes sense that Jesus may have learned Joseph’s occupation.

Going deeper into this subject, we see that the Greek word used here is “tekton”. Interestingly, the word can mean carpenter, but equally it can mean: artisan, craftsman, builder – mostly associated with construction. Since there was not a great deal of wood in Jesus’ day in Nazareth, most of the homes were made of stone. Jesus may have created homes from stone. No matter what, we learn Jesus created things, He built things with His hands. He was an artisan, a craftsman.

Isn’t it interesting that in Genesis 1:1 we find God creating the heavens and the earth. John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.

I read this somewhere while studying this subject: “Can you sense the loving grip of a master craftsman clutching you in His hand as He molds and shapes you into the image of Christ for His glory? Of all the professions in the world, Joseph, Jesus’s earthly father, was a craftsman, a stonemason. He could have been a vineyard worker, a fisherman, or a sandal maker, but he wasn’t.”

In closing, I had this final thought; what does a carpenter need to begin building? He first needs a beautiful, God-created tree. From that, a fairly plain looking piece of lumber with lots of little flaws is made. From those plain, flawed pieces of lumber, with the help of God, careful design, hard work, and devotion, the carpenter constructs an exquisite piece of furniture that becomes useful again.

That’s kind of like God’s creation of us, and how we are flawed but we are made righteous. Romans 5:1-11

If we refuse God’s help, and try making it on our own, we can end up with nothing more than sawdust.

The story of Jesus being a carpenter is just one small piece of information about our Savior. The Bible is filled with stories full of crucial detail that will give you critical insight allowing you to have a closer relationship with Jesus. Dive in, go deeper, learn all you can about our glorious Savior.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

 

God’s Garden
by Lois Stahley

May 20, 2021

 
It’s Spring! Trees are leafing out in their green finery – rhododendrons and azaleas are showcasing their magnificent bright blooms against deep green leaves – birds are singing their praises – gardens and fields are being planted to reap a wonderful harvest – all of this against the backdrop of a bright blue sunny sky…or a sky of gray clouds. It really doesn’t matter – the season determined by God has arrived!

Mixed in with all the wonderful sights of spring are also those pesky weeds – weeds that could choke out the beauty that spring brings. If left unattended weeds can also, to the point of death, lead to a serious illness for us and to animal life.

God’s garden begins its “new beginning” in the very core of our inner selves – in our heart – the core of life itself. It’s a good time to assess if we are growing some personal weeds in God’s garden. Remember, these are OUR plantings – not God’s. We are the ones who let the weeds take root, and we may even fertilize and water them regularly. Our Creator God desires us to live our life free of these weeds.

Here is a partial list of “our” weeds, and what God says about them. In fact, let’s use His Word as the Round Up (commercial pesticide) for our weeds.

     Self-Reliance, or “I will do it my way, thank you very much!” Forget about the best way – God’s way. Isaiah 53:6 says, “We have all wandered away like sheep, each of us has gone his own way.” Read the 23rd Psalm, and you will find phrases that say, “He lets, He leads, He renews, He guides, He is close, He comforts and protects, He prepares, He welcomes.” This is God’s way!
 
     Discontent (or I want a, I wish I had a). We don’t want much we tell ourselves. We may want a bigger or better house or car, a recreational vehicle, a cabin by the water or in the woods, or maybe a larger screen television. All these material things are NOT yours. St. Paul writes in Philippians 4:11-12, “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little.”
 
     Worry/Stress (or the dandelion of the heart weeds). Watch the persistent growth of a dandelion. It will most always poke its flower head just above what is growing around it. Worry/stress has been connected to high blood pressure, heart trouble, blindness, migraine headaches, and a whole host of stomach disorders. In Matthew 6:27 Jesus says, “You cannot add any time to your life by worrying about it.” Matthew 6:34, Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow because each day has enough problems of its own.

By late summer, our enthusiasm wanes in keeping the weeds, which never quit growing, out of our gardens. We’re tired of the heat, the bugs, etc. and look forward to winter and respite from our garden work. Sometimes a Christian life is like that. Our enthusiasm begins to falter as the years wear on. We’re tired of watching the weeds in our society, we droop under the “summer heat” of living in a world that grows more distance from our mighty God, and the weeds that infest our lives seem more than we can handle.

Jesus understands our struggles. He was, after all, true man. When you’re weary and overburdened, Jesus invites you to come to Him. “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28.
 

May All Your Weeds Become Wildflowers

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May 13 Devotions

DEVOTION:  OUR LITTLE OYSTER

 

The partial list below is worthy of our prayerful reflection.  It’s painful.

 
-Breakdown of the nuclear family.
-Addiction: alcohol, marijuana, coke, acid, oxycodone, heroin, nicotine, meth, sex, porn, video games, carbo’s, gambling, etc.
-Racial: bias and injustice, protests/riots.
-Corruption: business, politics, law enforcement, government.
-Abuses: children, marital, employment, animals.
-Human trafficking: prostitution, slavery.
-Mental illness: minimal treatment systems, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia
-Education: minimal occupational training, outdated curriculums, accountability, failure for the bright, unequal educational systems (inner-cities vs suburbs).
-Extinctions: mammals, fish, insects.
-Carbon Dioxide: emissions, forests, water, ice.
-Litigiousness: personal injury, employment, custody, property, education, medical, elections.
-Homelessness: mental illness, drugs.
-Poverty: haves, have-nots.
-Environment.
-Wars.
-Law Enforcement.
-Welfare State.
-General danger.
-Medical: COVID, the whole medical industry, diabetes, asthma, cancer, heart trouble, flu, accidents, etc.
-No universal national ethos.
 

Over the last 15 years, with a breaking heart, I have come to the conclusion that America is cumulatively at or on the verge of an irreversible civilization breakdown (Greek/Roman). We can’t pinpoint when that point will be reached, but, personally, I believe it is coming. Probably, not in my lifetime.

I discussed my conclusions with my cousin a number of years ago. He became more and more agitated the longer we talked this way. Finally, he said, “Perry, we have to believe that someone will arise who will lead us back to the right place!” (Hmmm, any prophesied scriptural figure come to mind?) Check out this description in Revelation 13.) 

I have often had conversations with a lifelong unbeliever and super conservative friend I’ve had since elementary school. After we go through the old friend exercise of multiple jabs and insults, we talk about the state of things in our Country and the World. Then, after touching on numerous troubling contemporary topics, David will say, “I’m just an observer. There’s not a “xxx” thing I can do about this mess.” When I try to explain that, if he was a believer, he would have the opportunity to be far more than just an observer. That’s when he cuts me off with an expletive and says, “I’m not interested.” 

I love this guy and pray for him often. He’s a classic example of the whole point of this devotional. 

Beyond voting (or perhaps being active politically) can we hope to have any effect on the big picture? (Please note the scope of the list above.) Yeah, we can and should volunteer/contribute to helping our fellowman. God bless all who do so! But nearly always it’s a local activity. And that, also, is the point! 

We can have a significant impact by loving our neighbors into God’s kingdom. I think and pray a lot about specific neighbors that we love. When this COVID thing is beaten down and we are able to entertain again, Joy and I are going to throw some parties. Let’s “dream” about what God might want to do through us where we live and work. Can we see everyday life as the place where God wants to be? Everyone loves a party and celebrating together. Anyone who knows and loves Jesus can host a feast around Him.  How about a feast where nonbelievers could be comfortable, but, knowing full well they are in the company of people who love Jesus? The kind of people that eat, breath and work within their culture, while sowing love, kindness, grace, redemption and Good News. 

Mt. 5:14 – 16

You are the light of the world. A city on the hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

 In the Bible, light has always been a symbol of holiness, goodness, knowledge, wisdom, grace, hope and God’s revelation. Jesus is saying that what should be seen are the good deeds that we perform. God intends for the World to be able to see Him by the reflection in His people. We are called to be the light of the world. How do we bring light? Let’s think about 14 ways: (1) listen (2) give hugs (3) give hand-written notes, emails, phone calls. (4) bring joy (5) throw a party/feast (6) walk together (7) have a movie night (8) garden together (9) barefoot: grass, sand, water (10) don’t sympathize, empathize

(11) shed some tears (12) help with goal setting (13) just be there (14) express gratitude

This is everyday stuff. Everything stuff. It’s worship!  Pastor Mark, a few months ago, urged us to internalize the phrase, “EW – Everything Worship!” What’s written above speaks to EW. Because we love Jesus and are grateful to the core for his lifting our sins from us, we are set free to in everything worship. Perhaps, if we share the love God has for every person, the ugly picture illustrated by what is listed on the first page of this devotional will change.

James 2:15-17 and 24

Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead.

You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

May our Heavenly Father fulfill in us and OSLC His purposes for His glory. 

Love, Perry

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Two days ago, on Mother’s Day, Elsie Weitzke began our worship service with a wonderful tribute to mothers. She also wrote a beautiful poem about her own mother. I was asked if I would share her tribute in written form. I thought others might also enjoy reading it for themselves. I asked Elsie and she granted me permission. So, today, I’m sending her writing in place of my own. Thank you, Elsie!

 

Have a blessed day! Pastor Mark

 

Devotion for Mother’s Day
by Elsie Wietzke
May 9, 2021
 

It’s Mother’s Day, and it’s always gratifying to receive expressions of recognition and love from one’s children. Not all among us are mothers; but each of us is a son or daughter of a mother. And, whether we are mothers or not, each of us has the mothering capacity to love and nurture others. Consider Mother Theresa, that saint of Calcutta; she had never given birth to a child, but she mothered every needy child that was brought to her. And in Isaiah 66:13, God Himself declares: “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.”

Do you wonder how best to please your mother or honor her memory? Listen to these words from Proverbs 1:5-7: “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a garland on your head and pendants for your neck.” And in the 23rd chapter, these words: “Let your mother and father be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.”

In describing a virtuous woman whose attributes are worthy of admiration and praise, Proverbs 31:28 tells us that “Her children rise up and call her blessed.” Do we, who are mothers, fall short? Of course we do. Can we, as children now grown, acknowledge that perhaps our bonds with our own mothers need strengthening? Of course we can, for I Peter 4:8 tells us, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” Add to that this beautiful admonition from the Book of Colossians, 3:14: “… put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Many of us have lost our mothers; some have lost a child, and we grieve such a loss. Listen to what Jesus promises us in John 14:18: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” And so He has: He has sent Holy Spirit—our Comforter.

Like many of your own, my mother immigrated to this country many years ago. I came upon an old photograph from 1923. In it are a group of over forty people—extended family and friends gathered for a farewell as my mother, then seventeen years old, and her family, prepared to leave their home in Germany and sail to America. I gazed long and hard at my mother—and then I wrote this poem that I’d like to share with you today:
 

~     ~     ~     ~     ~

My Mother Anna
Biersdorf, Germany: Summer 1923
 
The gathering of kinsman, forty-five strong, solemnly stare
From black and white six by nine,
Clad in clothing dark and unadorned (the wee ones, too).
Only you (sitting beside your grossvater), in frock
Trimmed in checkered pattern at cuffs and collar,
Are smiling.
 
Your beauty leaps from the photo and startles me!
It is unsettling to see you so, at seventeen,
For you are gone these many years,
And I, myself, am old.
 
Did this farewell photo celebrate (or lament?)
Your family’s farewell to all familiar—
To all held dear?
And were you smiling in anticipation of a brave new world?
Or were you brave beneath your smile?
 
I remember tears, at times, as you recalled
The hills of home,
And childhood’s ties across the seas:
Grandparents, cousins, friends; the village and nearby kirche;
Treasured hymns sung in native tongue; foods and customs;
The house you still called “home.”
(Why, now, do I weep?)
 
Yet, when you reached these shores, saw Liberty with torch aloft,
You carried with you, “home”:
Our garden mirrored that on Biersdorf soil,
And succulent Germanic flavors filled the home you made
For us—for me!
O, Tannenbaum and Stille Nacht still stir my heart
For want of you.
 
 
I search each austere countenance in faded photo,
Then gaze at you—my eyes unwilling to give you up.
Thank you for the smile you could not know
Would strike my heart with painful brilliance,
Four-score and ten years
From that summer afternoon when you and yours
Posed—a gathering that bade farewell
And sent you off to distant shores—to mother me
And call this “home”!

Poem by Elsie Wietzke
 

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How Can This Possibly Be God’s Plan for Our Children?
by Dimitri Berk

May 6, 2021
 

6 He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

Mark 9:36-37 
Locally:
…. In WA, a newborn is born to a drug-addicted mother, the baby is heroin-addicted and stays in the hospital for 6 weeks detoxing.
…. In WA, the police find a car not moving at a 4-way stop with the engine running and find both parents passed out in the front seats on drugs with a toddler in the backseat crying.
…. In WA, two toddlers are taken from the parents by DCYF for safety because of domestic violence, child neglect and drug addiction by the parents.

World-Wide:

  1. According to UNICEF (2018 data), 1 million children diefrom undernutrition each year on planet earth.
  2. The WHO (Word Health Organization 2016 data) estimates that up to ONE–BILLIONchildren between 2-17 years old have experienced physical, sexual, emotional violence or neglect in ONE YEAR!

14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Matthew 19:14
 
I have personal knowledge of the first three cases mentioned because I’m a CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocate (for newborns – 17 years old) who is assigned children that have been taken from their parents and placed in the custody of the state for safety reasons.  My goal is to provide the best possible outcome for the child with the first priority being to return the child to their parents if possible.

The second two reports, reflect global impact on children.  It is shocking, bewildering and almost incomprehensible to me.  One cannot help but wonder how this can be part of God’s Plan?

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Jeremiah 29:11-14

We are on this earth for a nanosecond on the eternal clock. God’s plan for us was devised to encompass our existence for all eternity.

We look at life through a human lens while the lens God uses is infinite.

The greatest human minds in the past few thousand years have tried to understand God’s plan in relation to global and individual catastrophes.   Yes, there are brilliant theories, free will, etc. but the entirety of God’s plan can only be partially revealed to us through the understanding of scripture.  God’s comprehensive plan for the earth and the universe must rely on human conjecture.  The entire truth eludes us all because we have human minds, and we are trying to understand the mind of the God who created the universe. 

I preserve my sanity when exposed to the aforementioned tragedies knowing that this is God’s plan and much of it is unknowable and unfathomable.  I have faith and trust in Jesus, Holy Spirit, and the Father that what has been disclosed to us through scripture and Jesus is enough, until we finally meet in eternity and the entire truth revealed.

– God Bless You All

     – Dimitri Berk
 

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Candace Spong #43 – 4/29/21

Eyes

 

Many times, over the last year we have only seen people’s eyes above their masks.  It seems a bit limiting to miss out on lovely smiles or read sadness in a down-turned mouth.  But we can read so much in each other’s eyes!

“The eyes are the window of the soul.”

Don’t you find this true?  I met a friend for coffee one day and her first comment was ‘Something’s wrong….I can see it in your eyes.”  She knew me well.  It’s often said that someone has a twinkle in their eye, or you’re a sight for sore eyes (that one confuses me), keep your eye on things, just eyeball it.  Wanting to gain a Biblical perspective, I searched the word ‘eye’ in my concordance.  I was surprised to find that word occurred so many times in the Bible!  Here are just a few of the verses:

“The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”  Psalms 19:8

“Open my eyes that I may see…”  Psalms 119:18

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.”  Psalms 121:1-2

“…open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light.”  Acts 26:18

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you.”  Ephesians 1:18

Our eyes are much more than sight!  The catalyst for this devotional began with worshiping along with an Amy Grant song entitled “Father’s Eyes.”  Here are some of the lyrics:

I may not be every mother’s dream for her little girl

And my face may not grace the mind of everyone in the world

But that’s all right, as long as I can have one wish I pray

When people look inside my life, I want to hear them say

 

She’s got her Father’s Eyes

Eyes that find the good in things

When good is not around

Eyes that find the source of help

When help just can’t be found

Eyes full of compassion

Seeing every pain

Knowing what you’re going through

And feeling it the same

       Just like my Father’s Eyes

 

What do your eyes reflect to others?  My prayer today is that the good news of the Gospel and our Father God’s grace, compassion, acceptance and peace will be reflected in your eyes; that others will see Him through the window of your soul.

 
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Member Devotion
April 22

The Friendship Factor

FRIENDSHIP: bond, relationship, alliance, attachment, rapport, companionship, closeness. What a positive word! Jesus showed us true friendship when he said: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14. He calls the young ones to him, and he never forgets about or takes back the offer, no matter what our age is.

God set for us the complete and perfect example of a friend way back in the time period 1350-1200 B.C. where it is recorded: “The Lord spoke to Moses, face to face, as one speaks to his friend.”  Exodus 33:11

 We are told “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness, and he was called the friend of God.” James 2:23

Friends are important to us in countless ways. Friends are to be treasured. Remember the old rhyme: “make new friends but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.” As adults this may sound simplistic and outdated, but it is so true.  Those of us with small families (and with large families, too!) know the importance of friends and we seek friendships. One can never have too many friends!

I think our hesitation of whom to call a friend can easily touch on pride. PRIDE: arrogance, conceit, smugness, egotism, vanity, immodesty, superiority. Pride is not always a positive word. I have given a lot of thought lately to the word pride after reading “Good Apple,” a book written by Elizabeth Passarella. She was raised in the South by a Jewish father and a Christian mother, then moved to New York City where she now lives, happily, in a 1241 square foot apartment with her husband and three young children. She writes about family life with humor, warmth, and disarming frankness, building bridges – friendships – between people. In every chapter she weaves real life experiences with an abiding faith in God.

For example, Passarella writes about making lunches for her two older, school-age children, or rather, why she does not make their lunches. In New York City public schools, lunches are free and nutritious with many choices, but the reason she does not pack lunches is because she is good at it.  It feeds her pride. When she does make lunches (for special occasions like day camp) she fills bento-style boxes with leftover pasta and fresh strawberries, even adding pieces of candy and notes telling the children that she loves them and to have a good day. Then she calls her husband to admire her work or “skips to the living room to tell the kids” what she packed for them.” She states “packing lunches is bad for me. I already struggle with humility and packing an award-winning lunch puffs me up bigger than a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon. I don’t need the temptation.”

This humorous example of pride – making stellar lunches – was enough to get me thinking of the many ways, small and large, that I am prideful. I love cooking a good meal that our family enjoys, and planning an event that seems to work out well, but now I am asking myself: is this more about pride and less about humility?

Moving on, let’s consider some larger, far-reaching examples of how pride enters affects friendships, or lack of friendships. In Luke 7:34, Jesus is accused of being a friend of tax collectors and sinners. The accusation brings up a question: with whom should we be friends? Only the people who look and act as we do? Only those with common interests? Or should our friendships include the poor, the needy, the suffering and the lonely, those who live, look and act differently from us?  Friendship is what Jesus showed us as he cared for strangers, outcasts, sick and poor people, those who were down and out, rejected by society. He showed us friendships should be all-inclusive.

Friendships happen at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church of Stanwood. Deep, meaningful, true friendships. Can we each be more aware of those who need and long for friendships?  They may be  hurting and lonely, the strangers in our midst, easily unnoticed in the crowd.  With God to guide us and the Holy Spirit to fill us with His love, we can reach out in friendship and share His love. What opportunities for friendships await us!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life”. John 3:16

 

Your friend,

Carol

 

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Member Devotion #41

4.15.21 – Barbara Whitaker

What’s In A Name?

Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Sunday morning, April 4, 8 AM, Stanwood…….

The magical wonder of sitting in a populated sanctuary, vaccinated, sun shining through spectacular windows, folk spaced safely, and that magnificent floral cross of resurrection.  Pastor Mark proclaims “HE IS RISEN!!,” and we respond “HE IS RISEN INDEED!!” Twice, just to make the point. The organ revs up (thank you Linda) and the music fills the previously quiet walls with the glorious beauty my car has lacked for a year.  I have tears in my eyes, for all these reasons. HE IS RISEN INDEED. And we sing.

“Jesus Christ is ris’n today,  Alleluia!…….” and so on.

Romans 19:13 “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

And so it goes. Easter Sunday, 2021.  One I will not forget.  Beautiful Psalm, expected Gospel reading, celebration of the first Last Supper, powerful Sermon (plus those words Pastor points out, “We all play the game of life. And we all lose; at some point we are all going to die.  Game is over, unless something changes the game”…..memorable truth).

Little does he, nor anyone else at the service, know how true that point hits to what is also bouncing around in my head. Since 2003, I have not attended an Easter service without solemnly celebrating all these understood, above mentioned, highlights; coupled with this treasured moment I wish to share:

Knowing my German mother, born in 1918, who was raised in a Methodist church in Chicago, and sang “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today” all her life, and that upon my dad’s passing in 2000, refused to attend church with me for the next few years.  I was, at that time, attending a Presbyterian church with my family, and suffice it to say here for brevity, that for her stubborn German blood…..if it was not a Methodist church, she would not attend. Well, in 2003 my friend Jone and I dragged her to the Easter service. As the service began, much like ALL Christian Easter morning ones do, just as ours did last week, we began the same hymn, but from the Presbyterian hymnal. But wait: Big shock! The words were, “Christ the Lord is ris’n, today….” and so on. Further, the verses varied, and each began with “Christ the Lord…..”. Well, that 90 pound, 85 year old singin’ darlin’ went silent the rest of verse 1, but come verse 2, and each subsequent one, belted out above the congregation and choir, the words “Jesus Christ” at the top of her lungs, then sang lovely the rest of the verse. Unbelievable.  Jone and I were in (silent) hysterics, after the initial shock….wishing we could melt away. Four more verses.  Unforgettable, you see.

Matthew 28:6. “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”

Annually, Jone and I text during our respective services (sorry, Pastor Mark) as the hymn is played and sung. Annually we recall, endearingly, the moment(s) at the start of each verse.  Annually, at the Easter service I miss my mother terribly…but I chuckle as well. 

Matthew 1:16. “and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband, of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”

So, yes indeed, “….we are all going to die.”  I miss my mother, but how blessed are we that Jesus Christ, aka Christ the Lord in some songbooks, has gone before us, taken our sins, and paved the way.  And yes, to that heavenly place where eternity unites us again forever with those we have loved and lost for now. 

Those tears in my eyes Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021…..for oh, so many right reasons.

Philippians 2:9-10

 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

and gave him the name that is above every name,

     that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow

in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”
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OSLC Member Devotion #40

God’s Green Thumb

By Rebecca Wietzke

April 8, 2021

“Woman,” Jesus said to her, “why are you crying?  Who is it that you’re seeking?”  Supposing he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you’ve carried him away, tell me where you’ve put him, and I will take him away.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary.”  (John 20:15-16)

            At this time of year, many of us turn our thoughts and energy to gardening.  Some may have a tiny patch or a few flower pots; others may tend large, abundant plots brimming with vegetables and flowers.  Some of us hope for the best when we scatter seeds, while others have taken courses to become experts in propagation, pruning, and harvesting. 

            Wherever we may fall in the spectrum of gardening interest and ability, we know that The Master Gardener, God Himself, has been at work creating natural beauty since the beginning of human history.  “Then God said, ‘Let the earth produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and fruit trees according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds.’ And it was so.”    (Genesis 1:11) From Eden forward, gardens, vineyards, orchards, and crops abound in Scripture.  Countless songs, poems, and books have been written about these Biblical images.  In Genesis 2:8, we read that “The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, and there He placed the man He had formed.”  In Genesis 2:15: “The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it.”  This was and is active, holy work initiated and modeled by the Creator for Adam and for us.  In the final stanza of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The Glory of the Garden”, we read:

“Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees

That half a proper gardener’s work is done upon his knees. 

So when your work is finished, you can wash your hands and pray

For the Glory of the Garden, that it may not pass away!

And the Glory of the Garden it shall never pass away!”

            The mustard seed in Luke 13 is sown in a garden to provide shelter and shade.  Gardens as a source of food are mentioned in Amos 9:14 and in Jeremiah 29:5. Throughout the Bible, we read about gardens as places of rest, contemplation, beauty, and sustenance.  Jesus retreated to pray in the quiet of the garden of Gethsemane before His death.  He was buried in a garden tomb.  And, glory be to God, Jesus became the Risen Saviour in that same garden.  The green thumb of God that made seeds sprout from deep and dark soil, ordered blossoms to burst from buds, and called forth fruit from trees brought about the ultimate rebirth: Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

            I love being in my garden.  That is not to say I’m an expert!  Each spring we clean winter’s leavings, make purchases at Orchards Nursery, and add new healthy plants to our garden.  That provides immediate garden satisfaction.  The leap of faith for me is growing plants from seed.  All of those lovely seed packets hold such promise when I look at the colorful pictures.  Upon opening the little envelopes, I’m always taken aback. Can those dried up specks really become cucumbers or poppies or dill?  Will the seeds actually become food or beautiful flowers?  They will if I tend the seeds as directed by gardeners who know more than I.  I look to others for advice on placement, sowing, watering, weeding, and harvesting.  If I go my own way, more often than not the seeds stay seeds.

            What of the garden of our lives?  In I Corinthians 3:6-7, Paul talks about his planting, Apollos’ watering, but God giving the growth.  “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”  In much the same way, I can plant and water those tiny seeds, but it is God who brings about all life.  From the bare branches of our existence, He brings forth the fruits of the Spirit.  From the deep, dark places where the seeds of sin hide, He calls out the blooms of forgiveness and new life.  He prunes our tangled messes and grafts us to Jesus, the True Vine.  Yes, God’s green thumb restores the earth and our lives.  He is the loving gardener who tends all of creation with an eye to restoration, new growth, and beauty.

            Through her tears, Mary mistook Jesus for the gardener on that early morning.  While He was, first and foremost the Risen Christ, He was also the gardener of her life.  He planted the seeds of faith and love when He healed her.  He watered her trust and obedience as she followed Him, even to the cross.  And there in the garden, He brought the promise of eternal life to full, blazing bloom in glory.  Thanks be to God!

———————
 

4-1-21 Elsie Wietzke #39

 

“Do This in Remembrance of Me”

Luke 22:19

 

This is the holiest of weeks.  The palms no longer wave, and the exultant shouts of “Hosanna!” have morphed to the shouts of “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”  But before the infamous “trial” and conviction, the agony of Gethsemane, and the tortuous events of “Good Friday,” there was a significant and somber event that unfolded on that splendid—yes, splendid!—Thursday night in 33 AD.  We have come to call that day “Maundy Thursday,” and we commemorate it tonight.  The English word “maundy,” according to scholars, comes from the Latin “mandatum,” or “commandment” (mandate).  How does that relate?

 Our Lord Jesus personified servanthood in the fullest sense when he washed the feet of His disciples, directing them to do likewise.  And then ( John 13:15) He spoke these splendid words: “Do you understand what I have done for you?  I have set an example for you, so that you will do just what I have done for you” (serve one another, even those in stations below yourselves). By His remarkable act, He gave a glimpse of what was to be completed on Good Friday: a sacrificial act of love.

 But it is in our Lord’s celebration of the Passover with His disciples in that upper room, where their last meal together was to be shared, that we especially focus upon today.  How poignant; how foretelling!  The Passover was to be honored in Jerusalem in remembrance of God’s rescuing His people from bondage and slavery in Egypt as recorded in the Book of Exodus.  Is the parallel not striking—splendid?  This was the day that Jesus knew that the beginning of the prophecy of his mission on Earth had come: the rescuing of sinners and the assurance of the heavenly “Promised Land”!  Gathered around that low table, the disciples heard our Lord speak the words we are graced with every time we approach His table (whether, this past year, at altar, in our “car pews,” or confined before screens):  ‘THIS IS MY BODY WHICH IS GIVEN FOR YOU.  DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME…THIS CUP IS GOD’S NEW COVENANT SEALED WITH MY BLOOD WHICH IS POURED FOR YOU.”  Consider the audacity of His words!  A new mandate:  they were henceforth, with this commemorative meal, to remember HIS broken body and HIS shed blood…HIS rescue of sinful humankind.  And then, in the stillness of that holy night, knowing all that was to come, these words that are splendid beyond comprehension and comparison—magnificent in their potential, if obeyed, to turn our world upside down in the most significant of ways:  “A new commandment I give you:  LOVE ONE ANOTHER.  AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, SO YOU MUST LOVE ONE ANOTHER  (John 13:34).

  Ah, Maundy Thursday—the night of the new commandment–directed to the hearts of the hearer, the reader—to you and to me—as it was to those who sat at table with Him!  Listen!  Jesus this night invites you to His table.  Come as his beloved guests, as sinners eager to be forgiven—for all, ALL, have fallen short of what is asked of us.  Forgive others who have caused you pain, loss, or anger; then accept the sweetness of His own forgiveness.  Grace!  How splendid!!  Holy Communion—a foretaste of the Feast to come, gifted by His resurrection that glorious Easter morning!

 

Heavenly Father,

     Words fail us as we strive to express our gratitude for the magnitude of your Gift of Love!  You sent your Son to live among us and to speak Your truth.  You sent Him to suffer and die for us—for our sins and for our brokenness.  We pray in His name—the name of Jesus, our Savior—one with You.  Lead us to humble and willing servanthood.  On this holy night, we gather at the table set for us by Him, and as we do, we REMEMBER Him, as He bade us do; and we renew our resolve to forgive others and to love others, as He loves and forgives us.  Soften our hearts!  Quicken our spirits!

     In Christ, we pray.  Amen

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DEVOTION
By Grant Gard

March 25, 2021

 
   With an inviting voice the pastor began the service “We are at the doorstep of Holy Week.”  Isn’t that an intriguing statement?  Of course we know that if we follow the Church’s “calendar” and we may have heard it somehow “a thousand times.”

   As he went on, he brought back my attention with “We believe in a God who doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker.”  To put labels on things and events is pretty human stuff.  It becomes a way of managing what comes “at” us, and of dealing with “where we are.”

   Before those two ideas were out-of-mind I was looking at a suggested Bible reading for Sunday:  Mark 14:1 – 15:47.  That’s a long section, but after all these years, a familiar piece.  Why not put the three things together?  

   So, I invite you to join me over the next week.  Using your own Bible:
            1 – read the entire section (14:1-15:47) more than once.
                   At least once out loud.
            2 – Pray that God will help you see a fresh message.
                  Making notes is OK
            3 – Be open to seeing something in your life
                       for which to thank God
            4 – Use the chance to share an insight from this reading
                       with someone.

   We’re at the doorstep …. Let’s go in…

 

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Devotional #37- March 18, 2021
by Arnold Ronning 

Gospel of Mark, 2:16-22
… When the teachers of the Torah (law) who were P’rushim (Pharisees) saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with sinners and tax collectors?”

            On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

            Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting.  Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”

            Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them.  But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day, they will fast.”

            Pastor Mark has been leading us through the earliest recorded Gospel by Mark, emphasizing that the message and example which Jesus brought to the nation of Israel was something that had never been seen before.  If we look all the way back to the time of the patriarchs, it is easy to forget that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their families did not have a Bible to read.  There was no Torah, or Law according to Moses, because he had not yet been born.  Their experiences with God were relatively few, and the message was usually simple and repetition of what He had told them before: “I have chosen you, I am with you, I will give you many descendants, and to your descendants I will give a specific land as an inheritance.” But without a written code of conduct to guide them between these times, their lives were filled with personal ambition, fear, jealousy, envy, adultery, and even murder. 

            When all the Israelites were finally rescued by God from 400 years of slavery in Egypt, the Lord gave them the Torah, the Law of Moses, to bring order and discipline to the everyday lives of the Israelites.  Moses warned them to keep the God’s commandments faithfully, turning neither to the right nor the left, promises blessings for faithfulness and curses – separation from God – for disobedience.  Unfortunately, what followed was wild swings of the pendulum on a national scale, from faith and obedience to idol worship and depravity. 

            By the time Jesus was born, the people of Israel had seen so much inconsistency, that groups like the Pharisees latched onto the vital importance of obedience to the Law for the safety and prosperity of their nation, Israel.  But in their fanatical adherence to the Law, they seemed to have forgotten the heart of the Law.  What was it for, anyway?  Was the sole objective to please God and experience His favor and rewards?  Did obedience guarantee prosperity and disobedience lead to rejection by God?  I would submit that this was the thinking that motivated many of the Pharisees. 

            Along came Jesus who seemed to push the boundary of the Law of Moses with almost everything He said and did.  The Law and Solomon’s proverbs said that associating with sinners led to being unclean, but Jesus ate with them and extended forgiveness.  The Law forbid Jews from associating too closely with Gentiles (non-Jews), but Jesus healed the servant of a Roman centurion.  The Law said, “You shall observe the Sabbath and keep it holy,” refraining from all work.  But Jesus would heal sick people any and every day of the week.  The Law said that adulterers should be stoned, but Jesus offered mercy and forgiveness.  Then, in an unexpected twist, the Law granted permission for men to write a bill of divorce, but Jesus said that a man who dismissed his wife made both himself and her an adulterer because what God joined together was meant to remain permanent. 

            What can we learn from Jesus?  Was he a rebel? Inconsistent? What I noticed a couple of years ago was that Jesus repeatedly took his disciples into situations where they would have to recognize that sometimes following the smaller law meant breaking the bigger law.  For example, it is right to rest on the Sabbath and trust that God will more than provide for whatever material benefits we might lose by worshiping Him for a day.  But because the motivation for every one of the Ten Commandments is love of God and neighbor, to do good to those in need on the Sabbath when necessary is the higher law.  It is wise to avoid running with the wrong crowd if it tempts us to sin, but if we never reach out to unbelievers, they will never know true forgiveness and God’s peace through Jesus Christ.  It is good to tithe and give to ministry, but if we do it at the expense of taking care of our parents in their old age, we have broken the fourth commandment to honor father and mother.  It is good to worship God together in church, but if there is a pandemic virus that will kill the vulnerable, how should we respond?  It is wrong to kill, but when a dictator’s armies have invaded a peaceful neighbor, how should we respond? When we stop to consider the heart of the Law, these choices may not be easy, but they should become clearer to us.

A Prayer:

Heavenly Father, we thank you for your Word which is meant to instruct and guide us in the most important decisions of life.  Lord, even among believers, we do not always agree on how to interpret your Law.  But in the life story of Jesus Christ your Son, we learn that Grace is the highest law.  Show us the balance between discipline, obedience, and mercy.  Amen.

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Member Devotion #36
by Randy Zielsdorf
March 11, 2021

I Love to Tell the Story


I love to tell the story   Of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory,  Of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story,  Because I know ’tis true;
It satisfies my longings As nothing else can do.

 

I love to tell the story,’ Twill be my theme in glory
To tell the old, old story  of Jesus and His love.

 

I love to tell the story; More wonderful it seems
Than all the golden fancies  Of all my golden dreams,
I love to tell the story,  It did so much for me;
And that is just the reason I tell it now to thee.

 

I love to tell the story;  ’Tis pleasant to repeat
What seems each time I tell it,  More wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story;  For some have never heard
The message of salvation  From God’s own holy Word.

 

I love to tell the story;  For those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting  To hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory,  I sing the new, new song,
’Twill be the old, old story, that I have loved so long.


Written 1866
Text by Katherine Hankey
Melody William G Fischer

 

The other day I was out driving, and out of nowhere I began to sing this old hymn, I Love to Tell the Story, and the memories began flooding back. Memories of singing this song in the church I grew up in, Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in McMicken Heights, Washington located on a hill just above SeaTac airport.
 
I could hear my mom and dad’s voices as they sang the hymn. I felt like a little kid again sitting next to them along with my two older brothers, my two younger brothers had not come along yet.
 
These are great memories.
 
Do old familiar hymns do that to you? Do they bring you back to another time? Songs can do that.
 
This song is a particular favorite of mine, it was a favorite of my folks too. 
 
As much as I love this song, I have to make a confession, and admit I don’t tell “the story” often enough. 
 
It seems that sometimes I attend church, sing the songs, especially the favorites, but then return home and to life. The service lifts me up, and feeds me, but I am not sharing “the story” as often as I should. I’m not sharing the messages I bring home from church often enough. It’s like I attend church simply for selfish reasons.
 
As the song says, “It will be my theme in Glory to tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love”.
As amazing as this story is, why don’t I share the story more often? I do share it, but not as often, and to as many as I should.
Romans 1:16
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
 
“I love to tell the story for some have never heard the message of salvation from God’s own Holy Word”.
I’m sure I am in front of several people each week where this line would be apropos for them, but again, too often I miss the opportunity.
Mark 16:15
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
 
“I love to tell the story for those that know it best seem hungering and thirsty to hear it like the rest.”
That’s right, even those who already know the story but may have stepped away from it and could use a “pick me up” to bring them joy at a time when all else seems to be letting them down. If I am honest, I miss this opportunity too often as well.
 
It does “satisfy my longings as nothing else can do” when I do make a point to share the story, and see later what a change it has made in that person’s life. It’s amazing what the Holy Spirit can do when all you do is spread a little seed around.
 
Thanks for taking the time to read and listen. I hope you go out and “Tell the Story”.

 

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BLESSINGS in a FIVE DOLLAR BILL

by Lois Stahley
March 4, 2021
 

God works in mysterious and unexpected ways! Have you had that experience with our God?

The end of January, a five dollar bill was given to me by a Christian brother. My first response was, “What’s this for?” The giver responded, “Don’t you like to receive gifts?” Of course, I do and I accepted the gift. That five dollar bill caused me to ponder, “What do I do with it?”

 I thought of the story that Jesus told, and recorded in Matthew 25:14-30. A master gave different amounts of coins to his servants, and went away. When he returned home, he asked for an accounting of his money. I knew I didn’t want to be like the servant who buried the money because he was afraid. The master told that servant that he could have at least put it in the bank and earned some interest. That’s probably not the best idea in these times right now.

What do I do with this five dollar bill?  It lay on the kitchen counter so that I passed it many times throughout the day. “Lord, show me what to do with this gift to glorify you.” Do I pay it forward to the person ahead of me in the grocery line? Do I break it into one dollar bills, and? Do I purchase something with it to create something for someone in need? When I see a homeless person with a sign at a stoplight, do I bless him with this five dollar bill?

What I did know for sure is that that five dollar bill was gifted to me for a reason. It temporarily belonged to me. It was a gift, and shall be gifted to someone else. But how and when?  Prayer is my only source for an answer. “Lord, where may I use this gift to best show your glory. I wait patiently for your guidance.”

Prayers are not always answered with an immediate enlightenment. God did not promise that, but he did promise to answer our prayers! We have to have open hearts to see those answers. “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24 NIV

At dinner one night in February, the conversation unexpectedly shifted to those Les and I had helped in the past. Memories shared of long forgotten opportunities – a mother at the cash register in a grocery store buying diapers for her young child only to find that she was short of the needed cash – a wife trying to use several credit cards to pay for her groceries only to have them deny her that charge, and then the man at the checkout putting items back because his cash would not allow him all of his necessities. It seemed that this conversation was part of the answer I was seeking. Bless someone who needs help with physical needs. My prayer focus shifted. “Where or how, dear Lord will this gift glorify you?”

Again, God answered. Take your gift on a Monday morning, on the busiest bargain day of the week, to the Goodwill in Mt. Vernon.  God also nudged me that the $5 bill needed more – bless more than one person! “How do I do that Lord?” I pondered how to do this as Monday mornings are busy in our house with Bible Study International Fellowship (BSF) and a Zoom exercise class. I waited on the Lord.

Arising on a Monday morning a couple of weeks ago, I heard God say, “This is the day!”  Prior to BSF at 9am, I made ready for the trip to Goodwill after class.  Two envelopes, tucked with money and a note that said, “I’m praying for you!” were ready to go. Necessary prayers ascended as the entire fiber in my body said, “No – you don’t have to go today!”  I asked for intercessory prayer from Les as I left the house. During the drive to Goodwill, my prayers continued for strength to step out of my comfort zone,  to lead me to the persons I should bless, what do I say to them without crying, and may this entire adventure glorify our God!

As I entered the store, it did not have a long line at the cash registers where I had thought I would look for someone. I began to walk the aisle toward the back of the store, praying, “Lord show me!” As I came to the back of the store and turned down another aisle toward the front of the store, I still had the two envelopes in my hand. “Lord, show me!”

He answered me! I saw a woman with a baby carriage with her back to me. I went down the next aisle, and met her at the end of her aisle handing her my envelope saying, “I would like to bless you with help for your purchases today,” and walked away after I heard her questioning voice say, “Thank you.”

With the remaining envelope in my hand, I thought I saw the next person to bless. However, she turned the corner and didn’t see me, and there didn’t seem to be any nudging from God to go after her. I saw a man, but God didn’t say “Go to him.”

I began my trek to the back of the store for the second time and starting to the front of the store again, I spotted a Mom with her back again turned to me, looking at the infant wear. I entered the aisle, and again gave my explanation of the envelope I was handing her. Her blue eyes looked at me and humbly express a “Thank you.” Time to leave the store having gloried God by blessing others.

As I sat in the car to return home to begin a Zoom exercise class, I offered a prayer of thanks to God for that unexpected gift given to me by my Christian brother weeks earlier, for being open to seeing the Lord’s direction in how it should be used to grow into something greater, and for the Lord directing and propelling me to leave a “random act of kindness” with two young moms.
 

Where is God sending you
in His mysterious ways His wonders to perform?

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

PROPHESY/FULFILLMENT

by Perry Watkins

February 25, 2021

 

In 1954 – 55, my senior year at Federal Way High School, our second semester Social Studies Class was Current Problems. One day in our class the discussion, don’t ask me how, came around to the subject of Christianity, Jesus Christ and His living presence. At 18, having grown up in the church, attending Sunday School, hearing years of preaching, attending Christian camps, participating in Bible studies, I rather naively, yet confidently, expressed my faith in Jesus. 
 

I was stunned when my basketball teammate said, “Christianity is a lot of historical hooey”, and that maybe he would believe in Jesus Christ if He was standing in front of him.
 

I could have been a far better witness for my Savior that day, had I been able to respond to my friend, Jim, with even a few of the 44 to 351 fulfilled Old Testament prophecies describing so many things about the coming Messiah. Even, if all I had to offer was the Chapter 53 of Isaiah, I would have at least been able to show that Isaiah foretold Jesus Christ’s qualities 740 years before His birth. Now, I know that prophecies were stated all the way back in Genesis.
 

I Peter 3:15

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
 

Perhaps you have had the privilege of being taught or able to study about these amazing historical prophesies. I must have been behind the door. I’m thinking you might appreciate seeing all of these prophesies in one list – Old Testament verse(s) of prophesies and New Testament verse(s) of fulfillment. Go to Google and type in “44 prophesies Jesus Christ fulfilled.” Or, if you want, a list of “351 Old Testament prophesies fulfilled in Jesus Christ,” type that on Google. 
 

I wonder if any other historical leader has 44 or more fulfilled prophesies about him or her. I kind’a doubt it.
 

What a heritage we have in Jesus Christ! Note the first sentence in 1 Peter 3:15; But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. There it is! Having a personal relationship (setting Him apart as our Lord) with Jesus is the foundation of our hope and our Spirit led ability to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give a reason for the hope we have in Him.
 

As I write this, I am painfully aware of how very inadequate my own ability is to give an answer. Please, Father, give each of us the power from the Holy Spirit to be ready.
 

God bless you as you seek His revelations to/for you, Perry.

* * *** * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 Is Jesus Piloting Left or Right Seat in My Life?
By Dimitri Berk
February 18, 2021

 

Psalm 37: 23-24
The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

Jeremiah 10:23
I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.

Proverbs 3:5-6
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”


A few weeks ago, when reclining comfortably in my car seat at parking lot church (it’s going to be hard to go back to the pews…) listening to Pastor Mark’s Sermon, I was suddenly given clarity to a lifelong struggle I’ve had and continue to have.

Pr. Mark was speaking about believing in Jesus guiding his life and that Pr. Mark always pictured himself in the driver’s seat of his car with Jesus next to him in the passenger’s seat. He knew Jesus was there, but he kept his hands on the wheel anyway and wouldn’t relinquish total control and let Jesus move to the driver’s seat.

This jarred my memory about so many decisions I’ve made in my personal life.

An example: 
I have a few hundred hobbyist hours piloting a King Air C-90 and a Citation 500 SP Jet for my former company.  I usually spent most of time in the passenger compartment working but would enter the pilot cabin to relax on occasion. I didn’t have a pilot’s license but learned how to fly by being taught by my pilot. I wanted to learn not for recreational reasons, but in case my pilot was suddenly incapacitated.  I always flew right seat (co-pilot), never the left seat (pilot’s seat).  Whenever I took over the flight controls, I always felt I was in command and I was to a certain extent, with exception of one important caveat.  My veteran pilot had over 15,000+ hours experience and if anything went wrong while I was piloting, he had the vast experience to overcome any difficulty that might confront us by simply having me drop my hands from my control yoke and he would take over on his control yoke in an instant. I was in control of the plane, but he was always monitoring my actions, and this made me feel confident and safe!

When Pr. Mark gave his car example, I realized that in my life I have deluded myself that I was flying left seat and in control of my course and destiny in life.  Listening to Pr. Mark’s sermon, I realized that I’ve never been flying the left seat, but that I’ve always been in the co-pilot’s seat with Jesus occupying the pilot’s seat in anything I do, not just flying.  I have lived my life as though Jesus was my co-pilot, but in reality, I was never the pilot, he was. My measly few hundred hours of piloting experience, is inconsequential compared to Jesus’s flight hours. Jesus has more piloting hours than all the pilots in history combined since the Montgolfier Brothers flew the first balloon in 1783!

As I write this devotional, I’m genuinely aware that I need to be constantly mindful of my ultimate pilot, Jesus, and to listen and follow his instructions, as I fly through the sky and my life.  

As Pr. Mark is allowing Jesus to be in the driver’s seat, I’m trying my best to put Jesus in the pilot’s seat and will willingly and gratefully be his co-pilot as I navigate the rest of my life. 

 
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
 
Candace Spong

Member Devotion

2/11/2021
 
WELL


As a former teacher of English as a Second Language, I have a fascination with words—their origins, usage and meaning.  As a lover of the great hymns of the church, I have an interest in their origin and meaning; there is so much theology and encouragement in them.  Combining those two things, I decided to look deeper into my life hymn:  It is Well with My Soul.  Ready? Here goes:

The word WELL can be used as a noun, verb, adverb and adjective. Here are definitions:
   noun:  a pit or hole sunk in the earth to access a supply of water
   verb:  to rise like a flood of liquid (‘tears welled up in his eyes’)
   adverb:  satisfactorily with respect to conduct or action (‘works well under pressure’)
   adjective:  being in a satisfactory condition (‘they are well, thank you’)


This word is used in all of these forms in Scripture. 
   John 4:11   ‘Sir, the woman said, ‘You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep.
                      Where can you get living water?’
   Luke 3:22  ‘…and the Holy Spirit descended on him bodily like a dove. And a voice
                      came from heaven:  You are my Son in whom I am well pleased.’
   Luke 12:31 ‘But seek His Kingdom and these things will be given to you as well.’
   John 5:15  ‘The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who
                       had made him well.’

Our soul is the deep well and foundation of our spiritual being.  When brought to life through Christ’s atoning act of sacrifice on the cross, that well spring of life is released and we receive His living water.  God the Father calls us His sons and daughters and is well pleased with us.  When we seek first the kingdom of God, not only is eternal life granted to us but all good things as well.

“It is Well with My Soul” was written by Horatio Spafford in 1873.  He was a Chicago lawyer and husband with four young daughters.  His wife and children set sail for Paris in November of that year (he was to join them several days later). There was a collision at sea. All four children died; Anna Spafford, his wife, survived.  On his trip to reunite with his devastated wife, the captain of the ship called him when they reached the spot where his girls had perished.  Instead of looking down into their grave, he looked toward heaven where he said his hope laid.  Later he wrote the great hymn.


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

Today’s circumstances may have us feeling sad, isolated, weary.  Look toward heaven. With Jesus Christ as your foundation, your deep well has living water that will give you hope….I pray it is well with your soul.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Carol Curtis

Member Devotion

February 4, 2021

Fellowship Begins with Our Heavenly Father

 

Relationships are part of humanity’s basic design, included in God’s plan from the very beginning of creation. We read in “Genesis” that God created man and woman to be in relationship with Him and with each other. Much later in time God made a covenant with Abraham, recorded in Genesis Chapter 15: “Look now toward heaven and count the stars if you are able to number them. So shall your descendants be…to your descendants I have given this land.”

New Testament writers reference God’s continued, ever-present fellowship with His people, Abraham’s descendants, with whom we are included: “You are the descendants of the prophets and of the covenant God gave to your ancestors, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your descendants all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.” Acts 3:25-26

“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:9

“We declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”  1 John 1:3-4  

These verses found in the “First Letter of John,” one of the last books to be added to the New Testament (AD 90-95), was likely written by an unknown teacher and elder to those in the community. “1 John” is concerned with testimony about Jesus. The author knows that people could easily be misled by false teachers, so he writes about the importance of fellowship, oneness with Christ (communion, companionship, friendship, partnership, mutuality), and the need for each other.

Fellowship with God can be anywhere, at any time and in any place. It is in prayer, reading his Word, and allowing the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us that we experience fellowship with our Heavenly Father. In the years soon after Jesus’ ministry on earth, a vital church grew:

“They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and prayers.”  Acts 2:42

An ever-present need for fellowship with Him is with us in our everyday lives and, especially for followers of Jesus, in our relationships with our church family. During this never-before-experienced Covid-19 pandemic, our fellowship in the church and in our community has changed dramatically. Who would have thought that our church sanctuary and newly (and beautifully) remodeled Fellowship Hall would be mostly unused as we should not gather inside buildings in large groups?  Our online and drive-up church services are a wonderful way to worship, but when we can safely return to inside gatherings, we will appreciate them as never before!

How long has it been since you had a hug from a non-family member? We are limited in how we can reach out to others. Our neighborhoods are quiet as we stay inside our homes. Students are separated from their friends at a time in life when healthy friendships are so important. I grieve for a friend’s teenage granddaughter in a Seattle suburb who is on anti-depression medication and has threatened suicide as she is confined to home, without personal contact with friends and school. She is isolated even when surrounded by people.

We yearn for fellowship. We need each other, perhaps more than we ever realized pre-pandemic. Our church is still and always will be a place for fellowship in community with others – friends, family and sometimes strangers, too. It is all in God’s plan that we worship and have fellowship together!

Alex Abdallah, our Youth Director, asked middle school and high school students to share with us why they value fellowship at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church. Here are their replies, unedited:

  • Knowing that Jesus is near when they gather together is a comfort to them.

“For when two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:20

  • Attending the Vine (youth group for high school age students) builds bonds not typically found in school.
  • Laughter, games, and good conversation are meaningful.
  • Fellowship enables the courage to ask the hard questions concerning our Christian faith.
  • Accountability is found when we grow in faith together.
  • Fellowship reminds us that we are not alone.

What is your response when you read these statements from students in our youth groups? Mine is one of awe and thankfulness to God for bringing us together in fellowship at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church! I would like to hear more from them, get to know them and their families, and find ways that we can serve together. We can learn and appreciate so much more with and from each other.

What can we do right now when opportunities for fellowship have changed and will likely continue to change again? First, let us ask Our Heavenly Father is show us – and I believe He will! – where to find our place in church fellowship. In addition to online and drive-up worship, many are using Zoom for Small Group meetings. Please call the church office if you do not have a Small Group and would like to be part of one. Phone visits are going strong. We offer Stephen Ministry by phone to those who need support as they go through difficult situations. We can always turn to God in prayer, read His Word the Bible, and open our hearts to receive His gifts of hope, peace and encouragement. No one should be left out of fellowship with God and with others if we follow necessary and sometimes different ways of achieving it.

This is a good time to send a card or place a phone call to someone you have not seen in a while, or to someone who is grieving or ill. Consider starting a conversation by asking:

  • What is on your heart?
  • What are you going through?
  • How is this affecting you?

For some of us, myself included, picking up the phone and making that call can be easily put off, but when it is done, and from the heart, it is act of love and service and is blessed by God. Offer encouragement and a reminder that God loves you and me.

“If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”  1 John 6-7

We need, and are called into, fellowship with God who established a covenant with His people of the Old Testament that continued in the New Testament and now, to us, 2,000+ years later.

With you in fellowship,

Carol

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Challenger…

or

…Out of Disaster Comes Hope, Plans for Betterment, and Light

Member Devotion
Barbara Whitaker

 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

 

35 years ago today, on Tuesday, January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster took place.  Those of us of age remember, of course the teacher Christa McAuliffe as being on board, but I imaging most of you only recall that 6 others were along with her. Each year, I remember these families, and think about how their lives were changed. To bring all of you along with me, besides the teacher’s family, there are:

 

Space Shuttle Challenger Crew

Commander, Francis R. Scobee’s wife and 2 children

Pilot, Michael J. Smith’s wife and 3 children

Mission Specialist, Ronald McNair’s wife and 2 children

Mission Specialist, Ellison Onizuka’s wife and 2 children

Mission Specialist, Judith Resnik

Payload Specialist/Engineer, Gregory Jarvis’s wife

Payload Specialist/Teacher, Christa McAuliffe’s husband and 2 children

 

That amounts to 17 spouses and children; plus parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, and a nation that was in sorrow.  I was among these. From the time Alan Shepard, Jr., became the first United States person in space on May 5, 1961, I had not missed a televised launch.  My father would make sure I was up before the sun on the west coast, at my request (just in case my alarm did not wake me)…but I usually was awake all night in anticipation of watching that launch!  Memories of Walter Cronkite narrating every moment with his archaic models, but giving clear understanding. I crumbled to the floor when the Apollo fire trapped and killed three astronauts. We learned from that tragedy to give the astronauts inside doorknobs to escape.

 

But nothing—nothing—was like standing in front of the television in my classroom at 8:39 AM PST, with 24 sixth graders, as that disaster took place. Coping with my own shock and anguish, dealing with my students, trying to understand, and, yes, asking God, what is going on? Why?

 

Well, the facts were later explained that this was the tenth flight for the Challenger orbiter; that shortly before noon, the Space Shuttle Challenger launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and was taking five crew, an engineer, and a school teacher into space. The launch was highly publicized due to the fact that New Hampshire high school teacher Christa McAuliffe was to become the first teacher in space, winning the spot from a pool of 10,000 applicants.  However, just 73 seconds after launch, the shuttle “exploded” in the sky, making a trail of smoke into the ocean. NASA would later blame the deadly launch on unusually cold weather in Florida which led to the shuttle’s booster rocket O-ring seals to become stiff, causing a leak. 

 

That night, then President Ronald Reagan was to deliver his State of the Union address; however, he postponed it a week, and instead paid tribute to the seven heroes lost that day in a 650-word speech to the nation regarding the disaster.  Knowing that Americans, young and old, had watched the disastrous launch, Reagan concluded with this, directly addressing the nation’s children: “I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It is part of the process of exploration and discovery. It is all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future does not belong to the fainthearted, it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future and we will continue to follow them.”  Reagan went on to say that the disaster would not bring an end to space exploration. “Nothing ends here. Our hopes and our journeys continue.”  Reagan finished his speech by drawing a comparison of the shuttle’s astronauts with that of the English explorer Sir Francis Drake, who died at sea mapping the world: “Today we can say of the Challenger crew, their dedication was, like Drake’s, complete. The crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger honored us with the manner in which they lived their lives. ‘We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them – this morning – as they prepared for their journey and waived goodbye, and slipped the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God’,” quoting from the poem, “High Flight,” by John Gillespie Magee Jr.

 

I remembered well that night; that upon hearing those words, I finally needed to stop my questioning and remember to look to God and His plan.  I remembered light can still grow in the darkest corners and no matter how deep the darkness, there will always be light waiting.  

 

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:9-10 (NIV)

 

I remembered that flowers bloom from soil and that stars in the heavens shine in the darkest hours. I came to realize over the years that followed, all that our space program learned from this disaster. As in all science, as in all tragic losses, we learn with the minds that God has given us. We learn how to make better and help improve and move ahead with knowledge and from mistakes.

 

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in (times of) trouble.” Psalm 46:1 (NIV)

 

Life will let you fall, but also give you wings.  It will make you walk through fire, but also light your path with all the gold it brings.  You can still find peace even if it does not make perfect sense.  It took me years to find any sense at all in this tragedy; and even today, I truly do not see the SENSE, but I know we learned. 

 

“There is surely a future hope for you,

  and your hope will be not cut off.” Proverbs 23:18 (NIV)

 

While we may not have applied all that was learned directly or solely into the space program, much has affected upgrades in technology, medicine, and day-to-day life improvements that have impacted each of us, and will continue to do so.

 

“‘So there is hope for your future,’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 31:17 (NIV)

 

Five years ago this week, a Day of Remembrance took place at NASA, Cape Canaveral, FL,  honoring the astronauts’ sacrifice some 30 years prior.  Many of their family members, including their children (some now well into their 50’s), were present and spoke.  They spoke of hope, of memories, and also heard was a voice from the International Space Station:  That of Astronaut Scott Kelly, who was spending that year in space.  Accomplishments were named, moments of silence observed, and wreaths laid. 

 

The Challenger crew had indeed touched the face of God.

 

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be glory both now and forever!  Amen.” 2Peter 3:18 (NIV)

 

Epilogue:  35 years ago tomorrow, on Wednesday, January 29, 1986, at 2:40 PM I gave birth to my first child, after many medical challenges and losses of my own. She was 2 weeks early, and I know to this day that was due to the stress I suffer the day before.  There is not a year that goes by that, while I re-live and celebrate the joys of her healthy birth, I also remember in prayer the families who were impacted with the flight of the Challenger disaster the day before.  No matter the darkness you go through, there will always be light waiting for you. 

 

“You are the light of the world.” Matthew 5:13 (NIV)

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –
 

The Light Shines in the Darkness
Member Devotion by Rebecca Wietzke
January 21, 2021
 

“The Word gave life to everything that was created; and His life brought light to everyone.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”    John 1:4-5
 

     It may surprise you to know that I have always loved science fiction. It began when I read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle in third grade. (Yes, young ones, it was a book long before it was a movie.) From there, it was Ray Bradbury, The Twilight Zoe, and Star Trek.  The stories I find most appealing speak to good/evil, hope/fear, justice/injustice, and dark/light. In a Twilight Zone episode called “Little Girl Lost” from 1962, a child falls through her bedroom wall into a strange, dark, foreboding place. Her parents hear her calling out but cannot find her.  Finally, her father risks everything by entering the darkness to find and bring her back into the light and safety of home. (I can tell you I didn’t sleep against the wall for quite some time!) But there is it: lost and found, fear and hope, dark and light. A father endangers himself to save his child. 

     “When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”   John 8:12

     In this season of physical, social, and emotional darkness, we have One who is our hope, our light, our Saviour. All of us have at some time been lost in dark places. It may have been the darkness of illness or death. Perhaps it was the “dark night of the soul” spoken of by poets. It could have been a place of sin known only to us and God. The only light that leads us home to the heart of God is Christ, the light of life. Through His grace, we are given a path candle-lit by the shimmers of prayer, Scripture, song, fellow Christians, and the intercession of the Holy Spirit.  As we follow His path, we are led to light eternal, not only through His love but through His sacrifice on the cross. He went to the darkest depths in order to give us the gift of eternal life and light. As Matthew 4:16 tells us, “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” 
     
     In the midst of winter, we look forward to longer days that give us and all of creation the light we need and desire. We are excited about sunny days in a weather forecast that has shown long stretches of gray. Faces shine and smile in the light of candles on the dinner table or birthday cake. Campfires and fireplaces become places where we gather together against the dark. A child sleeps well, comforted by the glow of a nightlight.  We are welcomed home by the friendly light on the porch. All of these dim in comparison to the glorious light we have in Jesus, the Morningstar, the Light of the World. It is in Him we truly shine, gather, rest, and are welcomed. 

     In turn, Jesus tells us, “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16) The light we give to others reflects His love for us and honors God. We are called to be the candle in the window to the lost, the daybreak to those who mourn, and the campfire to the cold and hungry. Think back to Christmas Eve and the beauty of those candles we held against the dark night. Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Just as one candle lights another and can light thousands of other candles, so one heart illuminates another heart and can illuminate thousands of other hearts.” How marvelous it is that Jesus calls us to be light and goodness and hope in Him for others! 

     In this past year, I have been introduced to Jan Richardson, a poet of great faith who has known darkness in the sudden death of her husband. In her book Circles of Grace, she writes, “Blessed are you who bear the light in unbearable times, who testify to its endurance amid the unendurable, who bear witness to its persistence when everything seems in shadow and grief.” I encourage you to find her books; they will bring light to your journey. May we be the bearers of Christ’s light in all times, in all places, to all people. To God be the glory! 

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Devotions – Week of January 17, 2021
by Arnold Ronning
 

“Immediately the Spirit drove him (Jesus) into the wilderness.  He was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan…” Mark 1:12-13

First, I would like to thank Pastor Mark for his very personal message on the topic of Jesus’ time of testing in the wilderness.  Because this has been a year of testing for so many people in our world and in our nation, I would also like to share a few more thoughts on this lesson.

Mark’s gospel is characteristically terse in its account, only two verses, and does not go into specifics about Satan’s temptations.  This gospel is very action-oriented and always seems eager to go on to the next story without getting bogged down in details!  Fortunately, Matthew and Luke chose to include three specific temptations: (1) Make bread from a stone after almost 40 days of fasting, (2) Throw himself down from the top of the temple in Jerusalem and (3) abandon God’s plan for the ultimate spiritual salvation of the world in favor of enjoying worldly (temporary) power.  Regarding the kingdoms of the world, Satan’s words are sobering: “I will give you their splendor and all this authority, because it has been given over to meand I can give it to anyone I want. If you, then, will bow to me, it will all be yours.” (Luke 4:8-10).  As Pastor Mark reminded us, in each case, Jesus refuted the Devil’s temptation by quoting Scripture. 

I would like to focus in particular on the second temptation, as recorded by Matthew: Satan challenges Jesus by twisting the words of Scripture (from Psalm 91, verses 11 and 12). 

“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here.  For it is written:

‘He will give his angels orders concerning you, to protect you, and they will support you with their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ (Psalm 91:11-12)

And Jesus answered him, “It is also written: Do not test the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 6:16)

This weekend I listened to a lecture about medical ethics, particularly as it relates to making difficult decisions regarding medical care near the end of life or when prolonging life greatly compromises quality of life and may lead to more suffering.  Another issue raised was, “How far can parents withhold certain medical therapies from their children based upon their religious beliefs?”  Specifically mentioned were Jehovah’s Witnesses refusing a blood transfusion for their child who has suffered trauma and blood loss; and Christian Scientist parents choosing only to pray for a child that has life-threatening meningitis.  (These scenarios are not theoretical or academic for me: over the years, I have helped care for children in all these situations.)   

And the interesting thing is, it is not simply theoretical for any of us during this COVID-19 pandemic.  As individuals, businesses, schools, institutions, and churches, we have had to wrestle with how far to comply with and rely on the recommendations of physicians and our governing authorities concerning physical distancing, wearing of masks, and washing/sanitizing of hands.  And while many consider the newly arrived vaccine against COVID-19 disease a Godsend, others view it with suspicion and distrust.  In the digital age it seems difficult to sort out fact from opinion because we tend to trust whatever we see in print depending on our views of the source.

So here is something to think about: Satan did not pull this temptation out of thin air.  In the years before Jesus was born, the Roman occupation of Israel really stirred up interest in and expectation of a messiah, someone who would deliver the Jewish people from a pagan government they did not choose.  An “urban legend” sprang up that the Messiah would announce his arrival by leaping from the parapet of the temple in Jerusalem (a height of 150 feet) and floating to the ground, held aloft and unharmed by angels.  Satan was challenging Jesus to do the showy thing, the spectacular miracle that would get people’s attention.  In modern terms, we might call it a publicity stunt. 

Jesus’ reply to Satan is forceful: “You shall not test the Lord your God,” from Deuteronomy 6:16. 

I believe that it is our heart condition that determines God’s response: are we truly trusting God in faith, or are we testing God to prove to other people the size of our faith?  The distinction is subtle, but one pleases God, and the other is a cleverly worded Satanic lie that appeals to our pride. 

May I offer a prayer?
Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me, and know my concerns.  See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way of life everlasting. May I have a soft heart for your Word and for my neighbors, and a guarded heart against the temptations of the evil one.  I ask for protection and for discernment, all for the sake of your Son Jesus, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

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Bethlehem Star, Magi – A Sequel
by Grant Gard
January 7, 2021

 

If you have driven across the Great Plains at night, on one of those lonesome stretches, didn’t that single light in the far distance impress you? The Gospel of John introduces Jesus with, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” There’s plenty of darkness, isn’t there? Wise and other-wise, still seek Him who came to Bethlehem, and Stanwood-Camano too, and is “the Light of the World.”
 
One connection for that light is in our prayers. January 5, 6, 7 are days in which persons affiliated with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ are asked to pray. Connected by the Light of Christ in 16 countries, we’re encouraged to pray. It’s “opportunity to express the deepest heartache and the greatest joy…a conversation between the Creator and the created.” On Jan. 7 the encouragement is to seek a clear vision of God’s calling and our part in it. That’s an invitation for us personally, and for our church. His enlightening may show something old, something new, enduring, and very possibly a new “mix.”
 
Prayer has lots of room for listening. When Gideon, Old testament faith-pioneer, was asked by God to act, he resisted, and heard back, in part, “the Lord turned to him and said ‘Go in the strength you have…am I not sending you?’” (Judges 6:14) That could be a “verse for today” and worth writing on a card and hanging in plain sight as a reminder.
 
Consider praying…
  Praise and Thanks to God for light, colors it shows, healing it promotes, showing the way to travel….
  Thanks for the renewing hope of a new calendar year…
  For the guiding voice of God’s Spirit amid the clutter and noise of the world and the tempters that would distract us…
  That our congregation, and the LCMC, respond faith-fully to our Calling…
  (presenting by name someone you know needing God’s light…)

Also consider a time of quiet listening, then conclude with The Lord’s Prayer.

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Endings and Beginnings

By Elsie Wietzke

Member Devotion

12-31-2020

 

             An analytic commentary on the overwhelming year coming to its close today, authored by Robert D. Putnam and Shaylye Romney Garrett, appeared in the December 14 copy of Times magazine, in a section called “The View,” which featured a series of essays. The article’s opening lines sum it up and are here worth repeating: “Unprecedented political polarization; deep and accelerating inequality; vitriolic public discourse; a fraying social fabric; public and private self-centeredness—Americans today seem to agree on only one thing: this is the worst of times.” And how could we fail to add COVID-19 to this list of devastating factors? Bear in mind that the title of this commentary is “The Power of We.” And while the authors continue their discourse in a socio-political consideration, I choose to use their opening words to consider the spiritual.

            Scripture thankfully gives us frequent reminders that, while we are in this world, we are not “of this world.” As we reflect on the brief catalog of the ills perceived in the year we are leaving behind, we cannot fail to see that the code of conduct our Heavenly Father asks of us is the solution to all of the above. We speak of certain behaviors or attitudes that are cloaked in terms such as “the public”; “the crowd”; “the constituency”; “the corporation.” When, in truth, thoughts, words, and actions are engendered by individual human beings, and they are carried to their hurtful conclusions.

             The issues of political dissent, inequality, hateful verbal exchange, decaying moral behavior, and egotistical selfishness are all addressed in Holy Scripture. Regarding political polarization: Romans 13:1-3: “Everyone must submit to governing authorities…I Peter2:13-16: Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to human authority…live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil…show proper respect to everyone…BUT REMEMBER: HONORING GOD COMES FIRST.” And consider I Timothy 2:1-4: I urge, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all goodness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. A most timely consideration is that of equality, or more to the point, inequality: Galatians 3:28 reminds us: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female. For ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” I rest my case on that beautiful mandate.

             As for our speech and behavior, the passages that speak of God’s will for us in that respect are myriad.  A favorite of mine: (Col. 3:12-16) “ Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you; so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” 

 

            You will recall that the title of the article under consideration is “The Power of We.” The “we” is only as powerful and effective as the individual “me.” It’s much like lighting one candle—but, oh, the beautiful brilliance when each of us lights one candle! As it happens, there was another thought-provoking essay in the series I referred to: “Our Awful Year,” by Stephanie Zacharek. As I read it, two comments leapt from the pages. One was “Our (Americans’) optimism is our most ridiculous trait, and our greatest.” My response is, may it also be said to be true of Christians, that assurance is our most mystifying characteristic and our most apparent! For there is no uncertainty in the heart of the believer. Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the assurance that what we hope for will come about and the certainty that what we cannot see exists.” Don’t you revel in that?! If you know the melody, sing it out: BLESSED ASSURANCE, JESUS IS MINE…OH, WHAT A FORETASTE OF GLORY DIVINE! HEIR OF SALVATION, PURCHASE OF GOD, I’M BORN OF THE SPIRIT AND WASHED IN HIS BLOOD.  THIS IS MY STORY, THIS IS MY SONG! PRAISING MY SAVIOR ALL THE DAY LONG! THIS IS MY STORY, THIS IS MY SONG! PRAISING MY SAVIOR ALL THE DAY LONG! Lovely!

The second comment was, “Our most debilitating threat this year was a sense of helplessness.” Again, we are shielded, protected, enabled and emboldened by God’s promises to his people. I quote one passage here and refer you to others: Ps 28:7: “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices; and with my song will I praise him.” Check out Is. 41:10, Heb 13:6 and Chron II 20:9. There are so many more! And if you would like to keep singing, turn to page 320 in the hymnal if you have a copy, or find the words online to “O God, Our Help in Ages Past…our Hope for years to come…You sound good! No, really!

I am running “overtime” here, I know! Just one closing comment/reflection: At the close of one of the essays, the question was posed: “Where do we go from here?” If we as the body of Christ move forward in the direction and in the manner He has laid before us, then we cannot help but go forward as faithful stewards, loyal citizens, and responsible inhabitants of the world in which we live. And beyond going forward…well, our hope and our aim is to go upward! So we bid 2020 farewell as we greet the days of our future with confidence and joy. Our reunion in our sanctuary will be jubilant! I love you and miss you all. Thank you for all your kindness.

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#24 Member Devotion

HOPE SEEN IN APPLES

By Lois Stahley

 

The end of October, Les and I spent a week at Lake Chelan. Apples were being picked in the orchards with many laborers, pouches over their shoulder, climbing ladders to gather in the red ripe fruit from the trees. From a distance the fruit, with the sun shining on them, looked beautiful hanging in between the deep green leaves with a bright blue sky as a backdrop.  

We saw other orchards where the trees were bare of apples, and God’s bounty on the ground…some turning brown with rot. We learned that some apples had been blighted by the smoke of the forest fires earlier in the year, and the apples were not marketable. Some growers were trying to make a bad situation work for good as boxes of “smoked” apples were for sale as apples for applesauce.

Once home, as I washed and cored those apples for applesauce, I thought of how we were created…in the image of God. Imagine that – God’s image – ALL people in God’s image! When God created the world, he saw everything as good. It wasn’t until sin entered into his perfect world that things changed. We became blighted, and now live in the likeness of Adam and Eve.

Yet, to our amazement and thankfulness, we were not left to rot on the ground, but instead lifted up with our blight, and given HOPE. HOPE to eradicate our imperfections – not to be mashed down into applesauce, but to remain imperfect with the promise that we will become that perfect person that, “God saw all that he made, and it was very good!” Gen.1:31NIV God, in love, provided a way to make clean those he had “created in his image!”

That first HOPE occurred in the Garden of Eden after the forbidden fruit was eaten. This same HOPE has carried down through centuries. “Therefore, the Lord will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Is.7:14NIV. One busy night in Bethlehem that promise was coming to fulfillment in a baby named, Jesus. “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel-which means, “God is with us.” Matt.1:22-23NIV

We live on the other side of that fulfillment…and we know the rest of the story of how our HOPE is made possible through the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Because of this great HOPE given long ago and our faith in this HOPE, we are, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life…” Rev. 22:14NIV.

Amen – it shall be so to those that believe in this HOPE!

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LUTHERAN CONGREGATIONS IN MISSION FOR CHRIST

A Devotional and Reflection

Perry Watkins

 

Luke 19:10           For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.

Luke 2:10             The angel said to them, “do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.” 

Acts 1:8                But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you and you will be my witnesses….

The term mission/missional/missionary, not in the Bible. But, witness is…mucho!

Mission is a group term. Witness is a personal term. 

Let’s reflect on personal first. 

I often struggle with just how comprehensive my witness to the life and meaning of that life in Jesus. Oh, I do okay witnessing to Christian friends the profound gratitude I feel for God the Father giving his only Son so that by that grace I will always be in his presence. Not so okay with my neighbors who I love and want for them to know the confidence and peace I have in God’s son. 

Seems like I’ve always known the phrase “fishers of men.” I used to sing,

 ‘I Will Make You Fishers of Men’ in the first Sunday School I ever attended. And, I’ve known and currently know powerful fishers of men for Jesus. Their daily quiet but spirit-empowered witness challenges me to step up.

The First Century Christians (particularly Gentiles) didn’t have Bibles, concordances, commentaries, theological writings, information/encouraging books. No, they simply had Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit in them as they witnessed to what God had done and was doing in their lives. The history tells us that those early Christians turned the world up-side-down even in the face of unimaginable persecution. 

So what’s the point? Knowing Jesus personally (being a new creature) and trusting the Holy Spirit to empower and lead you. That’s the whole point. 

You’re probably thinking, didn’t Perry contradict himself? First: not ok in his witness to his neighbors. Second: urging me to be a fisher of men. Yeah, you’re right. Let’s covenant together, to go to our Lord, seeking the power of the Holy Spirit Jesus promises his disciples. We’ve all read what happens at Pentecost. The power is promised. 

Why seek this empowerment anyway? Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ. “Mission is a group term.” 

Now I’m going to engage in some needed plagiarism. Others more elegantly express how I feel. 

The Christian church is called to the mission of propagating the gospel. A missional church functions as a missionary to its own community.  It eats, breathes and lives within its culture, while sowing seeds of love, kindness, grace, redemption and good news. Being missional means moving intentionally beyond our church preferences by making missional decisions rather than preferential decisions. 

The enemy of God would love nothing more than to have biblical churches to be ineffective, none evangelical and doing nothing about it. Do the names of people who have come to the saving knowledge of Christ through the witness of our church or one of its individual members in the past year immediately come to mind? 

Faith is the indispensable foundational ingredient for true growth in any church, both spiritually and numerically. There are three factors that a church must embrace to gain a missional focus:

  1. Renewed faith in Jesus Christ and the mission of the church.
  2. Renewed commitment to servanthood.
  3. More strategic prayer effort.

 

A church should be an organization, organized primarily for the benefit of non-members.

Many believers are convinced that the need for better believers is greater than the need for more believers. However, Jesus’ directives leave no question regarding the mission we have been given – to share the good news. No other command gets more emphasis in scripture. Developing new believers is not antithetical to making better believers. 

The greatest motivation for evangelism is our own relationship with Jesus compelling us to love those He and his Father love.  eople will not engage in evangelism until they have a vision to do so.  Ten, they will “go and tell” and invite their friends to “come and see.”  ntentionally pursuing the lost and leading people to Christ must be the measuring stick of missional churches.

Quotes above from the book Comeback Churches. 

 

The above, in no way, diminishes the awesome “good work” the people in OSLC have done and are doing even today in-spite of COVID. Let us think on these thoughts, pray about them and seek our Lord’s clear leading for the future of our church home.  

 

 

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Unexpectedly, I Have Even More

to Celebrate This Advent Season!

I Can’t Believe I Didn’t Know This!

 
by Dimitri Berk
December 3, 2020

 

Note: The word advent comes from the Latin word “adventum” which translates to coming / arrival.

 

Jesus’s First Coming is Foretold:

Isaiah 7:14

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
 

Jesus’s Birth and First Coming:

Matthew 1:23

So, Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

I genuinely believe in the axiom that when you repeatedly read and study the Bible, new depths of meaning and understanding are revealed to you from the instruction book that God gifted us all. As we all know the Bible is our instruction book on how to live our lives on earth and to join God in heaven. My latest personal discovery made me feel uncomfortable, because I couldn’t believe I didn’t know this decades ago. It concerns not some esoteric writing in the Bible, but something that everybody assumes you know.
 

What was it?

 
The complete meaning of the Christian Advent Season! This four (4) week celebration held late November until Christmas Day has been celebrated in some manner since the 5th Century. I thought that the Advent Season was exclusively a celebration of the birth of Jesus, but what I didn’t know was that just as importantly the Advent Season also celebrates the Second Coming of Jesus!

The Advent Season is an extraordinarily special time that celebrates both the historical and future coming of Jesus.
 

Jesus’s Second Coming:

John 14:1-3

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

Starting with the upcoming Advent Season I will have even greater joy in my heart. I will be celebrating the first coming and the second coming of my Lord & Savior Jesus Christ. The Advent Season is truly a wonderous season!

1 John 4:16-17
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.

To be a child of God and to have my heavenly father love me so much that he will send his son Jesus twice, once to forgive my sins and give me a pathway and a second time to take me with him for all eternity gives me boundless thankfulness and joy!

Unexpectedly, I Have Even More

to Celebrate This Advent Season!

I Can’t Believe I Didn’t Know This!

 

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Plant…Water…Grow…Harvest
Thanksgiving

by Candace Spong
November 26, 2021

 
Our Thanksgiving Day tradition began out of hearts grateful for the year’s harvest. Let’s work backwards on that: first we plant so that in time there is harvest.
 

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered,

but it was God who made it grow.

 I Corinthians 3:6

“Thus the saying ‘one sows, another reaps.’”

John 4:37

A friend here at church is in a hiking group. She was blessed by a member devotional that Becky wrote and decided to forward it to her hiking friends. Some know Jesus, others not yet. A couple of people responded, others did not—she wondered if she’d done the right thing. I say Yes! The Lord calls us to spread His good news. At the time we share we don’t know if we’re planting or watering…God grows it. The Scripture promises this:
 

“…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty but

will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

Isaiah 55:11

Oh, we may not see the result of sharing His word immediately nor ever this side of heaven. Most often our job is to plant and water. Sometimes we’re privileged to be part of the harvest.

Planting is not necessarily quoting Scripture to someone (although that’s always a good thing!). Planting may be a kind word or a gesture of service that reflects God’s love, grace and care. It may cause a person perhaps years down the road to remember and seek Christ. We’re to be part of the plan; our good God is able to turn hearts.

So many of us pray for loved ones’ hearts to accept Jesus. I never know when talking with someone and sharing God’s word, if I’m maybe watering a seed that was planted in childhood; a soul for whom parents or siblings have been praying.

I met a woman several years ago at our church in Bellevue who grew up in the same area as I did. Then we discovered we were next door neighbors 50 years ago! As we got reacquainted Robin got teary and said, “I know Christ as my Lord and Savior today because your family invited me to go to Vacation Bible School with you when I was seven and the seed of the Gospel was planted then.”

We are called to this, Church! I challenge you to be mindful. Listen to the Holy Spirit who is in you. Look at people through the eyes of Christ…the eyes of love, mercy and grace. We may not know the impact of an invitation or an encouraging word. Our Lord does.
 

Plant…Water…Grow….Harvest

 

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OSLC Church Member Devotion – #20                     November 19, 2020

 

                Comfort and Joy!                       

by Carol Curtis

 

In a few weeks we will hear the welcome and familiar music of Christmas sung in our church. If we go to a shopping mall or almost any kind of store, Christmas songs will fill the air as merchants hope to cheer us on and encourage us to buy and spend more. I wonder if many people in the secular world really listen or pay attention to the words that express the Christian message: Jesus, come to earth for us, to bring us Comfort and Joy and to offer forgiveness of our sins; the words, if taken to heart, that can change lives and offer hope.

“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” is an English traditional Christmas carol. It is also known as “Tidings of Comfort and Joy,” from the well-known lines of its chorus: “O Tidings of Comfort and Joy, Comfort and Joy, O tidings of Comfort and Joy.” One of the oldest carols, dated to the 16th century or earlier, we might wonder what that time period was like to inspire the composer to write the words Comfort and Joy, and set the tune in a minor key. Perhaps it was a time similar to our weary, Covid-laden world today, where hearts are heavy, and burdens easily overwhelm. Comfort and Joy are so needed!

A recent newspaper story titled “Craving Comfort” tells us we can be intentional about creating a calm and cozy space. We should reduce clutter to give ourselves space to breathe and relax. The author brings in objects from nature, such as leaves and rocks, when he goes on walks. He says: “I want this day to feel different from yesterday.”

Several years ago, I experienced the Comfort of the outdoors when our much-loved cat died. Tucker had been our favorite pet for 18 ½ years. When he was gone, all I could think of was “I have to get out of the house.” Tom and I went for a short walk in our neighborhood. Doing so changed our perspective, and I was okay when we came back into our home.

“Comfort” is defined as ease, luxury, coziness, relief, well-being, security, relaxation, contentment, consolation, reassurance, solace, cheer, calm, encouragement. How the newspaper explains what is needed for Comfort is quite different from what is said in God’s Word, the Bible! We who are created in God’s image, need Comfort in a much deeper way than what reducing clutter or nature alone can provide.

Two passages in Isaiah speak the language of Comfort. Isaiah 12: “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you Comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.” Isaiah 49:13: “Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has Comforted his people and will have compassion on his suffering ones.”

In Luke 2:25, Simeon, a righteous and devout Jew, looked forward to the Consolation of Israel, the Messiah, Jesus.

Psalm 23 is all about Comfort, especially verse 4: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil, for you (the Lord) are with me, your rod and your staff—they Comfort me.”

Why don’t I take the Comfort offered by God more seriously? He never holds back his Comfort, yet it could be my lack of trust in Him not to reach out and accept what I need so desperately. Each Sunday when we come to worship, we are made aware (if we are watching and listening!) of what is offered at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church. Here, in fellowship with others, we learn of God’s love for us, how He gave us His Son and the Holy Spirit to Comfort us. It is not just on Sunday, either. Our church offers small groups, Stephen Ministry, the Care Team – those are just a few of many ways to experience God’s gifts of Comfort and Joy.

As Christmas approaches, we can choose what brings us Comfort and Joy. Let us also share Comfort and Joy with those who do not know where to find it. Let us tell the world of the treasures we have found!

From the praise song (verse 2) “O Come to the Altar:”

Leave behind your regrets and mistakes
Come today there’s no reason to wait
Jesus is calling
Bring your sorrows and trade them for Joy
From the ashes a new life is born
Jesus is calling

 

Member Devotion, November 12

Barbara Whitaker

 

KINDNESS

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.  This is a trustworthy saying.  And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.”

(Titus Chapter 3:4-8, NIV)

Titus is the book our Thursday evening, twice a month Women’s Bible Study Group currently is studying.  Short little novel, barely over a page long, some 3 quick chapters, frankly easy to miss, just a few books before Revelations.  Our study, however, is stretching into a 7 session event. Fascinating.  Who knew when we finally chose a New Testament book (after several Old Testament studies this past year) that the timeliness and content would line up so remarkably well to the headlines of this past week.  Apparently God did.

In a world where you can be anything, be kind.

Kindness.  When Pastor Mark asked me to consider writing a Devotion (last September) for mid-November, my first thought was, man, that will be right after the November 3 election. And, back then, you will recall the discourse and riots and protests and marches that were going on. Around that time, I read an editorial that pretty much reminded that in any election, in any race, there is someone who will win and someone who will not.  It posed the question, “Are you ready to accept that if your candidate does not win, are you willing to work with who does?”  And from that moment it became clear to me that as a nation, a state, a city, a neighborhood, a family….we needed to be ready to take down the signs and work together….regardless….kindly.

Harry Smith said early Friday morning, November 6, 2020, “[We are] egged on by our media of choice…. We’re just wondering now if anyone in America still knows how to build a bridge, some kind of span, that can help us see our common good, because no matter the winner, it sure would be nice if we felt like we lived in the United (pause) States of America.”

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

This is something that, for at least the past decade or two, I am not sure as a nation we can say we have properly focused our kindness toward one another, as Paul or Titus would have had us show, as we grow in our understanding of the mercy that God shows toward us.  Are we paying attention here?  I find  myself, as a person, family member, teacher, neighbor, community member, Lutheran, Washingtonian, American asking:  How can I be kinder and be as the person God sees me.  I often come up at a loss for how to help foster this kindness.  Choosing to do the right thing has been what has made sense to me in my life. It is what I have taught, model, expect of family and friends.  Then I remember, this is not mine to solve; but rather, trust in my God, do what is good, and understand God’s mercy, love, kindness, and grace.

A song from the sixties keeps wandering through my head, and may be familiar to some of you, by The Youngblood’s:

“Love is but a song to sing….

Come on people now

Smile on your brother

Everybody get together

Try to love one another

Right now….”

Or another by Glen Campbell:

“You got to try a little kindness….just shine your light for everyone to see…and the kindness that you show every day will help someone along their way.”

 Life goes quickly, but kindness lasts forever.

I am not so sure it is the folk reading this devotion, inside the community of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, that may need to be contemplating the meaning of kindness. I do, however, ponder the impact I can have anywhere around me. Yes, I know they will know I am a Christian by my love; but questions remain. How do I/we help this nation heal, and be kind? How do I/we come together and smile on each other?  How do I/we cause any affect or aid in any healing, any listening? How do I/we help give the sides involved the support to give each other a chance? Do you feel the frustration I feel? How can we be kinder? What am I willing to do, each day…one kind thing to bring us together?

“Always be a little kinder than necessary.” -Sir James Matthew Barrie

Paul’s letter to Titus was a bit of a How-To Guide for him to set up the churches on Crete, including directives of expectations of the leaders. These guidelines included specific responsibilities of self-control, integrity, kindness, and grace….guidelines anyone of us today can be focused upon.  It has been explained to me that our ability to show kindness toward one another is relational as we grow in the understanding of God’s mercy shown to us out of God’s love and kindness for us.  This is not because we have done anything to deserve it, but rather because it is in His nature. Paul and Titus understood this.  Consider setting aside 10-15 minutes once or twice this week to reflect on God’s grace and mercy in your life. Spend time meditating on His kindness to you through prayer, journaling, worship, or song. 

And of course, do not forget 1 Corinthians 13:4,

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

P.S. And for those of you women interested in joining our Thursday evening group, contact Deanna Khoury (425-931-6061) or Brenda Mendez (425-330-6074).  As I mentioned, we are currently studying the book of Titus.

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OSLC Church Member Devotion – #18                       November 5, 2020

 

Suppose a Brother or Sister is Without Clothes or Daily Food

By Becky Wietzke

 

“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes or daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead.”       James 2:15-17 (My note: Remember James.)

          Our October Stephen Ministry meeting was held in the Fellowship Hall on a cold Thursday evening two weeks ago. As we were closing our discussion on care in the time of COVID, we noticed a young man walk by the back windows. Before long, he was at the door: alone, tired, disheveled, hungry, and in very worn clothing that didn’t nearly fit his tall, thin frame. He had no socks or shoes.

          True to the calling to care, several Stephen Ministers and Leaders went to work. Mardi happened to be at the Caring Place; new clothes, warm socks, and snacks were provided. And then James…yes, James, whose name comes from the Latin “Iacomus” meaning “May God protect”, curled up to sleep on the hard, cold concrete just outside the Fellowship Hall door. “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome your, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” (Matthew 25:37-39)

          Persistent but unsuccessful calls were made to numerous places to locate shelter and safety for this gentle young man. Finally, there was found a “room in the inn” — Lighthouse Mission Ministries in Bellingham. Generously giving their time, Carol Curtis and Maury Erickson drove James to Bellingham where he was given food, shelter, and care in a place of Christian love. “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:40)

          This was not the first time homelessness has come to our church neighborhood, and it will certainly not be the last. The doorways and steps of churches often become places of refuge for the homeless and the lost. I hope that is because there is a sense that these houses of worship are places of safety, love, and care. That is certainly true of our congregation, abundantly shown by a group of people on Thursday night who offered, without hesitation, food, clothing, money, kindness, and transportation showing faith in action and the presence of God’s love and mercy in their hearts. “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us love not in word and talk but in deed and truth. (I John 3:17)

          The Word of God is very clear regarding our response to those in need. We know what is required of us: “To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:98). The needs of the world are overwhelming, and it can be tempting to ask ourselves, “What can I, one person, do?” “What can one congregation do when the number of homeless in Snohomish County is the highest it’s been since 2014?” Words from the song “Dream Small” by contemporary Christian singer/songwriter Josh Wilson may offer some encouragement:

          “Dream small. Don’t bother like you’ve gotta do it all. Just let Jesus use you where you are one day at a time. Live well. Find little ways where only you can help. With His great love a tiny rock can make a giant fall. Dream small.”

          What are those “little ways that only you (we) can help?” Giving socks to shelters, donating to the Food Bank, carrying a Blessing Bag in your car, praying for ministries to the homeless and those in need; there are numerous small ways to impact a life. Many of us have heard a version of the story about a child throwing starfish back into the ocean after thousands were stranded following a storm and destined to die on the beach. When questioned and reminded by a passer-by that the child could not make a difference to such a large number, the child tossed a starfish into the surf and replied, “I made a difference to that one.”

          Many years ago, Dr. Arvid and Connie Ronning brought a medical missionary to speak at church. While I don’t recall the details of the presentation, I have never forgotten his response to the question, “How do you possibly help hundreds of people?” The good doctor replied, “I look at one face at a time to see the face of Jesus.” May we seek the face of Jesus in all we meet, especially those in dire need as winter and the holidays approach. Let us each find one way to make a difference in one life, and, in doing so, as a church family bless many in Jesus’ name. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2)

 

OSLC Church Member Devotion – #17                         October 29, 2020

 ALL SAINTS DAY: November 1, 2020

By Arnold Ronning

 This coming Sunday will be All Saints Day. The concept of saints and All Saints Day are surrounded by a great deal of confusion and superstition. In the popular view, a saint is someone generally recognized for their superior virtue and holiness. For many of us, Mother Teresa comes immediately to mind. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church has officially canonized Teresa of Calcutta, India (originally Albanian) by virtue of three miracles being attributed to her after her death.    

This leads to the second popular concept of saint: a Christian believer who has passed from this life to Heaven and is in the presence of all deceased believers and God. Still others say that saints are simply anyone who has saving faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

What does the Bible say about saints?  To begin, the English word saint is derived from French saint or seinte, which in turn comes from the Latin word sanctus, meaning consecrated, or set apart for religious reasons. The New Testament Greek word translated as saint is hagios, and simply means different, as in different from the world. Similarly, the Greek word we translate as church in is ekklesia, a group of people called out from the public at large for a special purpose. We see an English derivation of this word in ecclesiastical, referring to matters of the church. (Surprise!)

Saint Paul used the word hagios, or saint, to address living believers in several of his letters to the early churches of the Mediterranean region. So, according to the New Testament, if you believe in Jesus Christ as your savior, you are already a saint – you don’t have to wait until you die!

So why do we celebrate All Saints Day as one on which we only remember those who have passed before us? The origins of this holiday go back to the very earliest days of the church, and although all believers were considered saints, it was meant as a day to recall and venerate the memory not only of extraordinary “heroes” of the faith, like Peter, Paul, Mary Magdalene, etc., but those who had been personally influential in leading a person to faith. Often, this was a family member, and soon it became a day for recalling all our deceased relatives.

All Saints Day has a special meaning in the Lutheran Church for historical reasons. It was on October 31, All Hallows’ Eve, the day before All Saints’ Day, that Martin Luther posted his 95 theses objecting to certain superstitious beliefs and practices that had crept in the Roman Catholic Church over the centuries. Moreover, Luther is said to have nailed the 95 theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Among his objections: the cult of saint worship in prayer and relics. Later, Luther’s closest friend Philip Melanchthon, wrote this in the Augsburg Confession:  

“Scripture does not teach calling on the saints or pleading for help from them. For it sets before us Christ alone as mediator, atoning sacrifice, high priest, and intercessor.” (See also 1st Timothy 2:5) 

So, what exactly are we celebrating as a church on November 1st?

I had to ask myself the same question when Maria and I lived in Hungary from 2004-2009. Hungary is one of about two dozen countries where All Saints’ Day is still a national holiday – meaning no school, no government business, no postal service, no open stores. As November 1, 2004 approached, Maria, myself, and her mother went to the local cemetery to spruce up the tombstones of deceased relatives. We were joined – not by virtue of planning, simply shared purpose – many other women from the village. On Oct. 31, we went to the cemetery to place flowers and lit candles (kept inside special colored glass containers that would burn for about 24 hours). That evening, “All Hallow’s Eve,” we returned to see the cemetery glowing brightly from the flames of thousands of candles. I was genuinely moved in a way that I had not anticipated. It was, quite frankly, an atmosphere of holiness. This was utterly unlike the mayhem of an American Hallowe’en, which, at best, is a harmless occasion for costumes and fun, and at worst, a satanic pollution of what early Christians had intended for reverence. Each year that followed, I looked forward to joining Maria, my mother-in-law, acquaintances and relatives, to tidy up the cemetery and place candles to commemorate their memories. It became an occasion for prayer. Piety in Hungary is quiet, solemn, and influenced primarily by Roman Catholicism. But this was something beautiful, not polluted by superstition or silliness, and even as a Lutheran, I was compelled to join them. 

My favorite Bible verse that speaks to the reality of this commemoration is from Hebrews, 12:1

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”

 
Member Devotions

OSLC Church Member Devotion – #16                         October 22, 2020

 NEXT SUNDAY:  REFORMATION ‘DAY’ 2020

Written by Grant Gard

           In suggested readings for Sunday is, “So if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed”, found in John 8:36. Elsewhere we read, “…you received the Spirit of adoption. And by him we say “Abba, Father”…and we are co-heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8) Reformation can be seen as being reconnected to God’s family, freed to be adopted, and become “Like Him.”

          A lonesome widower in our area endured deteriorating health, and recently died. He had a fascinating witness of faith. Sometimes his circumstances were “terrible,” but freely and with grace he told Whom he believed and soon “going home.” A stepson came for the memorial. He told some about the family, which included generations of experiencing adoption. Even our friend had taken an adopted name and family style. The son described how he also had been offered adoption, said “No,” yet continued to be treated well, and concluded “But I missed a lot!”

          Can it really be that Christ sets us free to journey through the bad, as well as good, circumstances energized by a Holy Spirit? Freed by Christ we dare to think so! The circumstances of our surroundings are a workshop for the children of God in which to steward the gifts of our “Abba, Father.” In temptations for immediate answers to difficult times we are freed to trust God for the outcome. Succeeding, collecting good rewards from our stewardship we are freed to bless Him, who is the source of every good. Unsure or bewildered by circumstances we are freed to live by faith. Re-formed by trust in our Savior we keep-on discovering what He has done, and is doing in His adopted family. 

 

Prayer suggestions –

Bless God for His relationship in your life

Say “Thank You” for those “adopted” before us, especially those who shared the “family story”

Visualize placing a person, a circumstance, trouble, a blessing into the Father’s hands, and for grace to leave it there, or be ready to respond.

Be free to hear His prompting to email, phone, write a note to someone

Conclude with The Lord’s Prayer,

And sing, play, or whistle “A Mighty Fortress is our God”!
 
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Consider the Tree
by Elsie Wietzke
October 15, 2020
 

          But I will bless the person who puts his trust in me. He is like a tree growing near a stream and sending out roots to the water. It is not afraid when hot weather comes, because its leaves stay green; it has no worries when there is no rain; it keeps on bearing fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-9

          I look with wonder at our beautiful maple tree in our front yard, and I marvel at the Gravenstein apple trees planted along the side of the house. Both are reminders for me of God’s abundance and His faithfulness, and it calls to mind His love for diversity and variety. He is consistent with His gift of seasons and with his endowment of purpose for each member of His creation. Most importantly, He gives all that is necessary for life and growth. The tree is nurtured by His design, for he provides soil and sun and water—all that is needful to flourish. When we reflect upon the fact that a tree is mentioned on the first page of the first book of the Bible and on the last page of the last book of Scripture, and when we discover that there are over twenty species of trees named throughout the Bible (after people, trees are the most oft mentioned of His creation!), we should not be surprised that trees figure prominently in parables and analogies that are brimming over with rich imagery, similes and metaphors, and symbols that provide us with rich truths for meaningful living. For if our Heavenly Father endows so lavishly the tree, how much more does he nourish that which He has made “a little lower than angels” and “crowned him with glory and honor.” (Ps. 8:5) Yes, you and I!

          Trees have been sources of so many gifts. They provide materials for building and fuel, for medicines and food. We welcome their offerings of shade and protection, and we are awed by their stunning beauty, whether boasting brilliant colors with the autumn season’s turning, or endowing us with a glittering, sparkling spectacle laced in winter’s white. How much more, then, should God’s highest form of creation produce evidence of faith through the outpouring of gifts for the good of one another and to His glory? As Lutheran Christians, we know that our eternal destiny rests on Christ alone, Word alone, faith alone. But our Lord and Savior made it clear that if faith is alive and healthy, it produces good fruit, and that we shall be known as His by what we do in response to His own unspeakable gifts. Read Psalm 1:1-3 for the key to happiness—it is disarmingly simple. After instructing us on what to avoid and what to do in order to find joy, the psalmist describes those who accept the advice and live accordingly: “They are like trees that grow beside a stream and that bear fruit at the right time, and whose leaves do not dry up.”

          But, of course, we are not perfect and we find we do not consistently give evidence of bearing fruit as evidence of our faith. Now consider the parable of the fig tree. This tree is presented figuratively and symbolically in a number of instances in the Bible. Recently, in one of his sermons, Pastor Mark referred to one recorded in Luke 13:1-9. You may recall that the landowner was ready to cut the fig tree down for its lack of producing fruit. But one of his workers intervened, asking the owner to extend the life of the tree for another year and to permit him to nurture and nourish it to enable it to bear figs. The landowner relents. What a poignant reminder of God’s consistency in offering us another chance, of His unbelievable Grace in extending the opportunity to repent and be forgiven, and to live as newly born. It is a stunning reminder of God’s patience with us as we continually fail to fruitfully live our lives. We need Christ’s teachings; we need the Church and one another’s help and encouragement in order to cultivate lives that will allow us to bear fruit that is pleasing in His sight. And listen to this from Job 14:17: “For there is hope for a tree, when it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and its shoots will not fail.” Our once-beautiful, sprawling “smoke tree” was to have been pruned, but had seemingly disappeared at the hand of an over-zealous worker. I really lamented the loss.  Then, lo and behold, some time later I saw the beautiful smoky red leaves peek up through the garden! I take that as a happy confirmation of Job 14:17!

          After I had decided on the basis for this devotional message and had come—well, this far—I was researching a point for clarity when I came upon an article printed in Guideposts which was written by Matthew Sleeth, M.D. It featured “four important spiritual lessons from trees in the Bible” – what a bonanza! Its salient points are too pertinent to pass up, and I will paraphrase the core of each of the four lessons he speaks of.

  1. Turn toward the light.Trees seek light, and we seek the Light of the world. Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World.”
  2. Put down roots.Healthy trees seek water and soil nutrients. In Psalm 1, we are told that Godly people are like “trees planted by the rivers of water…they meditate on God’s Word. Dr. Sleeth reminds us that “the deeper our ‘roots’ go in the Bible, the more we’re able to withstand all the trials and troubles that come our way.” (etz hayim is Hebrew for “tree of life.” These words were inscribed on the wooden handles of the ancient Biblical scrolls.) Proverbs 3:18 says that the Bible’s wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace it, and that happiness comes from knowing this life-giving book. (The recipe for happiness I earlier referred to.)
  3. Bring forth fruit. 5:22-23 tells us that we are known by the fruit we produce, which are set forth by Paul the Apostle: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.” In fact, we are chosen for it (John 15:16): “You did not choose me, I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit that endures.” Here, I quote Dr. Sleeth: “We should not only produce outward fruit (my note: acts that result from “inward fruit”) but inward fruit. What is inward fruit? It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit working in our mind and soul to make us the image of Christ, which Paul referred to.
  4. Thinking long term.Though our lives are short in the time-line of eternity, this is not true when we consider trees. Dr. Sleeth points out that there are trees alive today which were alive in the time of Moses! He then asks, “Rather than basing our decisions and actions on short-term gains, what would the world look like if first we thought about our roles as stewards, responsible for the coming generations?”

+++

           Does it sometimes feel like it’s a hard road to travel? Do the expectations appear to be beyond our abilities? Not to worry! Isaiah was addressing Israel (His people) when he addressed them in Chapter 41. But we are His people, and so these words are directed to us, as well! I quote excerpts from verses 16b to 20: “Small and weak as you are, don’t be afraid; I will help you…you will be happy because I am your God. When my people in their need look for water, when their throats are dry with thirst, then I, their Lord, will answer their prayer; I, the God of Israel, will never abandon them. I will make rivers flow among the barren hills and springs of water run in the valleys. I will turn the deserts into pools of water and the dry land into flowing springs. I will make cedars grow in the desert, and acacias and myrtles and olive trees. Forests will grow in barren lands, forests of pine and juniper and cypress. People will see this and know that I, the Lord, have done it.

Psalm 148 is a call for the universe—all of creation!—to praise God. Verse 9 proclaims: “Praise Him, hills and mountains, fruit trees and forests.” I look to scripture for the substance of Life, and I consider the tree—who also seems to look to God in thanksgiving. You may know that I write poetry—and I acknowledge that as one of God’s many gifts. I have always been moved by the words of the poet Joyce Kilmer, whose poem “Trees” has been set to beautiful music. I close with it now, and I thank you from my heart for spending time with me through this devotion.
 

I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day, and lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear a nest of robins in her hair,
Upon whose bosom snow has lain; who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.

 
          A final word:  Consider the tree: the structure and instrument of crucifixion—death on Calvary—with Jesus nailed to it, arms outstretched—becomes, by His resurrection, the Tree of Life!

This, for all who believe that He is the Christ, the Savior!

 

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Devotion and Devotions
By Randy Zielsdorf
October 8, 2020
 

1 Corinthians 7:35
I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

 

Psalm 63:1
You, God, are my God earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.
  

What is Devotion?

Webster says that devotion is religious fervor, and act of prayer or private worship; a religious exercise or practice other than the regular corporate worship of a congregation; the act of dedication something to a cause, enterprise, or activity: the act of devoting; the fact or state of being ardently dedicated and loyal.

Synonyms

  • Affection
  • Attachment
  • Devotedness
  • Fondness
  • Love
  • Passion

According to Webster Devotion Has Latin Roots
When we take a vow, we pledge our devotion–whether to remain true to a partner, to uphold the law, or to honor the word of God. It should be no surprise then that devotion and its related verb devote come from the act of taking a vow. Both words originate from Latin devotus, which is the past participle of devovere, a union of the prefix de- (“from”) and the verb vovere (“to vow”). Devote was once used as an adjective that could mean either “devout” or “devoted.” While devout often connotes faithfulness of a religious nature, the adjective devoted conveys the sense of one’s commitment to another through love and loyalty (“a devoted husband and father”; “the singer’s devoted fans”).

The Bible makes it very clear that we are to be Devoted to God
Mathew 22:37
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all you mind.”

I asked my grandson David a while back, “Did you love your great grandfather, my dad, were you devoted to him like I was?” My dad died shortly after David was born, so David never got a chance to have any time to get to know my dad. It is hard to love, and be devoted to someone you don’t know. The point I was trying to make with my grandson was; Jesus died before we were born, so it is hard to get to know Jesus as well.
Difficult, yes indeed, but very possible.

How can we become more devoted to our Savior, how do we develop love and trust in Him?
Let us look to the Bible here for some answers.
Ephesians 1:17
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.

It is easy to forget God when we become too devoted to things of this world. Read
Deuteronomy 8:10-20 and see the warning the Israelites received over losing their devotion to the Lord and thinking their success might be due to their own power.

¹ When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. ¹¹ Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. ¹² Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, ¹³ and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, ¹ then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. ¹ He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. ¹ He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. ¹ You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” ¹ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

¹ If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. ² Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God.”

Remember 1 John 4:19 We love God because He first loved us.

Besides the Word of God, we can also learn to love and trust our Savior more through speaking with Him in prayer.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” -1 John 5:14

Even God’s creation helps us learn more about our creator.
Romans 1:19-20: “since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

Then there are daily devotions.

Why Christian Devotions are important

Maybe you are a new Christian, or a Christian looking to grow a deeper love and understanding of your Savior. Daily devotions can be helpful in achieving that deeper relationship. Devotions can be a quiet time that you spend praying, reading God’s word, or reading a devotion written by other Christians containing Christian testimony or teaching backed by scripture. Prepared Daily Devotions such as these should enhance your personal Bible studies, not replace them. Devotions are best used if they lead you into a deeper study of scripture on your own led by the Holy Spirit through prayer.

Final thought
Life today is very stressful. Life gets busy and while trying to handle everything thrown at us, we can drift away from God. We can find ourselves being devoted to so many worldly things that we have only a little time on Sunday, if that, to devote to our Savior.

Revisit the two opening Bible verses. I pray, if needed, that these verses and others  help realign your thoughts and goals.

Let’s pray for each other, talk to, and encourage each other. Remember also that there are Stephen ministers available to anyone that asks. Our Saviour’s Stephen Ministers are ready to listen, care, encourage, and provide emotional and spiritual support, anytime, for any need

God Bless you.

 

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Lois Stahley
October 1, 2020

GRACE!

You may know someone with the given name of Grace. What is the definition of that word? Webster’s primary definition is, “Apparently effortless charm or beauty of movement, form, or proportion.” It’s not until the seventh definition do we see, “Divine love and protection bestowed freely on human beings. Protection or sanctification by the favor of God.” Let’s use this seventh definition in Webster’s dictionary.

Grace is an essential part of God’s character. In the New Testament, many verses speak to that character of grace. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17 NIV – “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law; but under grace.” Romans 6:14 NIV, and one more from Romans 5:15 NIV “…For if many died by the trespass of one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to many!” WOW – overflow to many – that’s US! We have

G od’s –

R iches –

A t –

C hrist’s –

E xpense!

 

Les and my daily devotions include the book, “New Morning Mercies” written by Paul David Tripp. For the past several months, Tripp is leading us through the knowledge and power of grace, and the commitment needed from us in our walk of faith.

We are learning, in difficult times, that God is exposing us to his riches (blessings) giving us comfort in what is uncomfortable. From the words of St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” Grace makes our relationship with God possible. It’s His gift to us!

It’s a given, because of sin, that we may not always feel the comfort of the grace of God in our lives. Know this – God never leaves you. He gave us that promise when He said, “Behold, I am with you always.” Matt 28:20 NIV. He has no intention to leave us alone.

Meditate on the riches (blessings) of grace in your life each day. I like to do this before I fall asleep at night. In my mind, I rewind the video of the day closing, and meditate on the abundant blessings I have received. Just the essential breaths I take each day without thinking about it is amazing! Rejoice and be thankful when you feel the grace of God in your life, and be comforted by the words that He never leaves you when it feels distant.

I pray that you see and feel constantly God’s grace. Follow the command of Jesus, and pass your knowledge of God’s grace on to others as a gift for their lives!

LIVING IN GOD’S GRACE AND WILL!

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OSLC CONGREGATION DEVOTION

September 24, 2020

LOVE EACH OTHER

From Perry

 

Remember your Sophomore Lit. class: 

 

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” Sydney Carton goes to the guillotine in place of Charles Darnay the husband of the woman Carton loves. Carton and his character transformation made a huge impression on my 15 year old psyche.  Side Note:  I got 100% on the final test…unprecedented.

 

Sometime in the 70’s I watched the Pawn Broker. A very bitter/troubled Holocaust  survivor has a Hispanic clerk working for him in his pawn shop.  The clerk’s infectious positivity/conscientiousness helps the owner slowly develop a new prospective of people as well as respect for the clerk.  The store is robbed.  The clerk stands up to the robber.  The Holocaust survivor, as the robber fires, steps in front of the clerk to shield him and is killed. 

 

Some of us may recall hearing or reading the name Elizabeth Elliot.  If I offered the name Jim Elliot, most of us would right away recall the four men killed by the Auca natives of Ecuador because of their fear of “foreigners”/ outsiders.  Ed McCully, Nate Saint, Jim Elliot and Pete Fleming using cultural sensitivity were attempting to bring the Gospel to this remote tribe.  Why?  Because God loves them.  These four men and their wives loved them.  Ultimately, Elizabeth Elliot and Racheal Saint came to live with the Aucas and through their loving witness the whole tribe accepted the love of Christ. Those four families were willing to lay down their lives and did so out of love.  Elizabeth Elliot wrote the book Through Gates Of Splendor and many others.

 

Those firemen and policemen laid down their lives for others on 911.

 

In the HBO series Gettysburg Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain makes the statement “What we are really fighting for is each other.”  The same sentiment is also expressed in the series Band of Brothers.  In combat sacrifice for the guy beside you is common.  We have all read about soldiers and Marines falling on/covering exploding grenades to protect their comrades.  You might have heard or read about the incredible sacrifice of Henry Erwin during World War II:  Staff Sergeant Henry “Red” Erwin, a radio operator on a B-29, 4/12/1945, per his assignments was to drop a phosphorus smoke bomb through the floor of the aircraft at a certain location.  The flare malfunctioned and flew back up into Erwin’s face destroying an ear and his nose. Blind and afraid the bomb would burn through the metal floor and into the bomb bay. Erwin picked up the white hot flare.  Life threatening wounds with an anchored table in his path to the co-pilot’s window he carried the 1,100 degree flare forward.  After throwing the burning phosphorus out of the plane, he collapsed between the pilots.  His only concern during the flight to the new Iwo Jima airstrip was, “Was the crew safe.”  “We fight and die for each other.”

Jesus, even though He was fully aware of what he embodied/symbolized, as the sacrificial Lamb, had to proceed with His being sacrificed. (“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”)  (“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”) That sacrifice (God’s “only begotten Son”) that act of love by our heavenly Father, that unmerited favor, is given to anyone who believes in Jesus.  God loves you.  Jesus died for you.  He has a plan for your life.

 

John 15: 9-17   Please note the words commandand you to bear fruit.

 

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.  If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  My command is this:  Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know his master’s business.  I have called you friends, for everything I have learned from my Father, I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.  Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  This is my command: love each other. 

 

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OSLC CONGREGATION DEVOTION
by Rebecca Wietzke
September 15, 2020

“I have called you by name; you are mine.”   Isaiah 43:1
 

One of the tasks that always causes me some anxiety at the beginning of every school year is learning the first and last names of all new students. This has always been a challenge for me, but I know how important it is to call students by name. When we hear our names spoken by another, we know that we are seen, recognized, and acknowledged as unique individuals. 

Parents spend many thoughtful hours before the birth of a child contemplating names. Should it be something unique? Should we name the baby after a relative? Should we choose something easy to spell and pronounce? When that name is chosen, it becomes intertwined with our identity. Upon hearing someone’s name, their appearance, personality, and inner qualities come to mind. In a way, our name defines us. Think how powerful it is to hear the name Adolph Hitler or the name Mother Teresa.  How differently we react to those names! 

Throughout the Bible, there are people who hear the voice of God call them by name: Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, Martha, Simon, Saul, and others. In each instance, they hear their name spoken by the One who knows their strengths and weaknesses, their work-a-day appearance, and the deep inner workings of their hearts. The Creator, Son of God, Holy Spirit knew them by name and all that was attached to it. One of my favorite Scripture verses comes around every three years in the lectionary. It is the Easter passage where Mary Magdalene meets Jesus after the Resurrection and she believes Him to be the gardener. In John 20: 16, “Jesus said to her, Mary.” Every time I hear those five words read I am almost overcome. What must it have been like for Mary, weeping with grief, to hear her name spoken, to hear the voice of her Saviour alive and whole? In speaking her name, Jesus made the Resurrection a personal reality to her. He called her by name and again claimed her as His own, and Mary knew that voice.

We all find delight in hearing our name spoken by those we love. It indicates a personal and intimate connection, a knowing that is deep and binding. From the time our names are written on birth certificates until they appear again in an obituary, we are bound to our names. What a comforting and astonishing thing it is to know that the Lord God knows our names and that we know His. “The sheep hear His voice, and He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:3) 

 Just as Mary Magdalene heard the voice of Jesus say her name, we will one day hear our names spoken aloud by Him. The Name Above All Names will call out to friends, family and to us. “Welcome home, Walter!” “Welcome home, Louise!”  “Welcome home, Anna!” “Welcome home, Gustav!” My grandparents heard their names spoken by Jesus in eternal glory, and so it will be for each of us who love Him. He knows our name and we know His. Sweeter words will never be spoken.

 
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OSLC CONGREGATION DEVOTION
by Dimitri Berk
September 10, 2020
 
 
WHY DO SOME OF US HESITATE TO SHARE
OUR GREATEST GIFT OF LOVE?


2 Corinthians 5:20
     We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors as though God was making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf be reconciled to God.

Matthew: 28:19-20 
     Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always to the very end of the age.

James 1:22
     Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

The past few months you have probably observed the course that Pastor Mark has been steering for OSLC through his sermons and written devotionals. Evangelism in general and focused local evangelism is one of the plotted destinations on the navigational chart. We are all aware of the Great Commission:

Why is it so personally difficult to share our faith with friends, acquaintances who are non-believers and deprive them of the greatest gift we could ever give!

Romans 13: 9
     The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 

     We profess to love our non-believing neighbors, but if we don’t share the blessing of spending all of eternity with God, the core of our Christian existence, are we fulfilling Jesus command to love our neighbor? We share dinners, recreational pursuits, lend a helping hand, offer financial support and provide a shoulder to cry on. They are all acts of friendship and in some cases love, but if we don’t share the most important aspect of our life, our belief and love in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, are we loving our neighbor as we are commanded? Is there a more important act of love then introducing them to Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit and God which will allow them to have eternal life?

Let me submit myself as an example of a person who has had historical difficulty sharing my faith to non-believers. I suspect that many of you can identify with me and you have significant doubts as to your ability to share your faith with non-believers. Why the doubt? The following ten (10) points cause the majority of our collective doubt and I’ll point out my personal and specific hurdles.

  1. I may have the skills, but I’ve not received the training to appropriately evangelize or share my faith with non-believers or seekers.
  2. I’m anxious that while Christianity is the most important aspect of my life, I will be asked questions that I won’t be able to answer. It’s hard for me to say I don’t know the answer to a non-believer’s most basic questions. If your faith is genuinely the most important component of your life, then I should know the basic answer, right? I don’t want to appear to be foolish or embarrass myself by not being able to justify and answer basic questions about my Christian beliefs.
  3. I’m anxious concerning the outright rejection of my entreaties towards non- believers. I’m concerned that I might jeopardize an existing relationship that I find comfortable or beneficial.

The first three (3) examples listed above are my personal specific barriers or hurdles that have kept me from practicing the great commission. Interesting enough to me, is that two of the three are associated with PRIDE, the greatest sins according to C.S. Lewis, which has been a historical problem for me. When I use words such as foolish and embarrassed, I’m making it about me which is the sin of pride.

Reasons 4-10 are reasons that have been discussed and disclosed to me by others:

  1. I’m not a social person and I’m hesitant to meet new people, let alone convince them of something as momentous as my faith in Christ.
  2. I don’t know or come into contact with non- believers in my social circles.
  3. There are others that can do this better than I can, so I’ll let them do it.
  4. I’d like to try but I don’t have the time; I’m just too busy.
  5. My age or health prevents me from participating in the Great Commission.
  6. The church congregation size and the church’s present status is comfortable for me.  Why do we need to disrupt what’s working and change things?
  7. We’ve never had to pursue evangelism with formal ministries, because some members of our congregation already evangelize for the church.

Answers?

Personally, for the first time in my life I’m taking steps to eradicate the self-imposed barriers I’ve created for myself. Like you, I’m called to deepen my faith and grow in my faith by studying both the Old and New Testaments. This doesn’t mean I have to become a Christian apologist like William Lane Craig or Ravi Zacharias (RIP) and debate Christianity with renowned atheists like Richard Dawkins or Peter Singer. Nor do I feel that evangelism is about my becoming Stanwood’s Billy Graham. I need to be able to just share my faith and know the basics of my faith. Having this basic knowledge is already increasing my confidence and is greatly reducing my reticence in sharing and communicating my love for Jesus and my Christian faith. Knowing that I will be planting seeds and the Holy Spirit will have the opportunity to grow them to fruition, is of great comfort and removes any substantial pressure I feel to “convert” a non-believer by myself.

The Bible is filled with people just like you and me who thought they were ill-equipped to perform the tasks assigned by God. The Holy Spirit will lead and equip you and me. Consider the new Alpha program that the church is rolling out, or Operation Timothy from which I’ve personally benefited. Both are introductions to sharing our faith with others and there are many more. Even joining an OSLC small group to gain friendship and share life experiences is a great first step in sharing your faith in a loving and safe environment. 

In conclusion, I’ll simply ask you what I asked myself not too long ago. Why not decide to seek informal or formal training to equip you to offset your doubts and fears? With our Heavenly Father’s help, we can risk embarrassment, discomfort and foolishness, to follow Jesus’s command and with the Holy Spirit participate in The Great Commission and love our neighbors, friends and  acquaintances with the greatest gift of all, spending eternity with God. Most importantly your prayers will guide you to the path God has charted for you.

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OSLC CONGREGATION DEVOTION
by Candace Spong
September 8, 2020

GRACE
 
“To each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportions it.”
Ephesians 4:7 NIV
 

God’s grace has been a recurring theme and interest in my life…I’ve read several books on the subject (books by Charles Swindoll and Philip Yancey my favorites). I pray for grace; think I know a bit about grace then fail miserably; experience God’s grace through others and am blessed; I question ‘truly, what IS grace?’
 
I worked for years with a difficult person—one of those unpredictable personalities who was a dear friend one day then blew up in a rage the next. On one occasion, seemingly out of nowhere, her anger was let loose and I happened to be in its direct path. I was crushed, went in another room and broke down crying out to the Lord, “I have NO grace left for her!!” Then a gentle small voice (the Holy Spirit) responded immediately, “And when does my grace run out for you?” My answer: Never Lord.
 
To each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. It is boundless, never ending, always available. Such a gift.
 
We do not understand why these situations are put upon us—we may never know this side of heaven. We may see them as suffering or persecution. Certainly, as stress or tension. The promise is this: God’s grace is sufficient. He will not give us more trouble than we can bear. I thought it was more than I could bear that day. His grace to me throughout my life was whispered back at the exact moment I needed it: And when does My grace run out for you?
 
I Peter 5:10 promises: “The God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
 
Watch for, accept and acknowledge God’s always-available grace in your life. Thank Him for it. Grow in it. Pass it on to others and bless them. It will restore you, make you strong, firm and steadfast.
 
Blessings on your day.

 

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OSLC CONGREGATION DEVOTION 
by Randy Zielsdorf
September 3, 2020

“SO DO NOT FEAR”
 

Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Do you see fear and anxiety in the world around you today? Are you experiencing fear and anxiety in your life during these peculiar times?

For most of us, there are times fear and anxiety are hard to shake.

As Christians we are well aware of the fact that we should not have fear or anxiety in our lives, but often that is easier said than done. 

COVID-19 has certainly brought on tough times. Even if you are not feeling threatened by the thought of getting the virus, the world wide threat is creating economic hardships, and drastic changes in our normal way of life. It’s even changed how we worship. In some cases, it has kept us from our loved ones, and friends. It may be totally isolating you.

What can we do?

Fortunately, as Christians, we have help close by. We have the Word, and what God says to us. We have already read Isaiah 41:10Psalm 46:1 says; “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Philippians 4:6-7Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Psalm 94:19; “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” Psalm 27:1“The Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid?”

We also have each other; and at OSLC we have Stephen Ministry, where a Stephen minister is always available to come alongside you.

Amazingly we can speak directly to the creator of everything, God Himself, in Prayer. 1 John 5:14-15 And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him.”

As followers of Christ we can be confident that we have His love, and His love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18; There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” Only love coming from Jesus can be perfect, and this love, His love, casts out fear.

A final note on fear.

To really experience gifts from God, sometimes we need to be in a place mentally where there is nowhere else to turn, nothing we could do would change our circumstances. A place where only God’s intervention makes everything vividly clear that God is in control.

That happened to me one day a few years back.

At that time, I flew all over the world for business and on incentive trips that I won through product sales. Years later, I was flying all over North America as a sales rep for the company I currently work for. I enjoyed the flying.

Then one day out of nowhere on a flight back from Florida to Seattle, immediately after takeoff I experienced a panic attack. I broke out in a sweat, I couldn’t breathe, I wanted off that aircraft!

What was I going to do? I had to fly, it was my job. Uncomfortably, I continued flying. Even in first class I felt closed in. I always wondered what I would do if there was an emergency. That thought plagued me.

Then it happened. One morning on a flight from Boston to Seattle. I was sound asleep and was suddenly awakened by someone running up the aisle. I opened my eyes to see all the oxygen masks hanging down. I looked at my wife, who was traveling with me on this trip, and she shrugged, not yet knowing what was happening. Just then the flight attendant yelled over the speaker, put on your oxygen masks, put on your oxygen masks! 

Just as I put on my oxygen mask, I could smell the smoke. We had a fire somewhere, and at thirty thousand feet, that’s not a good thing.

I remember praying; Father, I guess I will be there with you soon, protect me from fear, and give me peace.

I immediately felt a great peace come over me, I honestly was completely relaxed, no fear.

Next, I heard an announcement that we were going to make an emergency landing in Chicago. They told us to get into an emergency position and remove jewelry and eye glasses. We were told that when we landed they would either say, “stay seated”, in which case we would park at the gate and de-plane as normal, or they would say, “get out, get out”, and we would go out the emergency exits.

Well, we landed and they shouted “get out, get out!” 

There was nothing I could do to improve or change the circumstances, I was completely in God’s hands, and I was free of fear.

We did go out the emergency doors, and down the slide. We were told to run from the plane over to a gathering area. We did, and we were all safe. Only one sprained ankle that a lady received, and the Captain slightly injured his back on the slide down.

God kept us safe that day.

We then flew home on another flight. 

The amazing news is, when we completely rely on Jesus, we will be free of fear and anxiety, the hard part is completely relying on Him. In life there will be times there is no other choice but to rely on Jesus, our Savior and that’s a good thing.

God bless you all.

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OSLC CONGREGATION DEVOTION
by Arnold Ronning
September 1, 2020
 

Luke 18:9-14
(New International Version)
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector    
 
 

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’     
 
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
 
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

 

Several weeks ago, Pastor Mark asked me if I would be willing to share a meditation with the congregation while he and his son, Isaiah, were hiking in the Cascade Mountains.  Almost immediately, for reasons I do not entirely understand, this story from Luke’s gospel came to mind.  To be fair, I considered other stories and verses, but this one remained stuck in my heart as the one to share.  I can only conclude that the Holy Spirit put it there, because now I cannot even recall what those other verses were. 

I won’t explain the meaning of the parable since Jesus himself tells us what the point is in verse 14.  While the characters are a Pharisee and a tax collector, Jesus cautions us that all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.  

The trouble with this parable is that it goes against the grain of what our culture tells us is the way to get ahead.  We also see and hear many examples of other people relating to God like the Pharisee.  Especially in this election season, we hear almost all the candidates boasting about their accomplishments while denigrating their opponents.  Many candidates claim that their leadership will make the community, state, or nation great again; but I am wondering if we will ever see a campaign slogan that reads, “MAKE AMERICA HUMBLE AGAIN.”  (Historical note: about 155 years ago, Abraham Lincoln openly stated his opinion that the scourge of slavery and the Civil War that erupted over it was a consequence of the nation’s arrogance and lack of gratitude to God.  In response, he called for a national day of fasting and repentance.)

Many people are now saying that they have never experienced such cultural division in their lifetimes (although, those of us who lived through the late 1960’s and early 1970’s might recall the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement peaked simultaneously).  And when we see our leaders perpetually exalting themselves, it is tempting to become cynical.

I am not suggesting we throw up our hands and abstain from participating in the gift that is our democracy, the ideal of a government that is by the people, of the people, and for the people.  But let’s remember that on the day that we appear before the LORD, with Jesus there at our side, He will not ask who we favored or voted for; only how we used the time that was given to us.  And when we are totally honest with ourselves, each of us will have to confess that apart from the blood of Christ Jesus, we are lost.  “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  Let us make humility a daily practice before the Lord and one another, that He may lift us up, clean us up, and remind us to love and serve one another.

Arnold Ronning

 
 
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OSLC CONGREGATION DEVOTION
by Carol Curtis
August 27, 2020

 

READY, SET, LEARN!
 

It is an old story now, how our lives changed a few short months ago when we first heard that Wuhan, China, was completely shut down because of a virus that threatened to infect everyone. As we heard the news, I could not imagine what a big city locked down looked like. People not allowed to go outdoors, businesses closed, everything at a standstill. Really? How could this be possible in our always busy, on-the-move world? Now, six months later, it has become clear what a pandemic looks like as every one of us, throughout the world, has experienced the threat of infection in some way and the changes it makes in our everyday lives
 
We have settled in – somewhat – to this quieter, more isolated way of life. As followers of Jesus Christ, what can we expect and learn personally from a world-wide pandemic? Does it make a difference that we believe in a loving God who is Master of the Universe?
 

    John 10:10 states:   
I (Jesus) come that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
(Revised Standard version)
“My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.”
(Living Bible version
)

 
We may have abundant life! There are no “pre-existing conditions” added to the words above. Abundant life does not mean only when it’s smooth sailing or when we have “mountain-top” experiences. Abundant life can be ours all the time, for each of us, pandemic or not. In John’s gospel, Jesus goes on to say he knows his own and his own know him. We are assured of abundant life through him!
 
Back in March, during the first days of sheltering in place, when meetings, events and usual activities were suddenly cancelled, Tom and I decided to re-do the garden beds on each side of our front door. With the help of our friend and neighbor Mike Beauchamp who brought us a pickup load of good dirt, we replaced and reorganized the plants. It felt good to stay busy and involved with a project that had been pending for a long time. We enjoyed the results of some good physical labor. I also found that there was free time early each morning and began to complete Bible studies much more thoroughly, as well as spending more quality time in prayer. That felt good too!
 
For those of us who are well and retired and can choose to stay safe at home, I recognize that our daily lives are very different from those who are suffering with illness or grief, working to make a living, struggling with layoffs, or trying to find ways to continue their educations when school buildings will not be open. But God’s promise of abundant life is, again, for all of us, all the time.
 
First and always, we must keep our eyes on our Heavenly Father, God, the Giver of Life.
 

“The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.

Those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”
Psalm 9:9-10

 
Reading (and taking time to  listen and absorb) the Bible, prayer, Sunday worship services, small groups meeting by Zoom, fellowship of believers (safe distancing, phone calls, and whatever else that looks like right now) – this is what we hold dear especially during this time of staying safe from infection.
 

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change…”
Psalm 46:1, 2

 
Many are afraid and lonely, without hope for the future. What an influence we can be as we value this unique time, make good use of it, and share the love of Jesus!
 
We are enjoying a beautiful summer in the Pacific Northwest with a few more weeks to spend time in nature without preparing for heavy rain and snow and winter storms. Gary Thomas, the author of a devotion “How to Love God Outdoors,” suggests when we enter a forest, “think of it as God’s cathedral, a sacred place of prayer. In our modern age, where we’re born in the antiseptic environment of a hospital, taken home to a nursery that consists of Sheetrock coated with paint, and driven through the countryside in a metal contraption called a car, our ability to appreciate and meet God in creation is stunted, to say the least. We need to be spiritually reawakened to fully appreciate the outdoors.” I would add that we need to be spiritually awakened to receive the abundant life God has for us, whether it is outdoors or indoors!
 
Thomas continues: “I have some ideas since I’ve traveled from being a Cub Scout who used to romp through the woods with nary a prayer on his lips to a more mature Christian who has seen those bushes afire with God. I’ve learned that we must first create a space of time, quiet, and isolation before we can truly see God.”
 
About that early morning free time I mentioned earlier: as we begin to return to what used to be our normal, routine daily lives, I want to hang on to that early morning space of time, quiet and isolation. What a precious gift it is, when it provides a way to grow deeper into my relationship with God the Father, his Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, who offer me EVERYTHING I could possibly need!

 

Be still, and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10

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August 25, 2020
 

OSLC CONGREGATION DEVOTION
by Rev. Grant Gard

A BRANCH ON THE FAMILY TREE
 

            “He left a priceless legacy!” Isn’t that an intriguing comment about someone’s life? When said about one in our “family tree” we don’t expect to share. This idea relates to Saint Bartholomew, who’s “day” is celebrated August 24. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke he’s identified as Nathaniel, a Hebrew name meaning “God has given.” In other places he’s Bartholomew (son of Tolmai). He is an early part of our Christian Family Tree.
             When Jesus began to call disciples, one, Phillip, went to his friend Nathaniel and encouraged him to get together with Jesus, saying “come and see.” While Jesus is identifying him as “an Israelite in whom there is no guile”, Nathaniel is asking, “can anything good come from Nazareth?” If Phillip hadn’t invited, possibly Nathaniel wouldn’t have been one of the 12 first disciples. If Nathaniel didn’t ask questions, perhaps his confession “…you are the Son of God…” wouldn’t have been said, and we might have lost energy for our witness.
             Nathaniel was one of the disciples at the Sea of Galilee when Jesus appeared after the first Easter. After the first Pentecost he is reported to have travelled as far as India, where his ministry ended with leaving a copy of the Gospel of Matthew (Jesus’ story from pre-birth to Ascension.) He possibly witnessed in Egypt, and Greece; but is most known for his preaching and teaching in Armenia. Armenia was the geographic threshold between Europe and the Middle East and Asia. Despite opposition, the invitation “come and see Jesus” was effective, and the ‘family (of faith) tree” grew. When the Armenian king Drtad was baptized in 302 Armenians claimed theirs the first Christian state.
             A major calamity is the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in the 16th Century. On August 24 and 25, French Huguenots (Protestant Christians) were killed in Paris. The Huguenots became recognized for their holding fast to their faith in Jesus as Savior in opposition to false faiths. The results of the event included migration of the faithful to many parts of the world, including North America, with determination to remain faithful.
 
            I’m grateful for the legacy of faith-filled witness of those before us, who as Nathaniel “passed on” the good news of Jesus. One can be anywhere and pass on “come and see” (Romans 10:17.) It’s helpful to know that Jesus doesn’t shy from our questions (John 5:29). God’s promises keep working (1 Corinthians 10:13.) Difficult times may be part of one’s journey to heaven (Hebrews 12:1, 2): “…let us run with perseverance the race set before us…looking to Jesus the pioneer and finisher of our faith…”!

 

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OSLC CONGREGATION DEVOTION
by Elsie Wietzke
August 20, 2020

 

NO MAN IS AN ISLAND

“When the peace of Christ rules in our hearts, thankfulness overflows.

Even in the darkest of times, we can praise God for his love, his sovereignty,

and His promise to be near us when we call.”

Psalm 145:18
 

               We live on Camano Island—a lush, green isle surrounded by the salt waters of Puget Sound.  I can drive a short distance and suddenly behold the magnificent splendor of the Cascades—sparkling Mount Baker to one direction, and—on a clear day—glorious Mount Rainier, sometimes glowing in pinkish hues if the atmosphere is willing to cooperate.  And if I am in the right location, another stunning view:  the majestic Olympics.  There seems to be an underlying spirit among islanders that bespeaks independence and self-reliance—a bit of “Don’t encroach upon our territory.”  And yet, the words of the English Poet John Donne, of the sixteenth/seventeenth centuries, come to mind in so many ways.  “No man is an island…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”  Surely, then, the converse is true:  the LIFE of one has the power to uplift and sustain that of another.  I think we would all agree that our present global malady, which has brought urgency to terms such as isolation and social distancing, has resulted in loneliness, a hunger for affection and companionship, and even a plea for help; for want of a better metaphor, it has made islands of people in our sea of humanity.

               My husband Paul and I live in a community called Camaloch, and there are perhaps upwards of 350 homes within it.  But we have close neighbors who have gone the extra mile in helping us, now ninety-four and ninety in years.  We may feel young and think young, but our bodies remind us that we are not, and we are well aware of our physical limitations.  I cannot recall the date or the circumstances of when we met Lori and her dog Mezzy, but I think of that lovely Biblical reference in Hebrews 13:2 of receiving an “angel, unawares.”  Lori, typical of her innate humility and modesty, would hardly consider herself an “angel” and worthy of all the meaning we have come to attach to that term.  So, she is “unaware” of all that she is to others.  And we, when we first met Lori, were surely “unaware” of the accommodating, supporting, nurturing “angel” she was to become to us.

               Over the nine years or so that we have been neighbors—Lori lives across the street in her little jewel of a house flanked by her carefully tended gem of a garden—she has been a daily blessing.  For some time now, she has faithfully tended our flower garden outside our front window, planting a myriad of colorful flowers, and weeding and watering regularly.  Aware of a couple of falls on our part, Lori has insisted upon bringing our daily newspaper to our door at seven o’clock every morning.  None of her acts on our behalf are ever self-serving.  She has adamantly declared, “If you try and give me anything…I will never…”  Lori and her faithful companion Mezzy—an Anatolian Shepherd mix—walk miles each day, and her zest for life and unconditional acceptance of those she encounters in our community has endeared her to many.  She has the soul of an artist and revels in creating stunning floral and foliage arrangements for the enjoyment of her fortunate recipients in the neighborhood.  She is a champion of the animal world, regularly volunteering at the local shelter, and even finding just the right pet for that neighbor she has discovered to be lonely and seeking the companionship of a dog or cat.

               This dear woman has experienced that grief which comes to all of us at some time in our lives—the loss of those beloved.  The death of close family members, but particularly of one’s mate, leaves a void that is beyond description.  Lori lost her husband, her soul-mate, about ten years ago—shortly before she moved to our community, and her grief was profound.  But she recognizes her blessings, is grateful for all the beauty of nature, which  she professes to be the handiwork of God’s creation, and is the epitome of optimism, joy, and thankfulness, as she embraces the life she acknowledges as gift by His grace.  She is a sermon in action!

               I make mention of her life as a gift.  Some years ago, when Lori was a younger woman, she suffered massive, life-threatening injuries as the result of an accident.  Her recovery took time, courage, and patience.  I have told you of the tasks and chores that Lori has so willingly taken on for us out of love and concern.  What I have not told you until now, is that Lori, as a result of her injuries, lost the use of one arm, and has but one hand.  The magnitude of her activity, in light of that fact, will seem unfathomable to many.  And remarkable as that may be, it pales when compared to the outpouring of her loving spirit and her boundless enthusiasm for all that is good and positive, for that which brings smiles and laughter, and which offers solace and understanding when she encounters the need. She is living evidence that no person is an unreachable island. I like to think that such are the attributes of an angel.

               Jesus was asked the question, in Luke 10:29, “Who is my neighbor?” I believe Lori is one of His own who not only knows the answer, she lives it.  She is our angel—and we are well aware!
 

P.S.  Luke 10:37, following the account of the good Samaritan, records Jesus’s loving admonition:  “Go thou and do likewise.”  I will take that to heart—how about you?

 

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise;

Give thanks to Him and praise his name.  For the Lord is good and His love endures forever;

His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Psalms 106:1

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OSLC CONGREGATION DEVOTION
by Lois Stahley
August 18, 2020

 

PRAYERS

Many of you know that recently we asked for specific prayers from the Care Team’s Praying Partners for my wonderful husband of 64 years, Les, as he was meeting a serious physical challenge.

Prayers from others? Why? Prayer is a constant in our daily lives – whether on rising, during our devotional time, breath prayers throughout the day, meal times, when we lie down to sleep at the end of the day, and when we wake in the quiet of darkness and sleep evades us. So why did we feel led to ask for more prayers?

We know God hears each and every prayer – is it possible that God looks with loving eyes on the same prayer of many? YES! James says, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16ESV.  We have seen that great power many times, and knew this was a time to call on our Christian family to join us in prayer.

We are a testimony that those prayers offered for Les were powerful and effective. Was there anything we could do to make the physical challenges better by ourselves? No. Fear of the events? No.  Fear of the Covid patients just a few doors away in CCU? No. Trust in the wisdom of a medical staff unknown to us? Yes. Feeling another presence walking along side of us? Yes.

Peace descended on us that cannot be described. The prayers and the peace gave way to praising and glorifying God – something that was so instantaneous proclaimed without thought of who might hear when good news was given. Patience when God said, “Wait.”

Leaving the Emergency Room for CCU, a Skagit County Sherriff was in the Emergency Room hall as Les was being transported. To him, I said “thanks” for choosing to be in law enforcement. His response was, “Take good care of that guy!” I’m praying for both of you!” What a comfort! On one of the floors one evening, David a CNA came to say, “Good night” as he left for the day. “I’m praying for you!” were his words as he walked out of the room. Prayers come from many unexpected places! Do you see it? The ripple effect, like a stone cast in a pool, of unsolicited prayers widening the circle on those prayers already cast.

With humble thankfulness, we once again say thanks to all who took the time to offer a prayer on Les’ behalf. We also thank you for checking in to see how your prayer was being received, and your continued prayer. To others, an invitation to join the Care Team as a praying partner. We have seen again the POWER of prayer in our lives! “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1Thess.5:16ESV

Jesus left us with an all-inclusive prayer, and one we have said many times and will continue to pray. We leave you with a different way to look at the Lord’s Prayer. May it bring a fresh meaning to the words we know so well.
 
Our Father
Thanking you for adopting me into your family.
 
Who is
Thank you, my Lord, for being a God of the present tense:
My Jehovah-jireh (the God who provides)
My Jehovah-raah (the caring shepherd)
My Jehovah-shalom (the Lord is peace)
My Jehovah-nossi (the Lord my banner)
 
In heaven.
Your workshop of creation reminds me if you can make the skies, you can make sense out of my struggles.
 
Hallowed by Thy name.
Be holy in my heart. You are above all else. Enable me to set my sights on you.
 
Thy Kingdom come.
Be present, Lord Jesus! Have free reign in every corner of my life.
 
Thy will be done
Reveal your heart to me, dear Father. Show me my role in your passion. Grant me guidance in the following—
 
On earth as it is in heaven.
Thank you that you silence heaven to hear my prayer. On my heart are the ones you love. I pray for—
 
Give us this day our daily bread.
I accept your portion for my life today. I surrender the following concerns—
 
Forgive us our debts,
I thank you for the roof of grace over my head, bound together with the timbers of Calvary. There is nothing I can do to earn or add to your mercy. I confess my sins to you—
 
As we also forgive our debtors.
Treat me, Father, as I treat others. Help me to forgive those who have wounded me especially—
 
Lead us not into temptation,
Let my small hand be engulfed in yours, hold me fast, lest I fall. I ask special strength for—
 
Deliver us from evil,
Protect me from evil thoughts, words, and deeds as I live in your created world, especially—
 
Our Father – give us – forgive us – lead us –
Thine – not mine – is the Kingdom, I lay my plans at your feet.
Thine – not mine – is the Power, I come to you for strength.
Thine – not mine – is the Glory, I give you all the credit.
Forever. Amen.

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Thursday, August 13
Perry Watkins
 

WHY DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE

OSLC CONGREGATION DEVOTION

Corrie Ten Boom was asked once “Why do bad things happen to good people”.  She responded, “When I meet the Lord in Heaven, that’s the first thing I will ask Him.”

Remember Romans 8:28-39:  Let’s review it again:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.  For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that he might be the first born among many brothers, and those He predestined, He also called; those he called, he also justified; those He justified, he also glorified.

What, then, shall we say in response to this?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?  It is God who justifies.  Who is He that condemns?  Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to new life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written:  “For your sake we face death all day long.  We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’”  No, in all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’”

Isaiah 55:8-9:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

When we as Christians think that we deserve to escape the “bad things”, we deny the fact that every second we are alive and every breath we take is only by the grace and mercy of God, who now restrains Himself, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, from giving us what we deserve, eternal separation from Him. 

The atonement of Jesus redeemed Christians from the Old Testament punishments for breaking God’s law.  This means that God is no longer the source of bad things (sickness) in the life of the believer. 

Perhaps our heavenly Father is using bad things (sickness) to measure and refine our faith. 

When my Father was dying of bone cancer, one evening, my brother George and I had a conversation.  He asked me why does a good man like Dad have to suffer like this?  With my limited spiritual knowledge I gave an explanation and talked about God’s mercy.  Then I asked George, what about you?  “Luck of the draw, Perry, pure and simple.”

He meant that Dad’s cancer was pure chance.  Yeah.  Sort of.  But for us Christians, that random luck stems from the fact that because of evil and man’s sin, even individual GOOD  people are subject to bad things happening on a random basis.  How we respond to bad things is the key.

Philippians 1:21-26:

“For me to live as Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.  Yet what shall I chose?  I do not know.  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you (others) that I remain in the body.  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you (others) for your (others) progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you (others) again your (others) joy in Jesus Christ will overflow on account of me.” 

The few extra years we may spend ministering on earth is nothing in comparison to joy of eternity, BUT, it could mean all the difference to someone you minister to. 

God’s blessings to you all

Perry

 

 
 
Tuesday, August 11
by Elsie Pritchard – (written for congregational Advent Devotions, 1989)
 

First Week in Advent                                                                                   December 5th

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” Psalm 19:1

Before us lay the majestic beauty of God’s expressive handiwork. Every turn On The Way To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park displayed rugged peaks, graced by glacial flows, which, when warmed by the summer sun, feed numerous surging waterfalls. The delicate beauty of mountains, flowers, wildlife grazing on lush green foliage and the song of a bird echoing on the sweet fresh air all presented a panoramic view of breathtaking beauty and tranquility.

Gazing on this piece of “Paradise”, most of which is untouched by human hands, stirs within mortal man a deep longing to remain forever! However, a closer examination of the rugged peaks reveals that their formation came about through the painful upheaval of a forceful up surging of the ancient ocean floor. Gone is the image of paradise perfection as the reality of a sin-captured world rears its ugly head. Even the grandeur of God’s creation does not qualify for our eternal home. “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now.” Romans 8:22

Scripture tells us that all creation shall pass away. Only “agape” love (God’s love) will endure. “For God so loved that world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes on Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16. God’s “love heart” beats in the hub of Christmas through the gift of His precious Son, Jesus, whose birthday we prepare for each Advent. Only the redemptive work of God’s Christmas Love Gift qualifies us for our real eternal home.

LOVE – PARADISE – LIFE….That’s what Christmas is all about!!!

-Elsie Pritchard