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.

—————————————
 
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