Member Devotions
 

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