Deily Devotions: Fruits as a Gift

Look at Galatians 5:22:  “…But the fruits of the Spirit are LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS, and SELF-CONTROL.”

One of our themes in confirmation class (many years ago!) was ‘Free to be…’  In the beginning of chapter 5 in Galatians we are told that we have freedom in Christ. By verse 13 we are told about life by the Spirit–what it is not, and what it is. And throughout chapter 6 we learn about doing good to all. This last week during the service we started with the all-encompassing word of LOVE–GOD’S love being greatest of all.

Look again at the fruits of the Spirit and how they would describe us as Christ’s people: We are loved and can love, we are given joy, and can be joyful, we are given peace and can become content, we are given patience, forbearance, and the ability to endure long-suffering so that we can be patient with others, we are given kindness so that we can become kind, we are nurtured in faith so that be can become faithful, we are tamed to become gentle by the gentleness of Christ himself, and we are shown to adhere to the gospel through the practice of self-control.

When we read and see the above paragraph, you and I need to look closely for the subject. It is hidden, yet it is so apparent! God is the subject. God takes the initiative; he always has and he always will. Galatians 5:22 lists the fruits of the Spirit as gifts. They are God-given. We must embrace them for the gifts that they are.
 
~written by member Joan Berdahl


Deily Devotions: By Their Fruits You Will Know Them

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them.  (Matthew 7:15-16)

There are so many voices to listen to in our world – newspaper, television, radio, social media and other sources constantly call to us with information. Even if we choose to listen to all, part, or none of this “noise,” our lives are impacted. We question which voices are true, and which may be speaking to us as false prophets … and how can we tell the difference anymore?

In reading and studying these passages, I was struck by the last line stating …” by their fruits you will know them.” I like to think of fruits as appealing, tasty additions to my life. But when I bite into an overripe strawberry, peach or banana, the taste is less than appealing and the remainder of the fruit is quickly discarded. The plant did not start out as rotten – the initial fruit was good, but if not consumed quickly, it spoiled. This is like the fruits of our spirit – I truly believe God gives us all not only good, but great fruits to share with others. But through our human and sometimes poor choices, these fruits can in time become rotten, and we may unknowingly lead others away from making good choices. 

My optimistic heart chooses to focus on the good fruit and the opportunity to save a potential “rotten tree” before it is thrown into the fire as the Scripture states.

Dear Lord,
keep us ever mindful of the wonderful fruits You have given each and every one of us. May we use our talents only for good and pure reasons. Help us to discern the false prophets who seek to lead us away from Your intent for our lives. I pray these things through the power of Jesus’ Name. Amen.

~written by, Shirley Heber  


Deily Devotions: Sand or Stone

Two Friends

A story tells that two friends were walking through the desert. During some point of the journey they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other in the face. The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, he wrote in the sand:

“TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SLAPPED ME IN THE FACE.”

They kept on walking until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the friend saved him. After he recovered from near drowning, he wrote on a stone:

“TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SAVE MY LIFE.”

The friend who had both slapped and saved his best friend asked him, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now, you write on a stone. Why?’
The other friend replied, “When some hurts us we should write it down in sand where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it.”
LEARN TO WRITE YOUR HURTS IN THE SAND AND TO CARVE YOUR BLESSINGS IN STONE.


Deily Devotions: An Empty Seat? God had Other Plans

 

Sometimes God has to slap me in the head!

I was recently on delayed flight from Charlotte NC to Chicago trying to get home from Myrtle Beach. It was actually a rebooked flight from my original flight cancelled earlier in the day. So instead of nearly being home, I am still in Charlotte and the delay on my new flight was significant enough to now make missing even the last flight from Chicago to Sioux Falls, with an overnight stay at the airport, a distinct reality. It is in this setting that I, a tired, aggravated and entitled man, boarded MY flight to Chicago.

When I entered the plane all I could hear were screaming babies. Oh well. I found my aisle seat but I had no neighbor yet. Might I have an empty seat next to me!? Nope! I was soon standing up to let a very large man into his seat next to me. He used all of his seat and a good deal of mine. Perfect! My selfish thoughts towards my fellow traveler consumed me. I don’t even remember taking off. Then God decided He was going to use this man to give me a life lesson.

Halfway into the flight the man asked me a question. I answered it and before long a conversation ensued. He was 21 and from Myrtle Beach. Ironically very close to where I had just visited. His mom, who lived in Myrtle Beach as well, had recently and suddenly passed away. His parents separated long ago and his dad, an Irish citizen, lived in Dublin. So, with few maternal relatives to support him, this man was going to Ireland to be with his dad, take advantage of a dual citizenship opportunity, and start a new life. He really had no specific plan, was a bit nervous and yet, at the same time, was very excited and hopeful. Quite simply, he was amazing. I was not.

My original worry and anxiety over connections eventually proved unnecessary as I made that Sioux Falls flight and now I’m home. (Of course – right?!) But I am grateful for my inconvenience because God introduced me to one of His brave children. He also dealt me a sharp lesson in humility just when I needed it the most.

Oh, and the side of my head still smarts!
 
~written by member, Steve Zahn


Deily Devotions: Lessons Learned from Teaching 6th Grade

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

In a few weeks my Church School teaching experience will come to an end. But instead of just teaching, over the years I also listened to those kids share their faith and perspective. I will forever retain one lesson from those conversations.

Most of us know, perhaps from our childhood, the story of The Good Samaritan. A guy lies by the road hurt.  No one stops to help except a “good” guy who happens to be a Samaritan. The lesson is that we should do likewise and help our neighbors and strangers.  Sure. No problem. However, Jesus’s use of the relationship complexities between the Samaritan and the guy on the road is often lost on us today.

I learned that with a few modern adjustments to the parable, perhaps we might better hear Jesus’s original message.  I’ll suggest we reverse the roles. Replace the role of The Good Samaritan with The Good Christian – the good guy. Then substitute any role or label you like for the guy along the road (the bad guy, the different guy, the guy not like us).

With this new twist, I think the message becomes remarkably fresh.

Look beyond the life situation of strangers and first and foremost love and care for them.

We are all sinners. Yes – some of us sin in more obvious ways and perhaps we even flaunt it. But we all sin. So if we use the sins of others as a reason to push back a bit on this new version of The Good Samaritan, I think Jesus might respond with “Get past it! Drop the judging and go help. I’ll deal with the judgement later. Besides I am in a much better position to judge because I understand their life situation. You don’t. I simply need your hands and heart to love and care for others. You’ll be much more effective for Me – and more effective at promoting your tradition of Christianity – if you love and accept first.”

It’s amazing what you can learn by teaching and listening to kids!

– Written by member Steve Zahn



Deily Devotions: A Better Question

“…….we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him…..” Colossians 1: 9-10

In the Japanese language there is a word – mu.  While I know almost nothing about the Japanese language, it is my understanding that mu means literally “no thing”. But I also learned that mu can be interpreted as “poor question”. In other words, in response to a question, mu means “Un-ask the question, because there’s a better question to be asked. There might be an answer to your original question but asking it is limiting and the answer may do more harm than ignorance.”

I think God likes the word mu. We ask Him painful questions – like:

Why?

How come….?

How could You….?

We know that God can answer them but often we hear silence. We think He doesn’t care.

Or so we think?!

Perhaps He is simply yelling mu? Perhaps He is telling us that we won’t find true comfort simply in the answers to those questions.  But if we would only ask different, wiser, questions, their answers would lead us to even better questions and eventually knowledge. And hope. And healing.

– Written by member Steve Zahn



Deily Devotions: Is there Joy in Lent?

There is great tension during this time of Lent. In our Midwestern world the seasons are starting to change; we wonder if we are going to get one more blizzard or if the tulips are going to pop up. The word ‘Lent’ is derived from the word ‘lencten’ which literally means ‘spring.’ ‘springtide’–or ‘March,’ –the longest month of Lent. Certainly there is some joyful anticipation of the spring to come! Yet with our nicer weather, our calendars may become so loaded with activities that we may have to sit back, push the delete button and eliminate some of the fluff.
 
There was no fluff with Jesus.  He was on his Father’s mission and there was no turning back. In his short-term ministry on earth, Jesus was ‘all about joy’ in much of his teaching and miracles, including those countless times he was called upon to heal those in desperate need. Jesus elicited joy in others, and surely he felt some of that joy himself–that was part of the mission, too. Jesus, being both God and man, was, and is, the Great Empathizer.
 
But the drive toward the Cross was his ultimate fatal mission; Jesus wanted to give his disciples a heads up, but they just didn’t get it. During his trial he had to go it alone. And as he hung there on the cross his chosen ones left him, running scared. Where is the joy in that??
 
Ahh. There is where we might get tripped up. Despite the emotional and physical extreme cruelty surrounding his execution, Scripture tells us that God had given Jesus a promise–that he would become the Savior of the world. Not only that, but soon Jesus would be presented with the best bonus of all–that he would be reunited with his Father in heaven! That’s a ‘Wow!’ Astounding! Amazing! But…that’s getting ahead of ourselves. That includes the Easter message and even though we know the rest of the story, we are not quite ready for that yet.
 
Now, the season of Lent was not officially established during Jesus’ time; it was initially instituted in the early Catholic church. There have been rites and rituals passed down through the ages and some changes have evolved over time–in Catholic and Protestant churches alike. The intent of the rites and rituals were admirable. But Lent is more than just rites and rituals. It is a contemplative time, a time to show penance, a time to experience hope. Every year it is a time to renew and broaden our faith through prayer and recognition of our Lord’s supreme sacrifice. It is a time allotted to spend more personal time with God. That intimate time helps to make us complete and fulfilled–does that communication give us joy?
 
Is there JOY in Lent?
 
That is for us to find out.
 
~written by member, Joan Berdahl


Deily Devotions: Copper Clad Steeple

“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch out the curtains of your habitation….hold not back, lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left.” Isaiah 54:2-3
 
In the early 1950’s, the largely Scandinavian congregation to which our families belonged voted to enlarge their tent, by building a new and larger tent. We watched our parents with interest as they involved themselves in everything from committees to nailing shingles on the deeply pitched roof of the new church. However, it was not a totally smooth effort. Many times, we’d hear reports of discord and grumbling. Fred couldn’t pound a nail straight. Margaret was bossy. The kitchen committee ladies were at odds. Beneath their quiet demeanors those Scandinavians possessed a tenacity of purpose to be reckoned with.
 
But both because of, and in spite of differences, the church was completed, pushing its copper clad steeple high. Its “enlarged place” has served its Northwest Iowa community well for over 60 years.
 
After my mother died, we found a very yellowed copy of this prayer-poem among her treasures.
 
“God, give us sympathy, common sense, and help us with courage on high.
God, give us calm and confidence, and please, a twinkle in our eye.” Amen
(Author unknown)
 
~written by members, Jack and Sharon Edmonds


Deily Devotions: Bowl of Blessings

A few years ago Gloria Dei offered these bowls as a fundraiser to remind us of the problem of food scarcity both around the world and in Sioux Falls.

I’ve made it a habit to occasionally use my bowl for breakfast to help me reflect on abundance inequality as well as other acute needs in society. Needs not just associated with nutrition but also spiritual, emotional and physical.

Over time, however, my bowl became more of a selfish focus on personal needs. We all have needs, you and I, aching to be filled. Needs often overlooked and forgotten. Hurts no one sees whose burden we carry silently. Disappointments lying just below the surface exposed in a quiet moment eating breakfast. My bowl became a focus just on me.

“And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8

But then one day I smiled. I realized I was freely eating cereal surrounded by abundance: a dog by my side, a healthy family asleep and work to prepare for.  God understands my needs, your needs and those of the world.  He knows I – we – focus on those needs because they are real.  But He also knows His abundance of grace is right alongside.

It is good to reflect on, to be concerned about and to act upon the inequality of abundance (have not > have) especially when considering others. But as you feel the weight of the left side of the equation remember that the right side is bigger than you think!  Through His grace, and sacrifice, God has ultimately turned the equation around: have > have not.  And then don’t be surprised when you discover your bowl overflowing with His blessings.
 
~written by member, Steve Zahn


Deily Devotions: Two Lists

Do me a favor. Get out a piece of paper and write down a few of your worst traits or characteristics. Go ahead – it’s ok. No-one is watching. Trust me – it’s harder than you think! In fact I’ll do it with you. Here we go…

<sound of elevator music>

Done? Let’s have a look. I’m reviewing my list.  Ugh! Not sure what to think. Not sure I like what I wrote. Who could possibly love someone like me? Like you? Well – God for one.

While God does not like our less desirable qualities, He loves us all the same. I’ll bet murderer or terrorist or villain is not on your list. But even if they are, don’t worry! Those all described Saul and God loved Saul so much that He handpicked him to build His church. God looked past his weaknesses and, rather than seeing him as the people saw him, God focused on what Saul could offer:  Leader, Organizer and Communicator.  God thought it was better to get Saul on His team and off the street.  Think about that! That’s like taking an ISIS soldier and making him into a Lutheran Bishop! Or maybe even the Pope!

And so it is with you! God loves you and wants you. Desperately! He needs you more than ever and His job is incomplete without you. Yes – You!

So put aside that first list and make a new one. List all your positive strengths and abilities and give God access. Find ways to use those gifts to reflect Christ within your family, friends and community. There are so many unfilled opportunities and God is patiently waiting…………for You!

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.”  1 Corinthians 12:12-14

~written by member Steve Zahn