Train CarDeliver me from those who work evil; from the bloodthirsty save me. Psalm 59:2


On August 21, 2015, Americans and lifelong friends Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos boarded a train bound from Amsterdam to Paris together. Near them was British passenger Chris Norman. Suddenly, a shirtless man emerged from the train car’s bathroom carrying a loaded rifle. The four young men could see what was happening. They sprang into action and wrestled the gunman, Ayoub el-Khazzani, to the floor. The gunman carried with him an AKM assault rifle with 270 rounds of ammunition, a Luger M80 automatic pistol with a full cartridge, a box-cutter and a water-bottle-sized container full of gasoline, according to French Prosecutor Francois Molins. El Khazzani “wouldn’t have hesitated to use all the arms in his possession—assault rifle, pistol and box-cutter—if it wasn’t for the remarkable intervention of the passengers,” Molins later said. The three Americans and the Brit were given medals of valor and other types of recognition from France, Britain and the United States for heroism in the face of certain disaster.


We have all scratched our heads as to why terrorists want to kill innocent people. But why did these four young men leap into action without a moment’s hesitation, risking their own lives to save those innocent people from the gunman? Skarlatas and Stone were members of the US National Guard and US Air Force respectively, with military training in battle and survival skills. But Sadler and Norman were ordinary citizens. Would you and I have done what they did?


I love to read stories of everyday heroes. Not only do these accounts bolster my faith in humanity, but they also help me realize that God can—and is—working through average people every day to protect those in harm’s way. As news broadcasts are quick to tell us, not all violence is foiled. But when attacks of this nature are quelled, we all have a sense that good has prevailed.


Jesus considered asking the Father to save Him from the suffering ahead, but He knew it was all part of God’s plan (John 12:27). For the Christian, our Lord’s death and resurrection were the ultimate “rescue mission.” God has already vanquished the enemy.


Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil, Lord. Amen


ChemoGuest Blogger, Diana Merkl


For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was sick and you visited me.   Matthew 25:35


On the day the doctor told me I had cancer I came home and called the church office asking to be included in prayer. My pastor came to my house and prayed for my understanding, acceptance and healing. I did not understand how a single parent with two teenagers whose nearest relative lived 500 miles away could gain any understanding, acceptance and especially healing. I had a lot to learn.


Getting chemo became a part of my life. A friend would drive me to the hospital, another friend would sit with me during the day long drip of chemo and other friends would take turns spending the night to keep me safe. I had memory loss as a side effect of a certain medication.


I have boxes and boxes of cards and notes I have saved from all the people who sent them. Some put meaningful bookmarks and kitchen magnets in them. I clung tightly to the message that read: “Do not be afraid on the days you forget to pray because your friends are lifting your name.” One Sunday when I was sitting in the back row of church, the choir sang in front. As they were filing down the aisle to the back every choir member either hugged me or squeezed my hand or touched me, and I was moved to tears at the outpouring of love.


I received numerous bouquets of flowers and plants and laughed at the helium balloons and stuffed animals. I loved the pretty scarves for my bald head, and I insisted on wearing frilly nightgowns in the hospital and not their unattractive hospital gowns.


Where was God when I fought cancer? Right where God is today in healing smiles, hundreds of messages of love though cards and telephone calls, in the good thoughts of our friends, in all the hugs, the tender squeezes of a hand and the gifts of food and offers of rides, in the listening ears and especially all the prayers. Right where God is today and every day working through each one of us.


Father God, keep us always mindful of those suffering around us. Guide us to be a healing presence in their lives. Amen


Diana Merkl is a 27 year cancer survivor who believes by the prayers of her friends and grace of God she was allowed to stay here awhile longer.


Group of happy friends against white background

Guest Blogger Katie Sluss


May the Lord now show you kindness and faithfulness, and I too will show you the same favor because you have done this. 2 Samuel 2:6


This August, I had the pleasure of accompanying my church on a mission trip to Denver, Colorado. Our main goal was to provide services to the homeless, including helping with meals, handing out baked goods and burritos, and even playing bingo with the residents at a retirement home. If someone were to ask me where I saw God the most, I, without a doubt, say in the people we served.


The theme of our mission was ‘abandon expectations,’ and our expectations certainly did not come true. Most of us are used to seeing the common stereotype of homeless people in television and film– hostile, aggressive, sitting on the side of the street with a cup for money. This was not true in the slightest. We had the pleasure of talking to many people we were serving, and getting to know them. These were some of the sweetest conversations I have ever had. These people were the kindest, most down to earth people I have ever met. They made me so happy, and made me laugh and smile so much. It was kind of ironic that the people in the bleakest situation can be the happiest.


The humor and brightness in these people’s eyes wasn’t the only thing that surprised me. You’d think that they would have lost all hope and faith in God by now. Again, this wasn’t true in the slightest. Not a single person objected when we asked if we could pray for them. Many people told us that God was very close in their hearts, and that being in their situation had actually strengthened their faith. Everyone was so respectful and thankful, responding to our help with “thank you”s and “God bless you”s.


Dear God, please continue to share Your kindness with the people that need it the most. Please let Your love radiate through them and let them inspire others just as they did me. Don’t let them lose hope. Help them keep going. Amen.


Katie Sluss is a15 year old whose family is    active members or our church. I had the pleasure of being her mentor for her confirmation class. We had some very interesting conversations. Katie is bright, articulate, and well-able to express herself. She models Christ in her interactions with her peers and with adults. Meg.


Jesus on the PhoneRestore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Psalm 51:12


What if God called you right here, right now, on your ever-present cell phone? Would you be ready? What would you say? I know what I’d like to discuss with Him: how I seem to drift away from His presence so easily, getting caught up in the cares of this world and forgetting what it feels like to be “on fire” for Jesus.


Thirty-eight years ago, when I made a decision to place Christ at the center of my life, I literally lived and breathed Him. As soon as I got home from work each weekday, I took hour-long prayer walks in a large park near my home. I sat on a lake bank and prayed until I was almost dizzy with the effort. Christian radio programming was always on in my car, and I sang my lungs out praising my Lord. I used to describe the feeling I had as being like a golden cord attached to the top of my head, stretching all the way up to heaven. God seemed to be sending spiritual energy through that cord night and day.


That’s how it is when we fall in love: we are “all consumed.” Nowadays, I do not love my Lord any less.

I’ve just “settled in” to a lifelong relationship with Him. He has become my constant and true Companion, as comfortable as an old pair of shoes. That’s good—but I miss the old days when I could not wait to get alone with Him, to burn inside with the power and majesty that I had only just discovered. How do I recoup that “on fire” feeling, diligently purifying and distilling all my daily thoughts and actions into a “spiritual soup,” rich and thick and satisfying?


Perhaps the lesson here is like making soup: we bring it to a boil, and then we let it simmer until it is done. God hasn’t allowed me out of His marvelous sight. He’s only letting my life “cook down” until I am exactly the person He wants me to be. Pass the salt, please.


Loving Father, You know what it best for me. The joy of Your salvation is ever before me. Amen


DetectiveO Lord, who shall sojourn in Your tent? Who shall dwell on Your holy hill? Psalm 15:1


Integrity is doing the right thing whether anyone is watching or not. If I want please God, I need to demonstrate integrity all the time. Psalm 15 lists several things that a person of integrity needs to possess or carry out. The first is to “walk blamelessly” and uprightly (v. 2). Are we only in this game of life for ourselves, or are we doing our best to honor God in all we do? Are we promoting good things in this world, or do we sometimes dabble in the not-so-good stuff? Next we must treat others with respect, “speak the truth” about others, and not “take up a reproach,” or unduly place the blame on others (v. 3). Verse 4 says: “In whose eyes a vile person is despised.” Whoa! Are we supposed to despise others? At a minimum, we can avoid people whose attitude towards God differs greatly from ours. Unless, of course, we are moved to tell this “vile” person about the hope that is in us…


Also in verse 4, we see that a person of integrity “swears to his own hurt.” That means if we make a promise, we take God as our witness, and we don’t try to get out of what we say we’ll do, even if it costs us something to carry through. Verse 5 says we should “not put our money out at interest,” or “take a bribe against the innocent.” In Biblical times, Israelites were forbidden to charge interest to one of their own. The ideal person deals generously and fairly with all people, allowing others to gain the resources they need to live.


And the Psalm ends with this: “He who does these things will never be moved.” Being intentional about integrity grows into a habit, and the habit grows into a way of life. The Holy Spirit helps us to toe the line, so to speak, by reminding us when we get off track. God sees everything we do anyway. But we are always welcome in His tent on His holy hill, where we can sit at His feet and learn His ways.


Father, guide me until integrity is my way of life. Amen


Treasure ChestWhere your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21


What if Judson Van De Venter and Winfield Weeden had named their famous hymn “I Surrender Some” instead of the title they gave it? The real title is “I Surrender All,” and that’s exactly what it means. We are to strive to surrender everything in our lives to Christ because He did the same for us. II say strive because we are human, but with God’s help, we can move towards giving Christ everything we have and are and think we own.


What if Jesus went through the lyrics to this song and studied them with us? I know I wouldn’t fare very well, but it’s a comfort to know He would help me in my efforts. The first verse talks about freely giving Christ all we have. Most of us probably don’t just hand everything over to God; we want to place conditions on what we will give. “Sure, Lord, I’ll work at the food shelf, but I can only do it when I have nothing else going on.” Or in the song when it says “I will ever love and trust Him,” do we really? All the time? Until the end of our lives? Sometimes in the nighttime of my fear, I think, “I’m all alone in this, and I’ll probably fail!” Instead, I should be thinking, “I know God’s got my back, even though it doesn’t feel that way right now.” And what about the line, “In His presence daily live?” What does that look like, when I’m racing around in traffic screaming inside my brain for all the other drivers to make way for me?


Am I sure I bow “humbly at His feet?” Maybe I didn’t yesterday because I was overtaken with pride of self or righteous indignation. Are my “worldly pleasures all forsaken” for my God, or do I own some great “prize” that I can’t take with me when it’s my time to meet my Maker?


In today’s Scripture, Jesus said our hearts aren’t with God if they are focused on earthly “treasures.” Our song’s lyrics continue: “Let me feel the Holy Spirit…Now I feel the sacred flame.” It is only by surrendering all to the Lord that we truly know “the joy of full salvation.”


Holy God, take all of me now. Amen


Jesuslightoftheworld_lgFor who is God except the Lord? And who is a rock besides our God? Psalm 18:31


Did you know God is a Wordsmith? The Bible proves it, and since He invented words and their meanings, God can certainly fling them around better than any of us.


Webster defines metaphor as “a word or phrase naming one thing that is used to refer to another thing in order to show or suggest that they are similar.” The Bible is full of metaphors, as one purpose of Scripture is to paint a word picture of what God is like and what constitutes His character and His will. There is so much rich, powerful language used to tell us Who God is, that one is almost overwhelmed by the images. Today’s Scripture likens God to a rock, signifying that His people can rely on him for absolute protection and salvation. He is unique too; there is no other being like Him. Who else has three distinct Beings in one package? The rock metaphor is used to show that the Lord is worthy to be praised. Psalm 19:1 says, “Let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation!” And Deuteronomy declares, “The Rock, His work is perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God, without deceit, just and upright is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4). Isaiah says He is “an everlasting Rock” (Isaiah 26:4), and both Joel and Jeremiah calls Him “my strength and my stronghold, my refuge on the day of trouble” (Joel 3:16 and Jeremiah 16:19).


Scripture makes it clear that Jesus is a Rock too. The Messiah’s kingdom is eternal and immovable just like a big boulder. Daniel prophesied that “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall this kingdom be left to another people” (Daniel 2:44). And Jesus referred to Himself as “the stone that the builders rejected” (Matthew 21:42; also prophesied in Psalm 118:22). Next time you see a beautiful boulder in a natural setting, say a little prayer of thanks that our God is the Rock that we can count on for strength, shelter, salvation and eternal life.


My Rock and My Redeemer, I thank You from the bottom of my heart for keeping me safe and secure in the cleft of Your great Rock. Amen


chocolate-chip-cookies-and-milkMan did eat the bread of angels; He sent them food in abundance. Psalm 78:25


When my mother-in-law, Ellie Corrigan, passed away at age eighty, those of us gathered at her side were sad to see her go. But she had suffered greatly, and we were also relieved that she was no longer in pain. Someone had brought some homemade cookies, and another person found milk in the hospital refrigerator. There beside this beloved wife, mother, grandmother and sister, we all shared the milk and cookies. “It’s what she would have wanted us to do,” someone said. “If she could, she’d be up serving us!” What might have seemed irreverent to some was a beautiful shared ritual in honor of Ellie’s passing.


Why do we eat when people die? The first person I knew who passed away was one of my fellow residential assistant at the University of Denver. She committed suicide, and the entire dorm community was devastated. Since my family moved often, I had never been to a funeral before in my life. But I remember thinking, “How can people eat or sleep after a death?” Those things were the furthest from my mind at that time. I spent several wakeful nights and lost a couple of pounds before my body gave in to hunger and fatigue.


Dr. Holly Prigerson, a bereavement specialist, was quoted in the Sun Sentinel as saying, “Grief triggers the fight-or-flight mechanism… When grieving people say they don’t feel like eating, that’s because the body is prioritizing for survival.” But we must eat to live. Food brought to the home by friends and relatives and meals served after funerals provide emotional support as well as encouragement for the bereaved to rejoin the living. They are exhausted from caregiving and worry, and the provision of food by others helps them move forward. James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress.” So break out the casseroles (“hot dishes,” as they are called in the Midwest) and the milk and cookies and help someone through this most difficult of times.


Lord, You take the sting out of death, but when those left are hurting, help us be a healing balm to them. Amen


Moses in the WildernessHear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock? Numbers 20:10


After his mother set him adrift in a basket and he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses spent his first forty years living large in an Egyptian palace. Moses eventually decided his place was among his own people. He served God faithfully after that, leading the Israelites to freedom from the Pharaoh and acting as a go-between for God and the people for forty more years in the wilderness. It would appear Moses had an exemplary career as one of God’s most faithful followers.


But Moses and his brother Aaron made one fatal mistake: they tried to take credit for God’s work. Almost to their new home, the people were complaining about the absence of water. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt into this miserable place..?” they said. “There is not even any water to drink!” (Numbers 20:5) So Moses and Aaron rounded up the people and Moses said, “Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” (Numbers 20:10) Moses gave the rock two good whacks and out came water “abundantly.” But God was abundantly displeased that Moses and Aaron didn’t give Him credit for the miraculous act. Therefore,” the Almighty said, “you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” (Numbers 20:10-12) God even let Moses see the beautiful land from the top of Mount Nebo. But He didn’t let Moses set foot over the line.


Well. That seems harsh! Moses and his brother were, after all, human, and God knows humans make mistakes. So what happened to poor old Moses? We know he died there in the wilderness, but Moses shows up again in the Bible, and there is a happy ending. Matthew 17 tells of Jesus’ transfiguration on a high mountain where “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became dazzling white.” (v. 2) Peter and James were there, and suddenly, so were Moses and Elijah. Moses was wrapped in glorious light just like Jesus. God had a big surprise for Moses, even after it seemed He had given up on His faithful servant.


God of Perfect Timing, grant that we may trust You, even when it seems Your ways are harsh. Amen


Ladder to HeavenFor God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life. John 3:16


Author, actor and humorist Will Rogers once said, “The difference between death and taxes is that death does not get worse every time Congress meets.” These were prophetic words, since Rogers died in 1935 and people are still fussing about taxes. It seems we are destined to be taxed in some fashion in this world, whether it is by monetary taxes levied by the government or emotional and physical taxes placed on us by the rigors of this life on earth. Jesus said, “In the world you face persecution” (John 16:33). It’s a given that our earthly existence will not be easy.


Will Rogers’ comment notwithstanding, death gets better for the practicing Christian. In John 16:33, Jesus continues by saying, “But take courage; I have conquered the world!” How comforting it is to know that He has won the battle against death and human suffering. Satan keeps trying, but he might as well not even leave his bunker because he has already lost the entire war. And we do not need to be “taxed”—bear the burden—regarding our future because it is resting firmly in God’s hands. The psalmist knew this when he wrote, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62:8). This verse ends with the word, Selah, which many Bible scholars say means to pause and think about the passage. If we take time to meditate on Psalm 62:8, the words assure us of God’s unfailing character, His abiding willingness to listen to all we have to bring before Him, and His strength to provide us with a place to hide and be safe until the storms of life have passed. All of this, coupled with His promise of a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1-2), means we can live without fear of what congress—or any other earthly entity—might do to harm us.


Great God of all that is, we thank You for being our refuge and strength, our protector and friend. We worship You and adore You because of the depth of Your love for us. Amen