Pastor Mark’s Devotions #117

“Looking Back”

One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:13-14

 

John was dead for 20 minutes! Last week, I stumbled upon a YouTube video, and watched a man give his testimony about heaven. John was involved in a skiing accident, in Utah. His thumb was injured and after a day of skiing, found his right- thumb dangling from his hand. He needed surgery. It was to be a fairly routine procedure. Something in surgery went terribly wrong. It became a life-threatening situation. Before long, John found himself hovering above the surgical team. Outside of his physical body and in his spiritual body, he watched as the doctors sowed and stitched on his thumb. He realized that he was not alone. He didn’t directly look at the presence beside him, but he knew that a messenger was with him. The time came when they left the surgery room and began to ascend together. He heard the words, “Don’t look back”. He suddenly reached a place where a hand reached out to receive him. He was told that it was not his time, and that he had more to accomplish on earth. John did not want to return to earth, but suddenly he found himself back in his earthly body. He was back in the hospital. He came to find out that he had been dead for 20 minutes. He kept his spiritual experience to himself for a long time.

Why do you think John was told to “not look back”?

It made me think of Lot’s wife, in the book of Genesis. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, was visited by two messengers who were sent to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. They were sent because the outcry to the LORD was so great. The angels urged Lot and his family to flee as quickly as possible. They said, “Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”

Lot’s wife looked back. She turned into a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19)

The Apostle Paul, makes reference to “looking back” in Philippians, chapter 3. He describes himself as a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee, and as far as legalistic righteousness is concerned, faultless. He had placed complete confidence in his ability to follow the Law. Yet he states that he was no longer looking back. He says, “But whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” He continues, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” (Philippians 3:7-8) He goes on, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

Finally, listen to Paul’s laser focus; “Brothers (and sisters), I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. BUT ONE THING I DO: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Paul had much to look back upon. He could have focused upon his misguided zeal toward the Law. He could have felt shame regarding his rigid focus upon physical disciplines. He could have carried paralyzing guilt regarding his actions, arrests and persecutions of the first Christians, especially Stephen. Yet Paul acknowledges that he is “not looking back”. He is moving on from is past. He is not ignoring his past. He is not minimizing his past. But he’s also not being controlled by his past. Paul is giving his full attention to Christ Jesus and his pursuit to KNOW him in all depth, power, AND in his suffering.

Paul experienced a transformation on the road to Damascus. He encountered the resurrected Jesus Christ, and it changed the entire trajectory of his life. He was a man, no longer living in chains due to the prison of legalism. Paul was a man set free by the grace of God, saved by the work of Jesus Christ, discovering more about salvation in Christ and his past was simply no longer relevant.

After listening to John’s, Near Death Experience, caterpillars and butterflies came to mind. If butterflies could think, would they have any reason to look back upon their life as a caterpillar? Why would they? The caterpillar has been completely transformed into a new being and is a completely new creation. Butterflies and caterpillars have been used to explain the transformation from our earthly bodies to our spiritual bodies. Butterflies represent resurrection. In thinking about our human bodies, yes, while there may be a resemblance to our past life, in heaven, we will become completely new creations. We will be set free to experience a whole new world, a whole new existence within the glory of God.

While on earth, we might concern ourselves with getting to heaven and getting God’s attention to ask Him those unanswerable earthly questions. We might wonder whether we can look back on earth, or whether our loved ones are looking down on us. These questions and considerations are worthy of our pondering. But when we get to heaven, transformed into our new spiritual bodies, as new spiritual “butterflies”, do you think we will be interested in looking back at our “caterpillar” life? Anyone who has experienced a glimpse of heaven has said, unequivocally, “No”. It’s not that our earthly life is not important. It is this earthly life that has brought us to this spiritual life. Jesus enters into a spiritual conversation with the Pharisee, Nicodemus. He acknowledges that flesh gives birth to flesh and Spirit gives birth to Spirit. But Jesus states, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter into the Kingdom of God unless he/she is born again. Born of water and the Spirit. We are born again, on earth, and become children of God. Then we are born a second time when we are transformed into our spiritual bodies and enter into the Kingdom of heaven. And as that transformation takes place, our attention, will be focused upon this new existence, and in the glory and presence of God. Every other earthly concern will fade in “insect” importance. Which begs the question, why do we worry so much about our short time on this earth.

Consider how often you “look back” and think about your use of rotary phones. Wait, what do rotary phones have to do with anything? Exactly! Do we have any real need to look back at “dialing up”? How about your use of a flip phone? Perhaps there is a bit of nostalgia looking back, but your current smart phone has transformed communication. Perhaps many of you are thinking, “Yeah, but I don’t really like it.” I. too, am tired of constant technological change. But then again, how would it feel to go back to the time before the telephone; or to the time before the telegraph machine, or to the time before the printing press for that matter? Martin Luther could certainly talk about the advantages of that transformational change.

The Bible tells us that our life in Christ here on earth is a foretaste of the feast to come. As the Spirit continues to transform us from glory to glory, looking back has less and less significance. If you are living life, constantly looking in the rearview mirror, that is a red flag warning. You are in need of the Holy Spirit to shift your focus. The Holy Spirit is to give us eyes to see – spiritually! If you need, right now, invite the Holy Spirit to move in you and through you to open your eyes and heart to his presence and where He wants you to look. The more the Spirit moves in our hearts, the more our eyes will be drawn forward, looking and longing to see the presence of God in our every day, ordinary lives. And the more our hearts will experience transformation. This process is catching a glimpse of heaven on earth.

We can be tempted to think, “If we could only return to the good ‘ol days”. Our eyes want to romantically look back at the beautiful times gone by. Certainly, there have been good days. Yes, there have been “glory days”. And there have also been “gory days”. It is not wrong to look back, unless God directly tells us not to(i.e. Lot’s wife or John). But by looking back, we can get stuck on the “glory” or the “gory” and not move on. We can do this as individuals, as couples, as congregations and as communities. It is critically important to look back in order to give thanks, to heal, to forgive, to rejoice and honor the important people and history that has brought us to this present moment. But in looking back, it cannot get in the way of our looking forward. For God is moving His entire creation forward. Looking back cannot control our future forward move. Looking back ought to empower us to live with greater purpose in the present. And ultimately, bring greater glory to God!

So, where do you find yourself looking today?  

May we follow the words of Paul. Let us “press on” toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions #108

“Faith of a Soldier”

Jesus said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith, even in Israel” Luke 7:9

Tomorrow, November 11th, we celebrate, Veteran’s Day. It is a day to honor and recognize those men and women who have put on a uniform and have been willing to fight for the freedom of our country and even be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. It has been stated many times, “There are no atheists in a foxhole.” Faith is found and surfaces in many and various conditions and circumstances.

This devotion begins with a simple history of the origins of Veterans Day. Then I’d like to point to the Scriptures, to faith found in a solider, that surfaced in a surprising way, even to Jesus himself, from a Roman Centurion no less, that left our Savior virtually speechless.

THE ORIGINS OF VETERANS DAY

In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. This site, on a hillside overlooking the Potomac River and the city of Washington, became the focal point of reverence for America’s veterans.

Similar ceremonies occurred earlier in England and France, where an unknown soldier was buried in each nation’s highest place of honor… These memorial gestures all took place on November 11, giving universal recognition to the celebrated ending of World War I fighting at 11 a.m., November 11, 1918 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month). The day became known as “Armistice Day”….

Realizing that peace was equally preserved by veterans of WW II and Korea, Congress was requested to make this day an occasion to honor those who have served America in all wars. In 1954 President Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day….

A law passed in 1968 changed the national commemoration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. It soon became apparent, however, that November 11 was a date of historic significance to many Americans. Therefore, in 1978 Congress returned the observance to its traditional date….

So, let it be at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, that we take time to give God thanks and pray for our veterans and our present military soldiers who are being put in harm’s way – that we might live in safety and enjoy the freedoms we all share.

I would also like to highlight one specific soldier. He is found in Luke chapter 7. Here, Luke describes Jesus having a surprise encounter with a Roman soldier. He is a Centurion, which means he is one who holds great responsibility and authority. Jesus arrives in the town of Capernaum, to be confronted by some Jewish elders. They approach him regarding a highly valued slave. He is the slave of the Centurion, and he is deathly ill. The elders plead for Jesus to come with them because this Roman soldier has a deep love for the Jewish nation – surprise, surprise. He even built their synagogue. An even greater surprise. So, Jesus goes with them. When Jesus is nearing the house, the centurion sends some friends to tell him not to trouble himself any further. They tell Jesus that he does not need to come to his house. He even told his friends to say, “I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. And that is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.” His friends continued with these stunning words from the soldier, “I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go’, and he goes; and that one, ‘Come’, and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this, and he does it. Say the word, and my servant will be healed.”

Jesus was shocked! The Scripture says that when Jesus heard this, he was amazed! Then he turned to the crowd following him and said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith, even in Israel.”

His friends return home and find the servant completely healed.

Jesus was “amazed” at the centurion’s faith and understanding of God’s authority. Other ways to describe Jesus’ response is – he was astonished, marveled, surprised, in wonderment. It was such a surprise to experience this man with such humility, faith and understanding because not only was he a trained killing machine for the Roman emperor; this man was also in charge of one hundred killing machine soldiers. Yet, here we have the model of a man, while wielding great authority, humbling himself before a back-woods, itinerate unrecognized teacher with a motley crew of disciples. And he even goes so far as to declare himself unworthy to be in his presence.

Compare this to the amazement Jesus expresses in Mark chapter six in his own hometown. In Nazareth, on the Sabbath, Jesus enters the synagogue and begins to teach. Many were amazed at Jesus’ teaching. Yet others questioned his wisdom and his family heritage. They say, “Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us also? And they took offense at him.” The Scriptures state that Jesus could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. Mark 6:6 states, “And he was amazed at their lack of faith.” Here again, we find Jesus “amazed”. He is astonished, marveled, surprised and in wonderment but not at amazing faith – but rather amazed at his friends and relatives lack of faith. Therefore, Jesus states, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”

It is ironic, that while Jesus is traveling throughout Israel – while he is among his disciples, friends, relatives, hometown, religious and ill-religious and various nondescript crowds – that it would be a Roman warrior who would display the depth of spiritual acumen and understanding of Kingdom authority.

Tomorrow, may we also honor this ancient war veteran, who models being a warrior after God’s own heart! What a wonderful, amazing surprise and gift of faith!

May God bless ALL our Veterans!

God Bless You All!                                             Pastor Mark



Pastor’s Devotion #107

“Election”

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

 

Finally, Tuesday, November 3rd, Election Day has arrived. When the election results are finally tallied and announced, half of our country will be elated, while the other half will be throttled with concern.  What to do? Some people will be worried that our country will go backward, others will believe we will go sideways, still others will be concerned that we will be snapping at our tail, as we run in circles.

Even before the election reports begin to roll in, I want to challenge you to lay down your worry and concern. Rather than despair and/or disappointment, I want you to dream. No matter who becomes our elected President or our elected state officials or which petitions are passed.  We have a good work to do! The Apostle Paul, declares in Ephesians 2:8-9, with trumpet blast, that we are saved by God’s grace through simple, child-like abandoned faith in Jesus Christ. We are safe and secure for eternity through the sacrificial death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Additionally, Paul continues on, in verse 10, to declare that through of this gift of grace, we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do. Tonight, I want you to focus upon your Savior, Jesus Christ. I want you to focus upon your church and the community in which we live. God has placed us in this place, at this time, to do a good work for His glory. God’s Spirit has been moving in, with, and through the hearts and lives of our people. It is the same kind of energy and life I experienced when God resurrected our tiny, fledging mission church in the foothills of the Sierra mountains. No one gave us a chance to survive. We had little to offer except for a faith in a mighty God. God turned that tiny church on fire and flames of His glory were felt throughout the community.

Have you felt the spiritual flames burning in your heart and have you recognized them smoldering under your nose? It is happening in your church, right now, in spite of a global pandemic and divisive presidential election. The question is; what good works has God been preparing for us, in such a time as this. And more personally, what part does God want you to play? Where will you participate? Who can you join and encourage? Your presence and participation are crucial in the spreading of God’s Spirit.

What is interesting about mission church dynamics is that – everyone is keenly aware that EVERYONE is invaluable to the effort at the beginning. EVERYONE is needed for the church to grow – spiritually, physically, numerically, emotionally and into the community. But once the church experiences a certain level of growth – people begin to back off and act as if their presence isn’t really that necessary. Which cannot be further from the truth. You are irreplaceable in the work of God!

The Sprit of God moves in, with and through His people. St. Paul declares that our very bodies are the very temple of God. God’s presence explodes when God’s people gather together – there is an exponential component to his movement.

Rather than worry about where our nation is going – dream about where God is going. Where is He moving our congregation? More personally, where, how, and when is God moving YOU. Each one of us is indispensable to the good work that God wants to do among us. I know that many people are worried about our conducting worship inside our new fellowship hall. If the governor tells us to back down, we will follow orders. We are committed to safety and not taking undue risks. We are taking it one week at a time and ready to make adjustments as needed. On the other hand, to feel the energy in the room, and also in the parking lot with cars honking for Matthew Mendez confirming his faith in Jesus Christ. It was a special moment – experienced by all who were engaged. Where you there? If not, you missed out on a Spirit filled day. Don’t worry – THERE IS MORE TO COME! Maybe you do not feel safe coming to church – I completely respect and understand that. But if it’s simply the inconvenience that you do not like sitting in your car – you are missing out and we are missing out on the spirit of God that you bring. Consider the difference between having 5 cars in the parking lot verses 15 cars, 50 cars, 100 cars, or 200 for that matter. The presence of God’s people coming together against the odds (not to mention rain or snow) and the excitement it brings becomes palpable. Consider the difference between 5 people inside for church verses 15, 50, 100 or 200. I guarantee you, your presence matters! The joy of the Lord was present as we held our first worship service in our newly remodeled fellowship hall last Sunday. It was a mission church mindset in a 145-year old church. Only God does work like that!

If we want to do a good work which God has prepared in advance for us to do – and if we want to bring God’s power to a divided community and nation – we must be together, united and understanding how vital each individual role is. If you are unable to participate in any church activities – that’s ok – but can God lead you to reach out with phone calls, letters, email or texts to family, friends, neighbors, or church members to demonstrate Christian love in such difficult times as these? Perhaps a meal or a listening ear, or offering a prayer? We might not be clear on the particulars, but without a doubt, God wants to take our church and faith more personal and more public!

This Sunday, for those who come, you are going to hear a very personal faith testimony – that will  bless your public ears and continue fanning the flame of the Spirit among us.

Can you hear and feel my rallying cry in this devotion? I hope so. I am pumped up and fired up because I can feel and see a missional spirit in our congregation being lit and becoming more fully alive in Him. This is the fun stuff. The excitement, commitment, enthusiasm, energy, and generosity are popping up in many and various ways. This is what makes faith compelling to those who do not know Him yet. Yes, we have challenges ahead of us – and we MUST be concerned with exposures and undue risks. But let us cradle and protect and thrive and release the Holy Spirit to move among us with greater freedom, power and transformation. The reality is that God’s Spirit seems to spring forward most often in desperate, trying times – and we all know we are living in trying times. But when God’s people are crying out for more of his saving grace, historically, the church of Jesus Christ has done its greatest work during society’s most difficult days.

Know this, the most important election has already taken place! God has elected you into his family! St. Paul states, “Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” 2 Timothy 2:10

God Bless You All!  We have a wonderful, Spirit led, work ahead of us!

Pastor Mark

  



Order of Worship October 18



OSLC Comprehensive



August 11

Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church Member Devotion:

 

Dear Members and Friends;

As I mentioned in my last devotion, I would be taking a break for a few weeks. During this four- week hiatus, a suggestion was made that perhaps some of our members might be interested in writing a devotion. I reached out to a number of our people, and they answered affirmatively. So, for the next few weeks, you will receive a devotion from a fellow member of our church, who is willing to go public with their faith. It’s pretty exciting.

A year ago, I remember Annette Bowden sharing a devotion, written by her father, years ago, from a booklet that was put together at Our Saviour’s as an Advent Devotional. The year was 1989. As I thumbed through its pages, I recognized many names of people who contributed writings that are still active in our church today. One of those contributors was our beloved, Elsie Pritchard. As we begin these next few weeks  – listen to a reflection from Elsie. While her writing was intended to point us to Christmas, it forever points us to Christ!
 
Each Tuesday and Thursday, there will be a new devotion that you can access from the link on our home page –
 

P.S. – Don’t you think it’s time that we put together another OSLC Member Advent Devotional for 2020? Something to think and pray about.

Yours in Christ, Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 10

“Death”

“He breathed his last.” Luke 23:46

Today is Good Friday. This marks the day Jesus breathed his last and died on the cross. It’s also hard to believe, today, that over 100,000 people worldwide have breathed their last due to Covid19.

This virus has attacked the young and the old. This virus has attacked the high risk and low risk; men, women, children even infants. It has attacked the rich and the poor. It has gone after Prime Minister, Prince, and pauper. Yesterday’s news reported a New York Police Officer, a bus driver and a man getting his hair cut died within days of contracting the virus. Not all have been infected but all are affected by this coronavirus pandemic. When all this dies down, further measures will surely need to be taken to guard against further outbreaks.

Jesus’ last breath on the cross was not just a loss but it was a sacrifice. Jesus willingly sacrificed his life in order that the infection of sin would be crushed. All of humanity has been infected with this virus of sin since the Garden of Eden. Since that moment, God the Father set in motion a rescue operation that would destroy the virus and its effects, namely sin and death.

At God’s appointed time, Jesus was sent into the world with the vaccine. No, rather he WAS the vaccine and he would give new life to all who by faith would receive him. Today, we remember his sacrifice. Today, we give thanks for his gift of life.

Over the past number of weeks, we have watched one improbable recovery while another faces impending death. We have witnessed sights never seen before in our country. Countless trailer trucks have lined up to receive those who have died. Mass graves have been dug to receive their caskets. Families cannot even line up to receive their loved ones. This is a sobering time; a serious time, let it be a sincere time.

Hebrews 10:22-23 states, “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith…Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

The final night before the cross, Jesus made a promise to his disciples. He said, “Let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me, because in my Father’s house are many rooms and I go to prepare a place for you. And if I prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1-3)

Jesus had to accomplish the purpose for which he was sent. He would sacrifice his life for a world infected with sin. In so doing, he promised a place. He promised a home in heaven to live with him forever.

On this Good Friday, with death all around us, NOW is the time to draw near to God and hold unswervingly to this promise of Christ with a sincere heart.

What is a sincere heart? The Greek word means real, genuine or true. A sincere heart is an open heart. A sincere heart does not mean that one does not have moments of doubt nor fear. Rather, it is a humble heart willing to approach God and to remain open both to Him and his Word.

For so many, this promise of Christ seems to either be too good to be true or a nasty lie. How can this promise be true when 100,000 bodies lay dead on the streets and more tragedy awaits around every corner? But it is precisely because there are 100,000 on the streets that this promise is true. Jesus came into the world and was put on the cross at the hands of those in the world, that he would transport all of us beyond this world of tragedy and death.

The truth is, we might avoid death by Covid19 – but none of us will avoid breathing our last in this world. We will all face this fate. Even Lazarus, whom Jesus miraculously raised back to life after four days. He was given extra days but still would ultimately take a final breath.

Even though we cannot escape the reality of death., we can PREPARE for it.  

Jesus prepared himself for death. God the Father helped to prepared Jesus for his death. Jesus had a sincere heart. He drew near his Father. His Father drew near to him. There are many moments when the Father and the Son are drawn together; Jesus drew near to his Father at the temple as a young boy. The Father drew near to Jesus at his baptism and at the mount of transfiguration. The Scriptures tells us that Jesus drew near to his Father, in prayer, in isolated locations alone. He gets up early before dawn to be with him. He goes upon on a high mountain to be with him. He enters a garden, leaves his friends and drops to his knees to be with him. 

John chapter 17, describes another prayer in which Jesus sincerely reaches out to his Father.

Jesus prays, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” The Father and Son are of one heart and mind. They have the same purpose, desire and intention. The Son is sincere in following the will of his Father.  Jesus continues to pray, “That they (future believers) may be ONE AS WE ARE ONE: I in them and you in me.” (John 17:22)

How do we prepare for our future death date? The secret is to be ONE with JESUS as Jesus is ONE with the Father. The truth is – to be prepared for death – is the same as preparing for life – the key is to be ONE WITH GOD! When we come to know this truth – life and death, it’s all the same. Life is death! (death to self). And death is life! (Life in Him). When we are one with God then we are prepared for either life or death – for it is all God!

To be ONE with God is to KNOW God! Jesus points to this truth in the same prayer. In John 17:3. Jesus states, “Now this is eternal life: that they may KNOW YOU, the ONE true God AND Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

The Greek word to “know” points to a close, vital, personal relationship. How do we come to prepare for life and death – It emerges as we continue to grow in deep and vital relationship with him. There is room to stumble and fall in this relationship with God. He will never leave us nor forsake us. But let us continue to turn to Him in all things.

Today, as we remember Jesus’ sacrifice upon the cross – we see the sincere heart of our Savior extending his hands to each one of us.

May we, with sincere hearts, draw near to Him in full assurance of faith!  

One with You in Christ,

Pastor Mark

 



Pastor’s July Blog

 
Pastor Mark’s July Newsletter Blog
 
“On Our Way Rejoicing”
 
As a boy, I can remember my dad often choosing hymn number 260, “On Our Way Rejoicing”, as our sending song in worship.  This hymn was an upbeat, celebratory song that always put an exclamation point on the service and energized us to move forward.
 
The refrain declares, “On our way rejoicing; As we forward move, Hearken to our praises, O blest God of love!”  
 
On June 9, 2019, Our Saviour’s Lutheran congregation met to discuss and vote upon the proposed plan to remodel our fellowship hall and fireside room. We gathered together for one worship service and the place was packed. You could feel the vibe and excitement in the room (which, to be honest, I wasn’t sure how the whole morning would go. We had done our homework, been on our knees in prayer – yet still we were not sure how the congregation, as a whole felt about the project.)
 
After a great time of worship, the table was set, and we feasted with a great breakfast. Then our President, Ken Christoferson, opened our meeting and gave an overall scope of the project. Marv Hansen, our project manager, then focused on all the details and particulars of the remodel. I followed trying to focus upon the “why” of this effort – to further strengthen our mission and ministry in our church and into our community. Annette Bowden then discussed the funds necessary and a vision for how this could be accomplished.  
 
Then a motion was made and a vote was taken to consider this remodel project.
 
Overwhelmingly the congregation approved the effort with a vote of 118-2. And we went on our way, rejoicing!
 
That day, commitment cards were passed out and on the following day cards were mailed out for those who could not attend. Annette explained that to begin the project, we would need to raise $200,000 in pledges to be given by September 30, 2019. Those pledges were to be made on the “green” commitment cards. The “yellow” commitment card is for a 3-year pledge, that would cover the remainder of the construction costs of $170,000.
 
It is now 7 days after our congregational meeting and to date Sheri, our treasurer, who is the only one who will count these cards, has communicated that we have received pledges on the green cards of $148,844 – that’s 74.4% of our initial fund raising goal of $200,000! 
 
Are you rejoicing? I CAN’T HEAR YOU! How exciting and what a wonderful expression of enthusiasm from our congregation to see this kind of generous giving so quickly. Yes, we still have a way to go – but it is very exciting as we forward move. May God hearken to our praises, O blest God of love!
 
On the day of our vote, I told two stories involving Pastor Tony Campolo, pointing to the power and purpose of why we are here as a church and why we do what we do. Whether remodel or not, we are here to bring the message of reconciliation from Jesus Christ to a lost and broken world. And we have been given the opportunity and privilege to participate in His mission.
 
I close with one final Tony Campolo story:  Tony was giving a major address at a women’s conference. At a point in the program the women were being challenged with a several thousand dollar goal for their mission project, the chairperson for the day turned to Dr. Campolo and asked him if he would pray for God’s blessing on the women as they considered what they might do to achieve their goal.
 
To her astonishment, he went to the podium and graciously declined. He said, “You already have the necessary resources to complete this project right here in this room. The necessary gifts are in your hands. As soon as we take the offering and underwrite this project, then we will thank God for freeing us to be generous, responsible and accountable stewards.”
 
When the offering was taken, the mission goal was overreached. Then Dr. Campolo led them in a joyous prayer and song of thanksgiving. I wonder if the song was, “On Our Way Rejoicing”?
 
Thank you for your partnership and participation. More specifically, thank you for your partnership and participation in the mission of the Gospel.
 
In all that we do, may Jesus Christ be honored, glorified and praised.
 
Join us Sunday, June 30th at 9:45 a.m. in the fellowship hall  – as we eat breakfast together, hear from Sheri the results of our progress and then sing together,  “On our way rejoicing; as we forward move, Hearken to our praises, O blest God of love!”
 
Yours in Christ,
 
Pastor Mark
 
 


Pastor Mark’s January Newsletter Blog

 
 
 

“3 Days of Prayer” – January 1, 2, 3, 2019 LCMC 7th Annual Three Days of Prayer “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best…”     Philippians 1:9-10

Mark Batterson writes in his book, “Draw the Circle” (page 224) “One day as I was on my knees praying about praying, I felt the Holy Spirit lovingly and playfully asking, “Did you think this was going to be easy?”  
 
Learning a spiritual language is like learning Spanish, French or German. We don’t become fluent in a few minutes. Acquiring a prayer language is like learning a foreign language. Expanding our vocabulary of praise is as difficult as conjugating verbs in another language. I love the story about the grandfather who walked by his granddaughter’s bedroom one night and overheard her praying the alphabet, literally. “Dear God, a,b,c,d,e,f,g,” She prayed all the way to “z” and said, “Amen”. The grandfather said, “Sweetie, why were you praying that way?” The granddaughter replied, “I didn’t know what to say so I figured I’d let God put the letters together however He saw fit.”
 
Batterson continues, “Sometimes I feel that way too. I have no idea what to say when I pray. And that’s ok.
 
The first objective of prayer is praying about what to pray about. Prayer isn’t about outlining our agenda to God; it’s about getting into God’s presence and getting God’s agenda for us. Billy Graham once noted: “Prayer is not about using God, it is more often about getting us in a position where God can use us. I watched the deck hands on the great liner United States as they docked that ship in NY Harbor. First, they threw out a rope to the men on the dock. Then, inside the boat the great motors went to work and pulled on the great cable. But, oddly enough, the pier wasn’t pulled out to the ship; the ship was pulled snugly up to the pier.
 
Prayer is the rope that pulls God and us together.
 
But it doesn’t pull God down to us… it pulls us to God. We must learn to say with Christ, the master of the art of praying: ‘Not my will; but Thine be done.’” I hope you will join me in beginning the New Year with 3 days of focused prayer. Our LCMC Association has been encouraging congregations to join together in prayer over the past seven years. This year, I hope we at Our Saviour’s will join the concert of prayer. Enclosed in the newsletter is a general outline that you can follow – or join in prayer however you like. On Wednesday, January 9th – our first Connexion of 2019 – we will share dinner together and then celebrate with a “Night of Prayer and Worship”. May we enter into God’s presence and see what He has for us. God Bless you all in this new year! In Christ, Pastor Mark


Pastor Mark November Newsletter blog

 
 

Pale Blue Perspective  

“The heavens declare the glory of God;

 the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”    Psalm 19:1

  A few months ago, I watched a news program highlighting NASA’s space probe Voyager 1. Voyager 1 was launched in 1977 to explore our outer solar system. By 1990, it had traveled 3.7 billion miles from earth and sent back photos and information about space, the first of its kind. After completing its primary mission and before leaving our solar system, astronomer, Carl Sagan, asked NASA to turn Voyager’s camera back toward earth and take one last photo. What was captured on that photo seemed miraculous. One tiny pale blue dot, seemingly suspended in a beam of light, over 3 billion miles away – our very own planet earth, against the giant black backdrop of the universe. If you have ever seen the picture, there is cause to pause and ponder, and perhaps readjust your perspective. Our existence is so small and our planet so tiny in relation to the vastness of space and yet here we are. We might be small and we might feel insignificant but at this point, we are one of a kind. As of today, the Voyager continues to travel at 38,000 mph through interstellar space. It is 13.4 billion miles away from earth and only has to travel another 40,000 years for another chance at a flyby with the next closest star. We are talking about 40,000 YEARS, folks!! No, you won’t be alive to see it! What does it mean that in over 13 billion miles traveled, and over 41 years of time, there has not been a sniff of any other living creature nor inhabitable planet? Scientists continue to search the skies in hopes of finding some planet similar to earth that could sustain life – but as of today, the search goes on. While our eyes are drawn to distant galaxies, wondering about life in other places, I feel led to suggest that we pause and pray and give thanks to God for providing this planet and this life that we have to share together. As far as we know, there might not be another one like it in a quadrillion miles – that’s 1,000 trillion miles – that’s a long way! I hope you feel special right now. I hope you realize how unique you are and how incredible this planet is that has been given to us. 3,000 years ago, King David tried to capture this magnified reality when he wrote,

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

what is man that you are mindful of him?

You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and

crowned him with glory and honor.”   Psalm 8:3-5

November is approaching, the month for giving Thanks. If you are like me, this year has flown by as if we have been on the space probe. As the year 2018 will soon be in the history books, perhaps we might take a look back, take a snap shot, maybe we will see something special, something miraculous, something pale and blue that draws your attention upward and outward toward our God who has made the heavens and earth and you and I. Tomorrow, my daughter, Jeriah, my youngest, turns 21 years old. I look back on October 23, 1997 at 9:38 a.m. – and remember the miracle, the tiny babe, held in my hands, having no doubt that the God above had blessed us here down below.

We have so much to be thankful for:

life, love, children, family, friends, faith, laughter,

adventure, even the miscues.

So, let us pause and ponder and thank God for placing us on this tiny pale blue dot, that He knows each of us by name, and the mighty miracle that we are suspended in the light of his glory forever. Yours in Christ, Pastor Mark