Pastor Mark’s Blog
 
 

Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 7

“Kairos”

“My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples…” Mt. 26.18

Yesterday, a decree was announced that moved many to mourning. Governor Inslee declared all schools in the state of Washington closed for normal classes until next Fall. This pronouncement is going to challenge a whole host of people. Once again, people are going to have to fight to put these next five months into perspective. The plans, hopes and dreams for senior students have been completely dashed. Parents are pushed to figure out long term childcare and online education for their kids. Teachers and administrators will be forced to strengthen more online teaching. They will have to wonder about what kind of fall out they will face next Fall semester. Bus drivers and substitute teachers will have to fight off fears for their financial future.  The list of people affected by this pronouncement is long and wide.

Feeling the weight of this challenging news, I thought, this morning, it might be helpful and hopeful to touch on the biblical concepts of time. There are important two words in the Bible used for “time”. Those two words are, “Kairos” and “Chronos”. ‘Chronos” is like a timeline. “Chronology” comes from the word, “chronos”. The word points to time having a start and a finish; a beginning and an end. Our lives can be measured by chronological time and it begins when we are born and can be tracked until the day we die. “Kairos” on the other hand, has more to do with unique moments within the chronological timeframe. “Chronos” is a succession of moments, where as “Kairos” is more of a “moment of opportunity or significance”.

We are all having to deal with the chronological challenges of being “down” for the next few months. In part, the length of that time will be determined by our life circumstances. Within that chronology there are going to be “Kairos” moments – moments of significance. The question is whether we will be able to recognize these moments. While life is not how we would plan it – nor is it usually, even in good times – our understanding of “chronos” and “Kairos” will help us manage whatever time we are in limbo and beyond.

Keep in mind, that understanding these two biblical terms has implications beyond this crisis – and you could argue – beyond the grave. We can live our lives, rolling from week to week, month to month in streamline and online fashion, and miss important moments offered to us.  If we only live with chronological time in mind, we can be subject to fear and despair because with the end of our life comes the end of time. Everyone of us lives chronologically, we have no choice. Our days are numbered on this earth. But how we view, manage, react and successfully experience that time relates to our understanding of “Kairos” time. And that understanding can carry us far beyond the grave.

Understanding “Kairos” time points us to pay attention to “divine appointments”. Holy Week – this final week of Jesus’ life has a start and a finish. It begins on Palm Sunday and it ends with Easter. We can look at his movements chronologically, and it lasted 7 days. Or, we can explore how many “Kairos” moments  Jesus made with the people in Jerusalem within those 7 days. Can you guess how many major moments happened during Jesus’ final week? Jesus had moments with the crowds, the religious leaders, his disciples, his closest friends, Judas, Peter, Pilate, and the list goes on. He rode, he healed, he taught, he argued, he looked, he wept, he prayed, he remained silent, he sweat! One of the many mighty moments happened as Jesus planned one final Last Supper. Jesus had planned a significant moment to convey critical knowledge that would thrust his disciples forward with a vision for their future. While there was confusion and arguing and resisting during that evening, after Jesus’ resurrection, those moments of breaking bread, drinking wine, washing feet, modeling and commanding them to love made a huge impact upon their lives moving forward. It was a major Kairos moment.

Many of you have been hit with mighty blows over the last month. Your timeline has been altered and it means you must readjust your plans. But keep the faith. During this time, God knows your pain. He understands your struggle. He has a plan for your life even though time isn’t playing out as you have imagined.  Remain open. Ask God to help you recognize the “Kairos” moments amidst the chronological chaos.  

Hold on to the final chronological words Jesus spoke to his disciples in the Gospel of Matthew. One final kairos statement. Jesus reassures his disciples and says, “And surely I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS, to the very end of the age.”

God bless you all in this chaotic, kairotic time!

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 6

Please note – the videos for the Palm Sunday sermon are now posted on our website – just click the little “video” icon at the far right. (Thanks, Sharon!!)

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“Spread the Word”

Jesus said, “GO home and TELL how much God has done for you. So, the demoniac went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.” Luke 8:39

 

EASTER MORNING: “DRIVE THROUGH COMMUNION” –

7:30 – 11 a.m.

EASTER CROSS DECORATED! 

SPREAD THE WORD!

 

I am jumping the gun a bit. This is Monday morning of Holy Week and what’s up with already writing about Easter Morning. We just want you to have time to spread the word. If people want to drive to church and receive Holy Communion while remaining in their cars = we are going to provide the elements for you. The sun is expected to shine. The SON we know will rise. It will be a beautiful Easter morning the celebrate the resurrection of our King. We are going to do what we can to honor him as we also honor the restrictions that have been laid down. The Easter cross will be decorated.                        

 He is Risen. He is Risen Indeed, Hallelujah!!

On that first Easter morning, the angel of the Lord told the women, “Come and see the place where Jesus lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead’”. (Matthew 28:6-7)

The command to “Come and See” and “Go and Tell” has been a directive that has been given many times in Scripture. Easter morning, the women, the most unlikely characters, were invited to witness the evidence of the empty tomb. They  were then directed to share the unfathomable news with their friends. Even though the women’s voices were to carry no weight, there would be no wait for this proclamation. The Gospel of Mark says that the women initially refrained from saying anything to anyone out of fear. But that didn’t last long! Thus, began the spreading of the Easter message that has been spreading over the globe for over 2,000 years.

In the middle of Jesus’ ministry, in the midst of the Decapolis, Jesus calls another most unlikely character to “Go and Tell” the Good News. A demoniac encountered Jesus and was resurrected from a legion of demons. His home was living among the dead, but Jesus raised him to new life. The one restored, wanted to follow Jesus as one of his disciples. But Jesus sends him back to his hometown with the instructions, “Go and Tell how much God has done for you.”

Each morning we are given the opportunity to “Come and See” what God is doing. And then when we see it, to “Go and Tell” anyone who will listen. This is the mission of the church. Whether we gather together in a church building or not, we are to sharing what we know about the One who knows us!

This week, we will not be able to gather together in our sanctuary. But nothing can keep Easter from arriving. And we are determined to do what we can to celebrate Jesus victory over death.

So, we will offer “DRIVE THROUGH COMMUNION” for anyone that wants to participate. The Easter cross will be decorated and “INDIVIDUALLY SEALED” communion sets will be handed out in your cars, as you drive through the parking lot.  

I will be at church from 7:30 a.m. -11:00 a.m.

My thought is you can come to church, receive communion then return home and watch our Easter Worship online.  

We will not be gathering publicly. We will honor safe distancing along with using masks and gloves. The local news covered an Anglican church celebrating in this way yesterday for Palm Sunday.

IF YOU HAVE ANY SAFETY CONCERNS, PLEASE SIMPLY STAY AT HOME!

If you feel directed, Spread the Word.

Worship and Messages will also be on our website for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter!

Pastor Mark

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 5

“Father Forgive Me”

Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

Today is Palm Sunday. I find myself a bit annoyed that we are not together in church. Recently, we have been told to remain at home for another four weeks. I need a new perspective. Father, forgive me!

The Lord heard my cry, and He answered my prayer!  

Many of our government leaders have told us that this will be the hardest week of our lives. I have received my orders. My great sacrifice is to “stay at home”. Really? Remaining in the comfort of my own home is the great sacrifice that my nation is calling me to? Yes, that is the call and I gained some helpful perspective this morning- maybe you can relate.

While I am restrained from running around as I normally do, is that really a significant sacrifice? What about the person stocking shelves each night so people have food on their table? What about the checker who stands toe to toe with people all day long not knowing who might be a carrier of the virus? What about the bus driver who could be coughed on at any moment by any passenger? What about the delivery drivers who transport products to customers who never have enough? What about the police officers, firefighters and EMT’s, whose jobs will not allow for safe distancing? What about the people handling the logistical nightmares for government agencies? What about those serving food and supplies for the poorest of the poor? What about the restaurant owners who are packaging meals “To go” to keep afloat, or the distilleries making hand sanitizer and passing it out for free? Dare I mention the doctors, nurses, medical staff and health care professionals who are on the front lines, picking up their crosses DAILY and sacrificing for their deathly ill patients?

What cross am I being asked to pick up? Stay at home!

We have been told that we are in a war. Yet unlike World War 2, where people were called out to work in factories and do whatever is necessary for the war effort, I’m asked by our government to remain at home. I am not asked to recycle rubber, glass or nylons. I am not asked to ration butter, sugar or canned milk. No, my great sacrifice is to stay at home. I have to take a hot shower and eat a warm meal. I have to snuggle under warm blankets and listen to the birds in the morning. I have to eat breakfast in bed if I want to and drink that fourth cup of coffee. I have to sip a glass of wine and watch the sunset reflect off of Mount Baker. I have to decide whether I will bake brownies or cookies at 10:00 p.m.  I have to take a walk, feel the breeze on my face and look at the beautiful tulips emerge from the ground. I have to sit in front of a warm fire and watch the rain fall. Are gray clouds really that bad? I have to choose from thousands of television shows to watch and hundreds of good books to read. I have to play my guitar and sing songs to the Lord. I have to read the Bible and receive a Word for the day and then write about it. I have to Facetime a friend, or a small group or my children. I have to clean up the garage or clean out my closet, or not clean at all. I have to mow, weed or trim – or not. I have been told that I am free to eat from any tree in the garden, just stay at home. And do I consider this challenging duty? Father, forgive me!

Interesting timing, for this week to hit and be considered the hardest week of any – it certainly was the hardest week in Jesus’ life. Jesus’ travels from Palm Sunday to Easter incurred great sacrifice and cost. Jesus lived on the front lines and paid the price. It was as if he was one of those soldiers taking the beaches at hard hit Normandy on D Day, June 6, 1944. But Jesus’ frontal attack on the enemy of sin was without reinforcements. Jesus was alone. He faced the battle and the fierce enemy, Satan, by himself. He had to maneuver around the myriad of troops and plans on both sides of the line and still end up on the proper beach, in the proper place – at the proper time – which he did – on the cross – at great sacrifice.

Jesus accomplished his mission. He took that beach!!

Jesus entered Palm Sunday to the cheers of the Passover crowd. He knew he would soon feel the jeers of the crowd screaming, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!”; he went anyway. Jesus knew the religious leaders would try to trap him and plot to kill him; he went anyway. Jesus knew a friend would betray him and others would deny him; he went anyway. He knew soldiers would scourge him and beat him; he went anyway. He knew a criminal would taunt him and passersby would ridicule him; he went anyway. He knew he would be flogged and a crown of thorns would be pressed upon his head; he went anyway. He knew the religious leaders would cast disparaging lies about him; he went anyway. He knew Pilate would wash his hands of him; he went anyway. He knew his hands and feet would be pounded to a cross and a spear would pierce his side; he went anyway. He knew he would hear the ignorant words, “He saved others, he cannot even save himself”; he went anyway.

This week, between Palm Sunday and Easter, sin gave Jesus its best shot. He shed his blood and breathed his last. But thank God we don’t need Paul Harvey to tell us the “Rest of the Story”.

This week is going to call on many throughout our land to make great sacrifices. Me, my sacrifice; stay at home. If you are like me, let us make a pact to not dwell on minor inconveniences. May God give us a fresh perspective. Let us honor ALL those in our nation and in our communities who are paying such a great price to provide hope, healing and a harvest for those in need! Let us pray for those who are serving on the front lines. And let us proclaim the Good News of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who willingly sacrificed his life on our behalf, and on Easter, arose to give us a hope and a future.

Father, forgive me!

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 4

“Stay Humble”

“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.” 1 Peter 5:6

When Dr. Fauci was asked how long this Covid19 crisis will last and how far this virus will spread, he responded, “We must stay humble!” He continued to express our need to stay open, flexible and teachable because there are so many moving parts to this pandemic. Watching our fair share of alpha males wrestling on the mat of our government these past few weeks, it’s a wonder where humility can find its place.

Peter encourages the young and the old in 1 Peter 5:5, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” Humility has a hard time finding its way among us because it is seen as weakness. In our society of winners and champions, often at whatever cost, humility is something to be crushed and destroyed. Yet the Bible tells us that the ultimate victor is the humble of heart – he/she is the one who will rise and be honored.

Does anyone even know how to define humility in a healthy way? Someone might toss out a picture of one who is needy and has low self-esteem. Yes, it can be defined as someone who thinks of themselves as insignificant, but it’s not that simple. Healthy humility holds a tension between; not thinking to highly of oneself, while also not thinking too lowly of oneself. Humility can be described as one who honestly understands that they are in need, yet not needy. Humility requires the ability to take an honest, inward assessment. A person of deep character has humility but it requires raw honesty. Many humble people have found their way the hard way. Hitting rock bottom through some kind of addiction or crisis they are forced to do that kind of honest investigation. Most of us don’t want to look too closely because we are afraid of what we might find – it’s human nature.

Peter encourages us to take an honest inventory without the crisis. He tells us that we will receive grace from God when we recognize our honest need for him. Maybe the picture that needs to pop up in our mind is that of the Prodigal Son. The humbled son, who recognizes his need and acknowledges being unworthy, returns to his Father. The Father receives him with grace. Not only that, but the Father lifts him up as his son and restores him to honor. Peter affirms this picture as he writes, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6)

Yes, the Prodigal Son is a picture of humility but then again, it is just a parable. St. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, gives us a picture of a person who is the real deal. Humility is found in chapter 2, in its ultimate form. Paul writes,

               “Jesus, who being in very nature God; did not count equality with God something to be grasped (selfishly held on to) but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man (human), he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name above every name.”  

Jesus humbled himself. Jesus became fully human. Jesus became fully in need of God; but not needy. Jesus became in need of God for our sake. He let go of eternity and took on flesh. This is why he understands human battles and struggles. Jesus, himself, at times, needed encouragement, help, strength, guidance -and that can be seen as he returns from the temptations in the wilderness and as he climbs the mount of Transfiguration. His Father meets him in his time of need, sends ministering angels, and strengthens him. In due time, Jesus is lifted up and exalted after the humility of the cross.

Healthy humility is waiting for us. It passes through recognizing our need for God and hits the bullseye  in the person of Jesus Christ.  We don’t have to be needy. Let us not be arrogant. But let us truly acknowledge the sacrifice made on our behalf. This picture of Jesus Christ, in our mind’s eye, will keep us humble. And in due time, He will lift us up!

Humbly,

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 3

“Lockdown”

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25

Yesterday, Governor Inslee extended our home “lockdown” until May 4th. People have been doing some pretty creative things during this “stay at home” order. People have been dancing, drawing, writing and making music. The national news has reported people singing and playing in pretty creatives ways. Full choirs are recording on zoom. Local neighborhoods are stretching out their windows singing 4-part harmonies. A family in the UK recorded Les Miserables, “One More Day” like the Von Trapp Family Singers. If you want a good laugh, watch Julie Andrew’s sing “Do Re Mi” with new lyrics about Covid19 on youtube.

Yesterday, we talked about Paul’s painful journey throughout his ministry. Acts chapter 16 describes Paul, and his associate, Silas, in lockdown in Philippi. While they were locked in an inner cell of the prison with their feet fastened in the stocks, they too began to make music. The Scripture tells us that it was midnight. It also says that in the middle of night, they were singing hymns and praying to God, while the other prisoners listened. While we might feel our stay at home is tough duty, the Bible gives us 2 details about Paul and Silas’ lockdown that could prove quite devastating. They were located in an “inner cell”. This would be a place cold, dark, damp, dripping with dread. This is a place for hardened criminals that would have no chance of escape. Add to this, they were locked down from free movement. We are told that their legs were locked in the stocks. Remember watching the movie, “Braveheart”? Remember William Wallace locked in the stocks? It is a time and place to think about one’s future and fate with little hope. Yet, we are told that while Paul and Silas are in lockdown, they are caught up praying and singing to God. What would provoke a person to make music to God at a time like this? Paul had a hope that this world knew nothing about. Paul had a knowledge of his Savior, Jesus Christ that transported him beyond the circumstances of his cell. And we are also told that even the other prisoners were taking interest. These were hardened criminals not fit for society. They would not be found in the local synagogue singing Kum ba yah. But perhaps it is true, there are no atheists in foxholes. Maybe they were considering their fate; how could they not? Perhaps Paul’s praise reached the inner cell of those prisoner’s hearts and unlocked something they found for the first time.

Two days ago, I had a moment of “breakout” from my own lockdown. I broke out of my house and walked to the top of Thunder Ridge. While walking, a Jenn Johnson song came on Pandora that I think is fitting for today’s conversation. The song is entitled, “You’re Gonna Be Ok”. Jenn wrote this song for her husband. He is a full-time minister in Redding, CA. He is in full time ministry, just as Paul was. And he was in lockdown just like Paul. But his lockdown did not involve chains and stocks. His lockdown was an emotional lockdown. While helping and encouraging others, there came a moment when he realized that he was emotionally knocked down and he stayed down. Jenn wrote this song to encourage and help lift the love of her life. She made music to help restore her husband’s heart and give him hope.

She writes, “I know it’s all that you’ve got to just be strong. And it’s a fight just to keep it together. I know that you think that you are too far gone. But hope is never lost. Hope is never lost. Hold on, don’t let go. Oh Oh. Hold on, don’t let go. Just take, one step, closer, put one foot in front of the other, you’ll get through this, just follow the Light in the darkness, you’re gonna to be ok….”

 

There is more to the song – If you want to listen to the entire song, here is the link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0PCblOjOxg

Whether you are a minister of the Gospel, a member of a local church or simply a member of society, this extended “lockdown” will create challenges for all us. From one day to the next, you will find yourself locked down physically or emotionally or spiritually.  Perhaps worship music might be a powerful key to unlock your soul during these times of bondage. Paul found it freeing. The prisoners around him found it intriguing, Jenn Johnson found it strengthening, and her husband found it soothing. Maybe there is something in this for you.

Personally, I listen to Pandora, normally a station made up of Lauren Daigle songs and similar artists. Just type her name, or any other artist/group you find edifying, and it will set up a station for you. I listen in the morning to prepare myself for the Word. I listen in the afternoon when I climb the hills. And sometimes I listen at midnight so that the promises and praise of God might linger in my mind all night long.

Join me in the lockdown. Let’s follow the Light! Let us stay locked in and listening to music unto the Lord.

Your Prayer Partner,  

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 2

“The Point of Pain”

“But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” 1 Cor. 1:9

In previous devotions, I touched on “The Power of Praise” and “The Purpose of Pause”. Today, I’d like to try to tackle, “The Point of Pain”.

People are experiencing an enormous amount of pain these days. They are feeling the physical pain of fevers, cough and in too many cases, the helplessness of respiratory failure. People are also feeling the emotional pain of isolation and separation, not to mention losing loved ones due to this virus. Doctors and health professionals are feeling the pain of patients passing away and the frustration of inadequate equipment. They are also feeling the painful fear of not being able to protect themselves. Non-essential workers are feeling the pain of unemployment. Parents are feeling the pain of trying to teach their children at home. The country is feeling the general pain of this new normal. And we have no idea how many people are feeling the spiritual pain of feeling forsaken by God. Extracting fact from feeling – while people might feel forsake of God – none of us are truly forsaken – Jesus solved that issue on the cross at Calvary. But in truth; pain remains.

This morning I watched Dr. Fauci respond to another litany of questions during another never-ending interview about this coronavirus. It was painful to watch! It is becoming more obvious the pain this pandemic is playing on him. Now there are even reports regarding threats to his personal welfare. More pain!

St. Paul experienced his own share of painful moments. He opens his second letter to the Corinthian church with these words, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers (and sisters), about the painful hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.” (1:8)

Guaranteed, there are hundreds of thousands of people all across our country who can relate to the pain Paul describes. We hear every night how health workers are beside themselves, not knowing how long they will be able to keep going or if help will come.

In chapter 11, Paul details many of his painful trials:

               “Five times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored today and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst; I have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak?”

It feels as if Paul has felt the pain of all our essential workers wrapped up into one person. Hunger, thirst, fatigue, no sleep, DAILY PRESSURE, constantly on the move, danger coming from every direction, and in general – beaten down. Summarized Into one word, OVERWHELMING!!  

Yet Paul, in the midst of all his suffering, he interprets the point of pain. He writes, “But this (all) happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” His words might sound trite to many today. What can these words mean to people who are flailing about, trying to tread water and simply keep their heads above the waves? But Paul’s declaration must mean more than simple cliché.  Paul, himself, suffered storms that broke him (he despaired of his very life!), yet he remained afloat.

Paul’s mantra remained the same through all the continued mayhem in his life. He captures his conclusions to pain in Philippians 4:19. He confesses, “And MY GOD will meet ALL YOUR NEEDS according to HIS GLORIOUS RICHES in CHRIST JESUS.” Paul found God to be faithful throughout all his painful crisis. In fact, in his book to the Roman Christians, Paul also points out the potential that pain can allow for perseverance, character building, and even in some paradoxical way, joy can be found.

Paul wants his people to understand that pain is not the end of the story. Rather, pain can open another chapter, pointing people to recognize and rely upon the power of God. In his own life, Paul concludes, God is faithful and He will do it!

We must also realize, that Paul was not alone. There are countless others in Scripture who experience pain and point us to the faithfulness of God!

King David, feeling deep emotional pain asks himself rhetorically, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” This man, who loves God with all of his heart, is struggling with the pain of depression. But in this moment, he answers his own question; “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (And let’s be clear: God has provided medication to help treat the nine known types of depression today. Praise God!) 

Another case in point, Hannah, the woman chosen to give birth to the prophet Samuel. She too felt deep emotional pain. Unable to conceive, the Scripture reports, “And because the LORD had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat.”        (1 Samuel 1:6-7)

Hannah felt the personal, emotional pain of feeling inadequate and belittled. Yet when God finally blessed her with a child, Hannah lifts a powerful prayer that points us in the same direction as the others. She prays, “My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. It is not by human strength that one prevails; There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.”                               (1 Samuel 2:1-2,9)

Is pain trying to point you in some direction today? Like Paul, David and Hannah, who have suffered before us, may it point us to God. He remains our Rock and our Redeemer, our fortress and refuge in our time of trial.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 1

“April Fool’s Day”

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

April Fool’s Day, April 1st, is the day practical jokes are played on unsuspecting fools. We have a member in our church who loves to catch me by surprise on this foolish day each year. I remain on guard, even on locked down, because I know anything is possible. But April 1, 2002 was no joke. Interestingly enough, I received a phone call from none other than Michael Dennis. Yes, the same Michael Dennis that I wrote about yesterday. He was alive and well on that particular April 1st. He was serving on the Call Committee at Sierra Lutheran, my former congregation in California. My family and I had just moved to Oregon, less than a year earlier, to serve another congregation. He was calling to see if I would consider returning to Sierra as their pastor. “Is this a joke?”, I asked. “No joke”, he said. That opened the door to a period of time that would get worse before it got better.

We heard the sobering news from President Trump yesterday that this Covid19 pandemic is going to get worse before it gets better. I know many of you have faced situations in which your life has become worse before it has gotten better. You have faced cancer and had to endure chemotherapy. You have faced strokes and had to persevere through physical therapy. Some of you have lost your jobs, financial security and retirement and had to fight your way back. Many of you have lost spouses or loved ones, and have had to adjust to life alone. There are many other situations in which people have had to face circumstances that have become worse before they have gotten better.

Hearing the President’s words yesterday and waking up wide eyed this morning at 5:30 a.m., a flood of memories ran through my mind. I thought I might share a snapshot of my own “worst” experience before it got better.

That April Fools phone call from Michael Dennis would end up taking us back to Sierra Lutheran in Central California. Over the next three years it just seemed like things went from bad to worse. When we moved back, we couldn’t afford to buy a house because house prices had increased. We ended up living in 6 different locations over the next 18 months – a guest house, a mountain cabin, an apartment over a garage – finally culminating in living in our 23-foot trailer in the back of our church parking lot. We took showers from a hose at the church with our bathing suits on. No joke! We definitely had to look like fools lathering up for the whole world to see. But actually, the kids and I had quite a bit of fun jumping around on the hot concrete. I know, I’m not arguing that I am a fool and a few other things!

Church life was struggling. Family life was struggling. Snow storms delayed the building of our home. Finally, on my 43rd birthday, during a Bible study, my doctor called and said the results of my colonoscopy showed cancer. I would have surgery the following week and spend the following 8-10 weeks at home. Being locked down at home was probably my “worst” moment. But in the darkness of that moment, GOD RESTORED MY SOUL! Little did I know that the worst was going to become my best!

Why I mentioned earlier about waking wide eyed at 5:30 a.m. is because, after my surgery, God woke me up told me that He needed to spend time with me. I am not, by nature, an early morning person, but for those next weeks of recovery, I woke up with ease and met God in his Word from 5:30 a.m. until 7:00a.m. God opened my eyes to his Word, showed me things I had never seen before, and healed my heart as only he could. Before my surgery, my soul was dry as dust. I was worn out and beaten down from all the battles. But God restored my soul and lifted my spirit as King David wrote, “He put a new song in my mouth”. When I returned to church, hearts began to heal. As we settled into our home, our family continued to heal. Physically, emotionally and spiritually, God was moving and God was healing. New life sprung forth in all kinds of directions.

Not long after unity had settled in, I received another call from a Call Committee member. John Homes, from Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church called me. Because of those 5:30 a.m. meetings with the Lord, my heart was full and I felt I truly had something to offer this new congregation in Washington.

For a period of time at Sierra Lutheran, things got worse before they got better. But God did amazing things during that time. How can the most difficult time of my life also be the best time of my life? I’ll tell you with all the confidence that this one soul can confess – it is because of the love, grace, and power of our Lord Jesus Christ! And the truth is, when we moved to Washington, we would face more moments when things would get worse before they got better. But in all things, God has continued to shine His love, grace and power upon us.

St. Paul points us to the truth, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Paul certainly knew what it was for things to get worse before they got better. He describes his life to his congregation in 2 Corinthians chapter 11. He tells them of having been put in prison, flogged, stoned, shipwrecked, and left out on the open sea among other things. Within a few days of Paul’s conversion, his fellow Jews were already plotting to murder him for preaching about Christ. But those initial difficult days gave rise to a mighty evangelist who finished as one of the best and greatest at his craft!

Yes, in the next few weeks, this pandemic is going to get worse before it gets better. And WE NEED TO PRAY for God to Protect, Provide and Pour out his Power on the sick and those serving on the front lines. As we move forward, let us put our trust in God. It might look like foolishness to the world. But know this, from the worst of times, God can turn our worst into our best. If you have a hard time believing, Mary Magdalene and the disciples have a story to tell about one Easter morning.                      

It will get better!

Your Fellow Fool with Foolishness in his heart,

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, March 31

“Michael Dennis”

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; HE HAS RISEN!” Luke 24:5

 

Two days ago, Michael Dennis reached out to me. He “friended” me on Facebook and it popped up on my email. I’ve known Michael for over 20 years. He and his family joined our tiny mission church years ago and we all bonded. Michael and his wife, Faye, gave stability and strength to our music program. Our sons roomed together during college, after college, and still remain best of friends.

There is only one problem. Michael Dennis died two years ago. Yes, you read that right. My friend, Michael Dennis died two years ago. Chronic health issues had a grip on him over the years that just wouldn’t let go. Finally, his heart just didn’t have the strength to continue. Jeriah and I spent a special moment with him in Redding, CA. We had one last time to acknowledge our love, friendship and the faith we share in Jesus Christ.

If Michael died two years ago, then who “friended” me? Is someone messing with me? Is this a sick joke? Did someone break into an old account and randomly send out a “friend request”? Or could it be that, miracle upon miracle, Michael IS ALIVE? Could he have come back to life and is truly reaching out to a friend? I would like to think so. Can you imagine his testimony? How would that encounter change my attitude toward life and death and my attitude about things moving forward? But quickly I have to pause and ask myself, “So, where is the evidence?”

If I received a phone call from Michael and heard the tone of his voice; If I heard a knock on my door and opened to see Michael standing and smiling in front of me; and if Michael were to deny social distancing and give me one of his great big bear hugs while we laughed together; now that would be some substantial evidence! But none of that has happened. Other than one simple “friend” request, there has been no other contact. I believe, without a doubt, that Michael is with our Lord, Jesus Christ. But my hopes to see him again on this side of the grave – unfortunately, I’m afraid I do not have any evidence to give me hope.

12 days from now, we will celebrate Easter. Easter is the day the world celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Friday before, the world will acknowledge the death of Jesus upon the cross at Calvary. Witnesses that day included Roman soldiers, religious leaders, Jewish bystanders, criminals, friends, family, disciples and strangers from across the world as they gathered for Passover. After witnessing Jesus’ death, they all walked home – some sickly satisfied, some completely devastated, and some were simply wondering what was for supper. But three days later, early that Sunday morning, there was news spreading throughout Jerusalem that Jesus had been sighted. Some people heard that Jesus had come back from the dead – that He was Alive! That announcement had to sound like incredulous news. But just think, what an incredible event – actually, what a world changing event if it was true. But one would quickly have to ask the question, “So, where is the evidence?”

Actually, there was evidence! Actually, there was quite a bit of evidence recorded about the fact that Jesus rose from the dead.

Unlike my friend, Michael, Jesus DID APPEAR in front of his friends. Michael did not knock on my door, he did not greet me nor show me his restored body. But on that first day of Jesus’ resurrection, it is recorded that He did appear to his friends. Jesus even appeared behind locked doors. He greeted them, broke social distancing, stepped closer than six feet and breathed the Holy Spirit on them. He even showed his friends his scars on his body and the holes in his hands. Then he actually ate some fish, to show that it was truly he in the flesh. Some people are skeptics and have a hard time believing these events to be true. They say, “What could you expect from the friends of Jesus?” They would also say that if these things truly did take place, there would be further evidence. There would be evidence that would have been life changing. People who witnessed an event like this would not be able to live the same, act the same, and their whole outlook on life would be different. But wait, if we read history, that is exactly the evidence that follows. History records the transformation of the disciples lives after the news of Jesus’ resurrection. Josephus, the Jewish historian and Tacitus, the Roman scholar both record the radical commitment to the radical message that Jesus returned from the dead.  

Yet skeptics will continue to question the historical accuracy of these details because the Gospels were written so long ago. In addition, ancient historical accuracy can be called into question even if they were not followers of Jesus.

But at what point does one finally simply embrace the evidence, stop resisting and receive what is set before one’s eyes? Unfortunately, I’m afraid that the opening of one’s eyes requires the work of the Holy Spirit. For one can only see and believe by the work of the Spirit’s power. And so, we pray, “Heavenly Father, by the power of your Holy Spirit, continue to open our eyes and the eyes of all who resist, that we all might see the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection. For he is ALIVE! And HE is for US!”

People will continue to fight and argue for more evidence. But honestly, how much more evidence does a rational person really need.

There is more evidence pointing to the accuracy of the Gospels than ANY OTHER ancient writings or documents IN THE WORLD. And scholars around the world accept those other ancient writings without question. The disciples, for the rest of their lives, suffering great cost and death, committed to the message that “Jesus Lives”. As history points out, people will die for a lie they believe to be true, but people will not suffer and die for something they KNOW is a lie. In addition, ancient critics of Jesus Christ, the Pharisee, Saul, and Jesus’ brother James, suddenly, radically, becoming fervent followers of the faith and establish themselves as leaders of the early church.

Archeological discoveries continue to support the accuracy of the Biblical texts. Radical changes in Jewish social structures like keeping the Sabbath Day and the sacrificial system emerge. Amazing growth spreads across the globe and today over 2 billion people confess faith in this one, Jesus of Nazareth – who had no claim to fame – yet the world has claimed him Christ for 2,000 years.

Yes, invaluable and established evidence stands as a monument for the truth of Jesus Christ. But God does not just want the evidence to stand clear. God’s desire is that you and I would KNOW the Truth and that the Truth would set us free. Yes, we have evidence, but let us continue to pray for more and more Daily Encounters with the One, Jesus, who says, “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly”. In the end, Jesus is the One we are after, not be lost amidst the evidence. For Jesus IS ALIVE and he is “friending” us right now. Perhaps his request won’t show up on your Facebook – but he is knocking. Open the door of your heart. Receive him. Feel his embrace. Confirm your friendship with Him today. Jesus Loves You! He has more for you. More evidence is to come. It is YOUR VERY LIFE!                                                                                           

He is Risen!  He IS RISEN INDEED!!

In Christ, Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, March 30

It’s Monday, Let Us Pray”

“Our Father, Hallowed Be Thy Name…”

During last week’s taping of my sermon, a phone call interrupted my prayer. I forgot to silence my phone ahead of time. I also forgot to go back and re-tape the prayer. The last few weeks, I’ve written out a prayer so that it might be a little more intentional and comprehensive. I thought we might begin Monday with this prayer – and then conclude with Psalm 71 – two ways to turn our hearts to God and acknowledge Him as we begin a new week. God Bless You All! God goes before us!

Let us pray,

Heavenly Father, these are concerning times, these are uncertain times – fear and anxiety can sneak up on us. Let us remember that you are a God of Promise. You have made promises and agreements that we can hold on to in times like these:

-You have promised to ALWAYS BE WITH US!

-You have promised that YOU HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD!

-You have promised to HAVE PREPARED A PLACE FOR US!

-You have promised that IF WE SEEK YOU, WE WILL FIND YOU!

-You have promised that, IF WE ABIDE IN YOU, WHAT WE ASK, WE WILL RECEIVE!

-You have promised that, EVEN WHEN WE ARE UNFAITHFUL, YOU REMAIN FAITHFUL!

Thank you, Father, for your promises. Your Word is trustworthy and true.

We also pray that you make us one, Father even as you and Jesus are One. Even though we are separated by distance, unite us in deep union with you. Unite our country and communities. Guard and guide the people serving our communities and those who are sick. Have mercy upon us.

We pray for healing over those who are infected with this virus. We pray for those who have lost loved ones from this virus. We pray for continual protection over the care givers and health providers. We pray for containment and the quick development of an effective vaccine We pray that all people will practice “safe distancing” and take it seriously. We pray that medical equipment will be distributed in an effective manner to all the states and areas where these resources are needed. Direct our President, our Federal and state governments, governors and local leaders – that decisions will be well thought out and implanted to help our people in need.

We pray for parents, families, couples and individuals. Let us make the most of this pause – that we see opportunities more than obstacles.

And Father, we thank you for all the ways that love, kindness, and compassion is being demonstrated. Neighbor loving neighbor. Strangers helping strangers. Let it continue. Let it abound. In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN. LET IT BE SO!

 

 

Receive the words from Psalm 71:19-24 New Living Translation (NLT)

19 Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the highest heavens.
    You have done such wonderful things.
    Who can compare with you, O God?
20 You have allowed me to suffer much hardship,
    but you will restore me to life again

    and lift me up from the depths of the earth.
21 You will restore me to even greater honor
    and comfort me once again.

22 Then I will praise you with music on the harp,
    because you are faithful to your promises, O my God.
I will sing praises to you with a lyre,
    O Holy One of Israel.
23 I will shout for joy and sing your praises,
    for you have ransomed me.
24 I will tell about your righteous deeds
    all day long,

 

Yes, it is Monday. This is the day the Lord has made, let us claim joy and be glad in it!

P.S. – Share the joy – Sahara Pizza serves us half price pizza for Monday Take Out!!

Always trying to look out for you!

Love and Peace, Pastor Mark



 

“Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the highest heavens. You have done such wonderful things. Who can compare with you, O God? You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth. You will restore me to even greater honor and comfort me once again. Then I will praise you



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, March 29

Marathon Mindset”

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1

 

Yesterday, Seattle’s Mayor, Jenny Durkan, said we need to have a “marathon mindset”. She said, “Fighting this Coronavirus will not be a sprint.” She maintained that we need to be in this for the long haul.

Dr. Thomas Inglesby, director of the John Hopkins Center for Healthy Security, warned that the U.S. is “still at the beginning” of the coronavirus outbreak. He outlined 5 conditions that he feels must be met before the country should consider relaxing social distancing practices.

He stated:

  1. When we see a state or region have numbers that go down over time,
  2. When we have diagnostics in place,
  3. When we have masks available for doctors and nurses who are putting their lives at risk to take care of sick patients,
  4. When hospitals are well prepared with equipment and resources,
  5. When the public heath systems are in place to start tracing or identifying individuals and their contacts like they do in Asia.

When all that is in place, Dr. Inglesby feels that it will be time to begin experimenting with lightening social distancing, one step at a time.

So, it continues to sound like we are all in this for the long haul. And we will continue to need to discover ways to persevere in a healthy manner. You might feel like you are doing fine. But if we are only in the second mile of a 26.2 mile journey, you had better make sure you find a pace, and a rhythm that is going to work for you. It’s at mile 20 that many people hit “the wall” and get in trouble. Are you beginning to feel signs of “cabin fever”? Time to look at your training regime.

Back in the day, I ran a couple, back to back, Marathons in Los Angeles. Another one of those bucket list items. I think there are a few lessons to be learned in preparing to run a long distance race that can be helpful in the long distance battle we are facing today.

In looking back, the most important reason I successfully completed those two races was because someone had my back! Dr. Don Drost was a member of my first congregation in San Bernardino. I knew him at church, but when we decided to run the marathon together, and train together, a deep, forever friendship developed. Without him, I never would have been consistent in my training. The camaraderie was invaluable. He lived across town. So, every morning, before sunrise, I drove to his house and we went for an hour run. On weekends, we went for extended runs and planted water bottles along the way. We developed a rhythm and pace with our bodies and in our friendship. We chatted about life, hopes, dreams and struggles along the way. When the day came that we finally crossed the finish line, there was an amazing celebration and a feeling of accomplishment that we shared together.

If we are going to persevere in the long run battle against Covid19, we will do well to have a partner. Who can you talk with, pray with, chat about ongoing developments, and share how the rest of your house is managing? If no one comes to mind, pray about it. Perhaps God will bring someone from memory that also needs a partner. No one ever does very well when they try to run the race alone.

The other elements in training for a long-distance run are fairly mundane but not to be overlooked. Get good sleep. HYDRATE! Eat well balanced meals and take in those carbs. Stretch before and after your runs. Have good running shoes. And remember to have fun!!

How can you translate those training essentials with the race you are in today? Perhaps it is as easy as tending to the four areas of our lives: physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. There is a scripture that speaks to the importance of those four areas; “Let us love God (and unselfishly, ourselves) with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength”. If we can touch these four areas each day, it will give us much needed strength and endurance to not only get to the finish line but finish in good shape!

When you train, some days you will feel great and some days you will feel lousy. Somedays you can see real progress and some days you feel like you are going backwards. Don’t beat yourself up. BE KIND! If you need a day off, take it. Trust the process. You continue to take care of the basics – and the basics will take care of you. And always remember that God is ever present running next to you whether you recognize him or not!

Today is the Sabbath. Take your rest IN HIM. Stretch out. Drink a tall glass of water. Eat your greens. Go for a walk and ask God who that special partner might be. And perhaps you are that special someone for someone else.

God Bless You!

Shalom!  Pastor Mark