Pastor Mark’s Blog
 
 

Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 6

“Another Pair of Shoes”

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

 

Last week I wrote a devotion entitled, “Empathy.” In it, I described empathy, as one who was willing to walk in another person’s shoes. I also used the scripture from Galatians 6:2, which states, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

The burden that Paul encourages his fellow believers to carry carries some important nuances. This burden we are to help carry causes pressure. This burden feels like a weight under increased pressure, as if you are sinking deeper into the sea. This burden is also something that a person has difficulty wrestling. Perhaps a good picture is a wrestler on a mat, trying to secure a solid hold. Also, this burden can tilt toward feelings of grief and loss. This burden might grab ahold of a person grappling with the loss of a spouse, a loved one, a job or even just loss of the way things used to be.

Paul encourages us to recognize that there might be those around us who are feeling under pressure, wrestling, and/or grieving from a loss. This might describe you. You are not alone. Others are wearing your shoes. As a family of faith, we have been called to help carry one another through these challenging times.

Last week, I read a story in the Washington Post. I think some of our people might be wearing these shoes. We hear a lot about the shoes that the doctors, nurses and other essential workers are wearing. There are also some less obvious shoes that can also be pretty tough to wear.

“I apologize to God for feeling this way” by Eli Saslow

(Gloria Jackson is grappling with loneliness in Minnesota. This is her story.)

I try to remember that I’m one of the lucky ones in all this. What do I have to complain about? I’m not dead. I’m not sick. I haven’t lost my job or gone broke. I’m bored and I’m lonely, and so what? Who’s really going to care about my old-lady problems? Lately, when I see people talking about the elderly, it’s mostly about how many of us are dying off and how we’re forcing them to shut down the economy.

I tell myself I should be more positive. I should be grateful. Sometimes I can make that last for an hour or two. A day can drag on forever when you’re isolated all by yourself. I sleep as late as I can. I try not to look at the clock. I go on Facebook and read about all the ways this country is going to hell in a handbasket. I turn on the TV to hear a bit of talking. It’s been almost seven weeks since I’ve spent time with a real, live person. I haven’t touched or really even looked at anyone, and it’s making me start to think recklessly. The other day I went to Walgreens to pick up my medications and I sat in the parking lot and thought about going inside. I was wearing my mask and I had my inhaler. I wanted to run a normal errand, look at the chocolates, maybe find my way into a conversation. But I stayed in the car and went to the drive through. I put on my gloves and handed my card to the clerk through a hole in the glass window. I took the medicine and gave a little wave.

If I get this virus, I’m afraid it would be the end of me. I’m 75. I’ve got all I can handle already with my asthma, fibromyalgia and an autoimmune disorder. The best way for me to survive is by sitting in my house for however many weeks or months it’s going to take. But how many computer games can you play before you start to lose it? How many mysteries can you read? I realize time is supposed to be precious, especially since mine is short, but right now, I’m trying every trick I know how to waste time away.

Negative thoughts creep up like that. I start getting crabby. It’s waves of anger and depression, and I beat myself up for it. People have it a whole lot worse. Obviously!

I’ve got two daughters out of town who call me and check in, but I don’t want to guilt them. I’ve got a high school friend who dropped off groceries. I’ve got a dog and two cats that need to be cared for which gives me something to do. I’ve got my own manufactured home with flowers blooming all over the house. A lot of people don’t realize there’s a big difference between a trailer park and a mobile home community. I’ve spent hours lately driving up and down every block of this neighborhood looking at people’s yards, checking out whatever might be poking through the dirt. One morning I drove my dog to the river. People were walking on the path, and I was worried about the droplets and all that. We sat in the car and cracked the windows and listened to the water.

It feels like everybody here is trying so hard to be cheerful, but boy does it take an effort. The other day was supposed to be the beginning of baseball season, and I love baseball, and the anchor came onto thee local news and said: “Let’s all try to look on the bright side! Let’s find a way to celebrate Opening Day even though nobody is playing.” He showed pictures of fans wearing their Minnesota Twins T-shirts, or rubbing hand sanitizer onto a baseball to play catch, and I thought: You know what I’d really like to do right now if I’m being honest? I’d like to find a bat and a ball and go break a few windows.

I apologize to God for feeling this way, but he made me how I am. I’m over this whole thing. I used to be an optimist, but I’m not anymore. I’ve never been this angry, and it’s an ugly way to feel. Maybe when you don’t get to see anybody for weeks, emotions get bottled up and have nowhere to go. I get sucked into Facebook, and I keep scrolling down from one thing to the next, yelling at my computer as the posts get more and more insane. Mike Pence was just here in Minnesota, visiting patients at the Mayo Clinic, and he went against their policy and refused to wear a mask. It’s like: “Really? How arrogant can you be?” Next, it’s someone posting pictures of people crowded together like sardines at a beach in California. “You idiots. Do you care about anyone but yourself?” Then it’s the president’s saying it might be a good idea to inject some kind of bleach or disinfectant. “No thank you, but you go right ahead if you want to poison yourself.” Then it’s a militia group taking over a state capitol. It’s doctors who have to wear garbage bags instead of gowns. It’s how at least most of the deaths are people over 70 with preexisting conditions. “Oh, what a relief. Who cares about them?” It’s some stockbroker or whatever saying the elderly were holding this country back from reopening, and maybe it’s their patriotic duty to be sacrificed for the sake of the economy. “Sorry to be an inconvenience to your financial portfolio. Sorry I’m still breathing.”

It enrages me. I spent my career working for the federal government at Veterans Affairs. I raised my kids by myself. I basically had to raise my ex-husbands. I marched and fought for women’s rights. I volunteered for political campaigns. I pay taxes and fly a flag outside my house because I am a patriot, no matter how far America falls. But now in the eyes of some people, all I am to this country is a liability? I’m expendable? I’m holding us back?

Everyone knows me as a kind person. I used to wear a peace necklace. I’ve gotten old enough that I just say whatever I think with no filter, but I don’t always like what comes out. This isn’t how I used to be.

There’s a lot I don’t recognized about what’s happening now. This country is so completely different from the one I came into. My uncle was at the Battle of the Bulge the day I was born. I arrived right near the end of the war, and most of my life was American boom times. We were the leading country in everything when I was young. My dad left for a while to work as a chef on the Alaskan Highway and he traveled through Canada so we could carve a road 2,000 miles over the Rockies in the dead of winter. We did whatever we wanted just to show that we could. That’s how it felt. I graduated from high school and started working when I turned 18, and within about a year I was earning more than my parents. That’s how it went. It was up, up, up.

And what are we now? We’re mean. We’re selfish. We’re stubborn and sometimes even incompetent. That’s the face we’re showing the world. It seems like some of these other countries almost feel sorry for us. New Zealand and South Korea beat this virus back in a few weeks. We’ve gone from 10,000 deaths to thirty thousand to sixty some, so I guess we’re still leading the world in that.

We can’t get out of our own way. Are we shutting down or opening up? It’s the states against the feds. It’s conservatives against liberals. There’s no leadership and no solidarity, so everybody’s doing whatever they want and fighting only for themselves which means everyone who’s vulnerable is losing big. Minorities. Poor people. Sick people. Immigrants. Elderly. We’re the ones who will never recover. That’s the truth I’m learning about this country, even if I should have known it earlier.

I don’t like feeling this way. Maybe somewhere in this we’ll see a great lightning strike of American ingenuity. I doubt it, but maybe. There’s no choice but to be hopeful. I’m staying alive and sitting in my house and waiting. Where else am I going to go? I’ll be here.

Can you feel the weight of Gloria’s shoes? Maybe you are wearing a pair of them right now.                   The pressure, the wrestling, and the loss that Gloria is feeling is palpable.   

Many people are struggling to walk down this road and hold on to hope.  

If you are feeling her pain, remember that you are not alone. Remember that there is One who has worn your shoes. He walks beside you and is in you. Jesus feels your pain.

We have no idea how this pandemic will play out. But our hope is not in this world. Our hope is in the one who walked the road to Calvary. He will carry us home.

In the meantime, God help us to carry each other in your strength.

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark

 

 

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 5

“Where’s the Beef?”

“We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

 

Wendy’s fast food restaurant chain just announced this morning that some of their burgers will be taken off their menu. For an indefinite amount of time, they are going to have a shortage of beef. Back in the 1980’s, Wendy’s marketing team came up with the infamous slogan, “Where’s the Beef”? The slogan has resurfaced as beef shortages have forced them to limit their menu options. Because meat packing employees have been testing positive with Covid19, many meatpacking plants have been shut down. Due to the shutdown, restaurant and grocery chains are having difficulty getting their hands on enough beef, pork and poultry. Once again, the news of this shortage has caused people to clean out the shelves and stock up their freezers. The first shortage that pressed people’s panic button was toilet paper. Next was the shortage of hand sanitizer. Hair products followed hand sanitizer. I’m sure there have been a few other runs, but the latest panic is focusing on meat.  

I know that not all of us are pushing the panic button. But as meat flies off the shelves, there must be a theme here. With each shortage, it seems like there is a consistent response. In the Gospels, Jesus refers to us as sheep. If you are like me, I’m not overly enamored with that reference. But in times like these, Jesus’ picture seems, pretty much, spot on. It doesn’t take too much to make sheep run. Lately, when the news of a run is about to take place, fear twitches the skin and the sheep are ready to run to the stores. And it doesn’t seem to really matter what the run is; the stock market, the mortgage rates, the masks, the toilet paper, or the meat. With a small scare – Let the who haw, the hoarding, and the craziness begin.

3 days after the people of Israel had been set free from Egypt, they began to shutter in fear and take their position in line. The sheep had no water and began to grumble against Moses. God showed Moses a piece of wood. He threw the wood into the water and miraculously the water became sweet. The sheep’s panic button was dropped to defcon 3. But in all reality, their skin was still twitching. Even though they witnessed miracle after miracle, fear continued to cause them to flinch. The Israelites had recently witnessed Yahweh provide 10 plagues that resulted in their freedom. They witnessed Elohim part the Red Sea and swallow up the Egyptian Army. Adonai then sweetened up the sour water to quench their thirst. Still, as God’s chosen one’s, they were still sheepish and twitching as they entered the desert of Sin.

Sure enough, the food quickly ran out in the desert. Like the shortages before, the nation pushed the reset button and grumbled against Moses. The Israelites complained, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” (Exodus 16:3)

Are you kidding me? Their memory recalls them “sitting around” “pots of meat”, and “all the food they wanted”? Who was recoding this oral history? Here, we have an indelible picture of a people living in la la land, and living like a victim. In this moment, Israel can’t think straight. They can’t see straight and clearly, they also can’t remember the facts straight.

The people can’t think straight. They want God to take their lives. God is the one who saved them. They can’t see straight. They remember “sitting around”? If they did, the Egyptians would have wiped and beaten them to death. They obviously can’t remember straight because they recall sitting around “pots of meat” like dining at an “all you can eat” buffet. Their memory had completely blocked out the truth. They were slaves in Egypt! They worked every day and were given enough food to keep them alive. Finally, their eyeballs stared straight at Moses. They blamed Moses and charged him with being a masochist by bringing them out to this god forsaken land.

But in a moment of grace – God heard the cries of his people. God provided enough meat and bread to feed all of the masses. The LORD said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning, you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.” (Exodus 16:11-12)

The Good Shepherd fed his sheep. God’s gracious hand, once again, was at work. Yahweh showed himself to be the Good Shepherd that provided for his sheep even though they quivered, shuttered and flinched. God hoped that through his graciousness, they would truly come to KNOW Him.

During these times of shortages and runs on essentials, perhaps there are a few takeaways we can glean from the sheep who ran around the Shepherd long ago. If we are to avoid recycling the run with Israel we must:

  1. Avoid living like a victim – we are not helpless.
  2. Avoid idolizing the past – see the truth for what it is.
  3. Avoid extreme thoughts – we are not hopeless.
  4. Avoid blaming others. – see the leaders for who they are.

St. Paul, in his letter to his unsettled sheep in Corinth, wrote, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Paul explains to the Corinthians that they do not take things into their own hands. They are caught up in a spiritual battle and he points to Christ! Every thought, every circumstance, every challenge, every problem, let them be taken to Christ Jesus. As believers, we are not to be hopeless, helpless victims that can be tossed about by every shortage or run. Paul contends that we can stand secure in the hope and provision of our Lord Jesus.

In times when resources are in short supply, how should we respond? Let us not live as victims but as victors. There are some simple resourceful thoughts that might be helpful during this pandemic.

You might not be able to order certain food items, but you can order your steps. By setting a simple routine or schedule each day, it can give you a greater feeling of control. Look at how you order your day. God brings order to chaos – you can too. Schedule a start and finish. I begin my day brushing my teeth, taking a shower, drinking coffee while I worship, and then read my daily Bible reading. I begin writing my devotion at 9 a.m. This daily routine has given me needed structure during this time. I also order my pizza on Monday – and that has been a pretty solid routine. And I usually eat that fourth piece of pizza, just because I can.

You might not be able to spend money due to limited resources, but you can spend your time in creative, resourceful, or restful ways. You’ve been given a 70% discount on 3 hours today. Spend it. Enjoy it! 

You might not be able to be as productive as you used to be, but you can still find productivity in the setting you are in. It can be as simple as: One task, One day – this can help fill that need to feel productive.

Israel fell into a cycle of playing the victim over and over again. It led them to poor decisions and pointed them away from God.

In these challenging times, you can take control of your life. The control we seek as Christians is not a control so that we can do whatever we want whenever we want to do it. Taking control of our life from a faith perspective is growing in the knowledge that God is in control. This control is to point us toward knowing what God told Israel, that we would know, “I AM the LORD your God.” 

Therefore:

  1. Reaffirm that God is in control of your life and our current circumstances.
  2. Reaffirm that God works all things out for good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose. People of God, you have been called and you have responded to him in love. Trust in his goodness.
  3. Reaffirm that God has a plan for your life – even in times of shortage.
  4. Reaffirm that God’s will is most clearly seen and revealed in trying times.

Where’s the beef? It’s in God’s hands, and He will deliver!

And yes, I’m going to eat ALL four pieces of my leftover Ultimate Sahara pizza tonight!

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark

 

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 4

“Jubilee”

That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you.” Leviticus 25:11

 

Today is devotion day 50. I thought I would highlight God’s plan to set apart year 50 for the Israelites when they entered the Promised Land. God spoke to Moses on Mt. Sinai and gave instructions that each fiftieth year would be a year of “Jubilee” for the people. The LORD said, “You shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan.” God goes on to say, “That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you. You may eat the produce of the field.” (Leviticus 25:9-12)

In our culture, a fiftieth year is a landmark to be honored and recognized. A fiftieth wedding anniversary is considered golden. This anniversary is precious because it indicates love, commitment, endurance, faithfulness and much more. A fiftieth anniversary at a workplace might garner a gold watch or some other special symbol representing dedication, value and perseverance.

As the nation of Israel were about to lay claim to the land of Canaan, God earmarked a fiftieth year and deemed it to be holy. This anniversary year was not so much to focus on a past life of commitment, but rather a present life to be reset and restored.

In Exodus, God established a Sabbath Day and declared it holy. Each sabbath day, each week, was to be set apart from all other work days. The Sabbath was a day for families to rest, worship, and honor God. In a way, God initiated a “reset” opportunity for the heart and mind of his people every week. He wanted the importance of this Sabbath reset clear as crystal. Therefore, God stated in great detail, within the giving of the Ten Commandments,

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11)

God went to great lengths to spell out his desire for Israel to honor the Sabbath Day. The Sabbath was meant as a gift to the people. Keep in mind, Israel had just spent 400 years in slavery, in Egypt, in which they worked seven days a week with no rest. Now that God’s people were liberated and set free, he was setting up conditions that would protect, provide and preserve a healthy, holy life. The Sabbath day would reset their spiritual lives. Their focus would be upon God’s faithfulness. The Sabbath day would also provide a reset for their emotional and physical lives. They would have time to strengthen family relationships and restore their physical strength.

God did not stop with a personal sabbath for families. God also highlighted the land of this agrarian society. The land would need a reset. Just like the people, the land could not work tirelessly without rest. Therefore, God declared a Sabbath for the land. The LORD spoke to Moses on Mt. Sinai and said,

“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them. When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD.” (Leviticus 25:1-4)

This practice of a land sabbath was to replenish the soil. But this rest was also to place attention upon God – the people’s provider and producer. God was the giver of all good things.

God provided a sabbath for individual families and individual partitions of land, but He went one step further. After seven cycles of seven years, God declared a year of Jubilee. He stated,

“You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you 49 years. Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement, you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you. You may eat the produce of the field.” (Leviticus 25:8-12)

The year of jubilee was not just one of rest but of restoration. Properties that were sold over the previous 49 years, and the people who became indentured, were returned to their clans. God provided this protection so that no clan would become too large or too poor in relationship to the other. The year of jubilee would not reset everything equally because cattle and money were not to be reallocated. But this periodic restoration would allow each family to earn a living and maintain value in the society no matter what circumstances took place.

In the Promised Land, God would not allow one clan to become a giant like Amazon. Nor would God allow a clan to live in generational poverty, relying upon others to provide for them. All were to work together in community and in unity with their attention toward God.

If the people of Israel followed God’s plan, they would live out lives of redemption. This redemptive nation would symbolize the redemptive nation that would rise up under Jesus Christ. The people, the land, and the nation would be known as a people well rested, well restored, and regularly reset in body, mind, and spirit. The question could be asked; Has this example ever been lived out among God’s people?

The truth is, Israel never adhered to God’s direction. They followed God’s weekly Sabbath command. But rather than restoring the people in body and spirit, the Sabbath became a ritual that enslaved the people to religion. And as far as the land sabbath and the year of jubilee, those directives were lost between the rolls of parchment and the roles of daily life. Sounds a bit familiar.

What can we glean from this agrarian society so long ago?  

These last seven weeks have forced us to be away from regular work and regular life. Are we headed toward a “new normal”? Most people think so. Since fear, panic, and anxiety were growing at epidemic levels before this pandemic, might this new normal include more rest, restoration and even a reset? Have we learned anything in these last seven weeks, or are we still rushing to Costco and stockpiling frozen steaks?

In our lifetime, we will probably never have another “reset” moment like this. The life that we are rushing to get back to, was it really that good?

Perhaps on this fiftieth day – we put down the obstacles before us and pray for God to open our eyes to the opportunities He’s given us. Can you see this time as a gift? Can you taste a tiny bit of redemption or is it all just a mouthful of restrictions? God is a giver of good gifts even in the midst of trying times. Think on this: Rest, restoration and redemption are God’s jam!

Finally, it was on the fiftieth day after Jesus’ resurrection when the promised Holy Spirit “rested” upon the disciples at Pentecost. Jesus provided redemption. The Spirit delivered transformation. Good Gifts!

Good things can happen on Day 50!

God Bless You!

Pastor Mark  

 

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 3

“What’s the Score?”

Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.” 1 Corinthians 15:20

 

(If you watched today’s worship service on our website. I made reference to the, “Big, Big House”. I planned to play the song with that title, to conclude my message. Because of copyright restrictions, we were unable to include that song.  If you want to listen to it on YouTube – the song is by Audio Adrenaline – “Big House”. Zach Williams also have a couple other powerful songs you might want to listen to as well: 1. “Rescue Story” and 2. “There was Jesus”. Enjoy.)

 

Today is Devotion Day 49. Thinking about numbers, this potentially, could be a very important day.        

7 x 7= 49.

The number 7, in the Scriptures is an important number. In fact, in the Bible, the number 7 is considered a perfect, complete number. So, to have a double number multiplier, today, might be reason to lift your head.

Keeping with numbers, on this double 7, perfect day, do you know the score? Does anyone know the score? Where are we on this pandemic? Are we winning? Are we losing? What quarter do you think we are in? Have we reached halftime? The honest truth is that we still do not have any quantitative way to treat this virus. We have numbers galore. But it seems to me that we are lacking that perfect number that will set things straight! If you ask me, I would say that we are still in the opening quarter. Which is pretty scary. Not only are we challenged to consider physical health, but also our economic health, emotional health, and many other issues that will emerge in the coming weeks and months. That being said, we have a determined team of researchers and medical professionals who are leaving it all out on the field. These essential workers are determined to lead us to victory. Pete Carroll, head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, has a mantra he drills into his players. You don’t win the game in the first quarter, or the second, or the third quarter. The game is won in the fourth quarter. We must keep our mind focused for four quarters and when the clock ticks to zero – we will be the ones left standing with the wreath around our necks. Covid19 will be pounded to the tuff and defeated. For now, we keep grinding.

Last night, as I ran through the television guide, I noticed that Fox13, was going to replay SuperBowl LIV.  

Not to spoil it for you, but the Kansas City Chiefs win. They beat the San Francisco 49ers again – 31-20. All the anxiety and concerns about the game are eliminated, because we already know who would come out on top.

Interestingly enough, yesterday morning, an article that I wrote for our newsletter one year ago fell out of my Bible. A lot can happen in a year. A lot can happen in three months. But, then again, some things remain the same.

I thought on this 49th day, I would replay my article for you as a reminder that the most important game has already been played. The score is already known. And “In Christ”, we win. Some things will always remain the same.

 
(ONE YEAR AGO….)
 

“Do you Know the Score?

72-58

Last month, I was following Gonzaga basketball during the March Madness NCAA Tournament.

The Bulldogs ranked #1 in the West Region, and many had high hopes that they would win the championship. In the second round, the Zags were going to play Florida State. If they won that game, they would make it into the second round of the tournament, called the “Sweet 16”. I tend to get nervous watching these, one and done games, so I decided to wait to watch the game. I taped the game on my DVR. I decided that if they won the game, I would watch it. If they lost, I wouldn’t bother with it. Is that wrong?

Later that day, I checked my phone and found out that the Gonzaga Bulldogs beat FSU 72-58. So, I drove home, gathered some snacks around me and prepared to sip my sparkling water through to the end of the game. Do you know how much fun and stress free it was watching a game that had already been won? When the Zags made a bad play, missed a shot, or gave up a turnover – it didn’t matter because I know the outcome of the game. With 14 minutes left in the game, FSU had cut the lead to 4 points. Now, if the game was live, can you imagine how stressed out I would have been? I would have been biting my nails, yelling at the players – I mean, “encouraging” the players to play better. But because I knew the final score, I could continue to eat my chips and salsa in perfect peace and contentment.

Yesterday, I was going to be at church during the final round of the Master’s Golf Tournament. Tiger Woods was in contention. He had not won a major championship for 14 years. Again, I taped the final round and was hoping to watch it without knowing who won. Well, after church, the news feed on my phone beeped and announced that Tiger Woods at just won his 15th Major. Now, I was hot and bothered because I really wanted to watch the round not knowing who won. But after church, again with my munchies in close proximity, I watched the final holes. I watched in peace! When Tiger missed a putt, or put his drive into the woods, I wasn’t anxious because I knew the final score.

Do you know the score? I mean the “real” score – as it relates to life? Eternal life? If we knew the score at the end of our life – that we went to heaven and spent the rest of eternity with our family, friends; with Jesus Christ, the angels, surrounded in music, light and love, just think about how we could relax and not get so stressed about everyday life. Wait a minute, as Christians, WE DO KNOW THE SCORE! We do know that we have the promise that Jesus has gone before us and has prepared a place for us! So then, why do we get so worked up over all that is going on in daily life? Have we forgotten the score? Or have we chosen to be more invested, stressed and anxious about the things that are surrounding us now.

Jesus reminds us, “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable are you than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his/her life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (Luke 12:24-26)

Ravens are not smarter than we. But they do live much more care free. Have we cultivated a habit of worry and not even realized it? Let’s get back to the basics: God – 1, Satan – 0. If you know this score, relax, God has the whole world in his hands. And if you don’t mind – please pass the guacamole!
 

Love in Christ, Pastor Mark

P.S. – A lot has happened in the last 12 months since I wrote this article. But the score is still the same. God still has the whole world in his hands. The one thing that HAS changed – did you know Costco now sells bags of frozen avocados? Now, I’ll make my own guacamole, thank you very much.

During this pandemic, keep replaying the truth in your mind, “Christ INDEED has been raised from the dead!”  



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 2

“Praying the Psalms”

Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress.” Psalm 4:1

 

Have you ever considered praying the psalms? Sometime we get in a place where we just don’t know what to pray. The longer we are told to “stay at home” and restrict our activity, it can play havoc with our emotional wellbeing. When you find yourself in a place in which prayer seems fruitless, I encourage you to turn to the book of Psalms.

King David not only had a heart for God, he poured out his heart to God. The Psalter is considered the hymnbook for the nation of Israel. But originally, most of them were like a diary or devotional book recording David’s private, personal prayers. David wrote about his victories and successes. He also wrote about his failures and troubles. He describes times of deep fear and depression. He also describes a heart full of praise and thanksgiving to God, his deliverer.

When you don’t know what to pray, consider turning to the Psalms. You might find something in David’s words that you can turn and personally offer to God for yourself. Sometimes just the first verse of a Psalm can tap an emotion that you are feeling and can trigger a prayer to God.

Psalm 4 describes David needing help from God. Perhaps this is how most small business owners feel right now. David prays, “Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.”

Psalm 5 describes David asking for help in the morning. David prays, “Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”

Psalm 10 describes David feeling alone. Perhaps people living in isolation feel this way. David prays, “Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”

Psalm 8 describes David in awe of the majesty of God. Perhaps people at NASA or people gazing into the night sky feel this way. David prays, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.”

Psalm 9 describes David declaring his praise to God. Perhaps people who have recovered from Covid19 feel this way. David prays, I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Psalm 12 describes David declaring his need for help. Perhaps business owners are feeling this way about government leaders. David prays, “Help, O LORD, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men. Everyone lies to his neighbor; their flattering lips speak with deception.”

Psalm 16 describes David declaring his need for refuge. Perhaps state governors are feeling this way among the protestors. David prays, “Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.”

Psalm 18 describes David declaring his love for God. Perhaps, even in trying times, many believers are feeling this way. David prays, “I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.”

David’s prayers, written over 3,000 years ago, still speak. They can speak to you in your time of need. They can remind you that you are not alone. Others have felt and are feeling the way you feel. This awareness alone can provide much hope. We are blessed to have 150 psalms in our Bible to choose from. God has included all of them in his Word that we might tap into them depending upon our situation.

When in doubt, turn to the Psalms. Let David’s pray become your prayer, that you may find rest for your soul.

Today, this is my prayer:

               “I waited patiently for you LORD;

               You turned to me and heard my cry.

               You lifted me out of the slimy pit,

               Out of the mud and mire;

               You have set my feet upon a rock

               And gave me a firm place to stand.

               You have put a new song in my mouth,

               A hymn of praise to our God. “        From Psalm 40:1-3

               Thank you, Lord Jesus!

God Bless You All,

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 1

“Empathy”

“We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses.” Hebrew 4:15

 

An article in the Atlantic magazine highlights New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. The article contends that the 39 year old may be the most effective leader on the planet because her leadership style focuses on empathy.

The article continues, “Her messages to the country are clear, consistent, and somehow simultaneously sobering and soothing.” Former Prime Minister Helen Clark says, “People feel that Arden ‘doesn’t preach at them, she’s standing with them’”. She concludes, “There is a high level of trust and confidence in her because of that empathy.”

Not everyone agrees with her politics or policies. But if proof is in the pudding, New Zealand has presumably eliminated the country of Covid19 and people are free to move about the country. As a country, they acted quickly and deliberately. The people trusted the directives of their leaders and now they are reaping the benefits.

The writer of Hebrews says that we have one who has empathy toward the world. He writes, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weakness, but we have one who has been temped in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” He continues, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Jesus demonstrated empathy. So, what exactly is “empathy”?

Empathy is different than sympathy or compassion. Empathy goes deeper. Compassion and sympathy involve having concerned feelings for another person or situation. Empathy is going further than just feelings. Empathy is walking in the shoes of another person. Empathy is “feeling” their pain.

The Bible says that Jesus Christ, our high priest, has empathy towards us because he has walked in our shoes. He knows what we suffer and experience because he has fully lived as a human being. And because he has worn our shoes, we are encouraged to approach God’s throne with confidence because we will receive mercy and grace. Jesus knows. Jesus understands. Jesus feels our pain!

It seems like we could use a bit more empathy as we move closer to opening our economy in the United States. We need people to walk in other people’s shoes. Another scripture verse that points us in this direction is found in Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

There are pictures of people carrying signs declaring that Covid19 is a lie. Perhaps those people need to walk a few steps in the shoes of the doctors in downtown New York. I’m sure Dr. Lorna Breen, who tragically took her life due to ultimate physical and emotional pain, could have exposed them to radical pain inflicted by this virus. So also, government leaders need to walk in the shoes of those who have lost their jobs, savings, retirement and small business – and feel hopeless!

The presence of empathy, points to the quality and condition of one’s EQ – Emotional Quotient. For years, tests have been given to students, to discover their “IQ” – Intelligence Quotient. More and more studies are pointing to the importance of having a healthy “EQ”.  Healthy emotional wellbeing is what allows a person to weather storms. Emotional stability allows one to remain buoyant when pandemics, health issues, finances, business, and education is being tossed about. Faith is found in one’s “EQ” more so than one’s “IQ”.  We can be right in our minds theologically, but we can still be a mess spiritually.

Our hope is in the One who has empathy for us. He has put on our shoes and walked down our road. He also promised to send another One, the Comforter. The Spirit would slip on our socks, so to speak, and we would never walk alone.

After this pandemic, if we, as the church, are going to effectively share Jesus, it’s going to require that we lace up a pair of shoes other than our own. People are not going to care as much about our theology as much as our empathy. When we demonstrate that we care enough to feel other people’s pain and share their burdens, then they will be interested in what we believe. This goes for our family, friends, children and grandchildren.

People were drawn to Jesus. They were not drawn to him because he spoke a soft, comforting message. Jesus was straight and clear. He told people they would have to die and pick up their cross and leave everything behind to follow him. But people were drawn to him because he empathized with every single person he came in contact with. He connected on that deep level; emotionally, spiritually. He even empathized with the religious leaders and scribes. He prayed for their forgiveness, even when they took his life.  

Hebrews 2:17-18 states, “For this reason, he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

Empathy means, “suffering together”. When we suffer together, trust and confidence grow. When trust and confidence grow, we overcome together.   

Pray that as a nation, we can move beyond blaming one another and pointing fingers. Let us stop, look and listen. Let us put on the shoes of our brothers and sisters who are facing challenges different than our own. Let us feel that pain, share that burden together, and grow in unity.

Let us follow our Leader, Jesus Christ, and lead with empathy!

If anyone is interested, I wear size 11, but I can squeeze into a 10.5. I’m ready to try on a pair of yours!   

God Bless You!

Pastor Mark

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 30

“Messiah”

There is no other name under heaven given to all people by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

 

Yesterday, the news reported that over 1,000 Orthodox Jews gathered in downtown New York City. Disregarding social distancing, they wanted to honor their beloved rabbi who passed away. This sent the New York Police department running.

Recently, I ran across a story about another beloved rabbi. This rabbi lived in Israel. When he passed away in 2006, over 300,000 people attended his funeral. Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri was one of the most famous and beloved rabbis in all of Israel’s modern history. He lived to be 108 years old. Yes, that is correct, he was born in 1898, and lived to be 108 years old.

What is even more amazing is that in his last years, Rabbi Kaduri set out on a personal quest to identify the name of the Messiah. During this time, he reported that the Messiah had appeared to him in a vision. Not only that, but that the Messiah told him his name and that he would come soon.

Before his death, Rabbi Kaduri wrote a note which was sealed in an envelope and was not allowed to be opened until a year after his death. The note revealed the name of the Messiah. After the one-year anniversary of his death, the envelope was opened and the note was read.

The note said, (written in Hebrew)

               “Concerning the initial letters of the name of Messiah:

                              He will lift up the people and prove that his word and his teaching is valid.

Written with my signature in the month of Mercy. Yitzhak Kaduri.”

The first letter of each word reveals the name of the Messiah. In Hebrew, the name of Messiah that is spelled out is; “Yehoshua”  =  “Yeshua”  = “Jesus”.

The long and short version of the name, “Yeshua”, was translated in the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible), even 200 years before the birth of the Lord as “Jesus” (Iesous). It is the same name in Hebrew and Greek.

The Bible reveals that the Messiah should come to earth twice. The first time to die for our sins and the second time to save Israel and the world from destruction.

Hebrews 9:27-28 states, “And just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once, to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are eagerly waiting for him.”

Peter declared before the rabbis of his day and also the religious leaders and scribes, “Let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that, by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead – by him, this man is standing before you healed. He is, ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10-12)

Many Jews and much pressure has been exerted to demonstrate this note to be a forgery. Should that be surprised?

After Jesus’ resurrection, much pressure was put on the Roman guards who kept watch over the tomb. Matthew 28:12-15 states, “When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, ‘You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.’ So, the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this day.”

So, should we trust Rabbi Kaduri and his note? Did he meet the Messiah and reveal his name?

Let our trust be in the Lord! But let us follow the rabbi’s example and do our own personal search for Messiah. Jeremiah 29:13 promises, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you”, declares the Lord.

Continue to seek, with all of your heart, and you will find him. Continue to ask, with all of your heart, and you shall receive him. Continue to knock, with all of your heart and the door shall be opened to him. These are words of promise from our Messiah.

What is his name? His name is Jesus! His is the name above every name! The Messiah!

God Bless You in the name of Yeshua,

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 29

Census”

“Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20

 

Yesterday, I received my second notice regarding the 2020 Census. I placed the envelope on my growing pile of “low priority” communications. I have yet to open either envelope. And the question remains whether I will open either one before the third reminder arrives.

I went online to educate myself regarding the clear purpose for this decennial census. According to the 2020census.gov website, this census will, 1. Determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives as well as draw congressional and state legislative districts; 2. Inform hundreds of billions in federal funding, such as new schools, clinics, new roads and other services; and 3. Provide data and programs that will impact communities for the next decade, such as Medicaid, Head Start, Mental Health Services, etc.

After more fully understanding it’s purpose, I am much more motivated to complete the forms. I wonder how many others have their census notices on the low priority pile? Not everyone! I spoke to a pastor friend last week and he shared how motivated his mother was to make sure the form was filed. He shared that she was relentless in reminding him about having her information recorded. It was critically important that she was counted!

In the Bible, there are two “censuses” that stand out. One in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, King David called for a census. His census is recorded in two places;      2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21. In 2 Samuel, God is the acting agent who incites King David to call for the numbering of all able soldiers in the nation. In 1 Chronicles, Satan is the one who incites King David to number Israel. Why the different agents? It makes the most sense that God allowed Satan to stir up David to call for the census. Similarly, God allowed Satan to test Job. So also, Satan asked God to sift the disciple Peter like wheat during Jesus’ Last Supper.

In any case, King David called for the census. David also did not levy a tax on the people to pay for the census as is instructed in Exodus 30:12. It states, “When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the LORD a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them.” The tax would be a ransom to protect the people from a plague. Ultimately, Jesus would be the ransom who would protect the people. David’s desire to count the people seemed to rise from a spirit of pride. The census took 9 months and 20 days to complete. When the census was completed, 2 Samuel 24:10 states, “David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the LORD, ‘I have sinned greatly in what I have done.’”

The next day, the LORD gave David 3 options to choose from as a consequence of his sin. He could choose between 3 years of famine, 3 months of fleeing for his enemies, or 3 days of plague in the land. David said, “Let me fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great, but do not let me fall into the hands of men.” (2 Samuel 24:14)

So, the LORD sent a plague upon Israel and 70,000 people died. Death reigned for three days. One thousand years later, there would be a 3-day reign of death that would end in the resurrection!

From this tragedy of death, the LORD told David through the prophet Gad, to raise up an altar to the LORD. David ended up purchasing the land upon which the altar was built. And it was in this location that the future Temple would be build and raised up. Out of pride, tragedy, and repentance, this place would become THE place for the Jews to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness. And finally, in the same location, at the place of the cross, the world would receive God’s mercy and forgiveness!

While Satan provoked David’s census through pride, there was another famous census provoked by simple greed. In the New Testament, the Roman King, Caesar Augustus, called for a census. His primary intent was to track the numbers so he could tax the people. This census is perhaps the most famous because it is remembered and read every Christmas Eve. Luke 2:1, states, “In those days, Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.” Caesar Augustus was motivated by money but God was motivated by mercy. God counted the time and place in Bethlehem to mark the moment He became incarnate in the flesh. God used this gathering of the people to gather the holy couple together. They were at the right place at the right time so that the Savior of the world would be born to spark salvation for all.

It IS important to be counted! Yes, let’s fill out our nation’s 2020 census together. But there is a much more important place to be counted together.

Jesus counted out 72 disciples and sent them out before he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. He would ride his way to the Temple which sat upon the land which David purchased and where he repented. Before Jesus entered Jerusalem, his disciples returned to him with joy and declared, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” Jesus replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” He continued, “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:18-20)

Ultimately, to be recorded and written down in heaven, this is the most important place to be counted!

Today, give thanks to God, for Jesus has been written upon your heart. And because of this, your name has been written in heaven’s Book of Life.

Who else might God lay upon our hearts – that they may hear, and their names will also be counted and recorded?

“The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out their name from the book of life, but will acknowledge their name before my Father and his angels. The one who has an ear, let them hear.” Revelation 3:5

God Bless You All,

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 28

“Doing the Math”

“Are you envious because I am generous?” Matthew 20:1

 

Everyone is doing math these days. Students are doing math trying to keep up. Every business in America is crunching numbers trying to stay afloat. Every family in the country is trying to figure out their financials and their future. And the government is breaking the bank trying to figure out any math that makes sense.

We are told that we have a generous God who promises to provide for all of our needs. But what are our prospects when our country is over $24 trillion dollars in debt? If we are going to understand God’s provision, we are going to have to realize that God’s math is done differently. When Jesus acknowledged that a widow’s two copper coins was greater than all the other larger sums offered, clearly his addition was done differently. When Jesus told the parable about the Kingdom of God being like a landowner who hired men to work in his vineyard, obviously the logic and computation didn’t really add up. Jesus’ parable concludes with the landowner paying each worker the same amount of money even though some worked 12 hours, some 6 hours, some 3 hours, and some only worked 1 hour. With a monetary mindset, our sense of justice cries out, “Foul!” But Jesus is not concerned about the money. Jesus is giving a lesson on Kingdom Economy. The parable concluded with the landowner responding to those who felt cheated, “Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:13-15)

God’s Kingdom economy is different than our American economy. God’s Kingdom currency is not based upon a monetary system. God’s Economy is based upon faith that rests in the heart. The widow gave more than all the others, because she gave all she had from the faith that remained within her heart. God’s Kingdom Economy is not built through infrastructure involving roads, bridges and buildings. God’s Economy is built through relationships. God’s Kingdom goal is not to let the free market reign that money may abound. God’s Kingdom goal is to set men and women free by faith to reign in His glory, that love would abound within God centered relationships.

In less than two months, since the invasion of the coronavirus, our country has added $2.74 trillion to our mind-boggling national debt. These two stimulus steps have been essential to keep our economy afloat. Perhaps more financial support will be needed.

But there is a difference between “crisis” management and “strategic” management. In the long run, I wonder if we, as a country will take the long view in solving our economic issues. Certainly, God’s Kingdom Economy takes the long view. God has been looking down the road for a long time. He has laid out strategic plans to build a bridge between heaven and earth. God has not been worried about the brick and mortar nor the money management to fund his plan. Jesus is the centerpiece of his plan. It’s about a relationship with him. With God, it’s always about relationships. The road to glory is built by faith and relationships – with God and with others.

If we are able to look down the long road to recovery, it will require a different view of how we do math. We will need a higher view of how we deal with the numbers. God’s Kingdom equations have the potential to lead us to peace and prosperity. Our challenge as a country is having to look beyond the numbers.

A number of years ago, I watched an extremely powerful movie called, “A Beautiful Mind”. Russell Crowe plays the real life figure of Dr. John Nash, professor of Mathematics at Princeton University. The movie tracks his rise in academia, his fall due to schizophrenia, and his redemption due to his wife, Alicia.

One day, during my exercise routine, I watched the movie, but I also listened to the director, Ron Howard, explain all the “behind the scenes” throughout the film. It was fascinating to listen to all the details and decisions made that I was oblivious to. That experience made me reflect upon just how much God must be working behind the scenes, directing the elements of our lives in which we have no awareness of his efforts.

Early in the film, as Nash was writing out some equations, Ron Howard said behind the scene, “In speaking with our research mathematician, I had no idea that at this level of mathematics, they don’t think about numbers or sums. Their focus is on shapes and relationships. It’s all about relationships.”

Wow! At the highest level of math, numbers disappear and the only thing that remains is relationships. So, if we want to look through the lens of highest values, the common denominator between modern mathematics and God’s Kingdom Economy is the same: it’s all about RELATIONSHIPS!

Dr Nash was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economic Science in Stockholm, Sweden in 1994, for his theory of Equilibrium

It is ironic that a man who began his studies too arrogant to establish any meaningful relationship, then because of a disease, was unable to carry on any relationship of substance, would discover a cooperative bargaining theory that would influence the world. Nash’s theories have influenced global trade negotiations, national labor relations and even breakthroughs in evolutionary biology. But the one steadfast relationship that rescued John through all his nightmares was his wife. Alicia redeemed his life! She is the heroin of the story. When Dr. Nash accepted the Nobel Prize, he stated that after all of his academic achievements; after losing his mind and returning; he looked at Alicia and declared, “You are my reason for living – you are ALL my reasons.”  John Nash acknowledged that after all the numbers were added up, and all the numbers disappeared, the only number that remained was the one willing to stand with him through it all. Nash confessed that it was the heartfelt love within the relationship with his wife that saved him. The equation that made them one was the only thing that made any sense.

The recovery of our economy and the recovery of our world will also be found at the highest level. Indeed, the redemption of our society will not be found looking at the numbers. Our rescue will be found looking through the long lens of building relationships. Yes, right now, people need cold, hard, cash in their pockets to survive this crisis. But again, there is a difference between “crisis decision making” and “strategic decision making”. As we move into recovery from this crisis, our rebound will be directly related to our ability to foster win/win, cooperative bargaining relationships, nationally, regionally, locally and globally that will allow people to be set free and support one another.

Keep in mind, during our recovery, regulations must be put in place to keep people honest. Regulations protect relationships. They help guard against abuse and protect the most vulnerable. God regulated the nation of Israel with the Ten Commandments to protect the relationships between He and the people themselves. Sometimes just enough pressure can cause people to do the right thing: Case in point: Los Angeles Lakers and Shake Shack returning their small business loans. It is amazing that these institutions would receive these loans, but ultimately, they returned the money. They returned the money to avoid bad public relations, but at least it got the job done. Regulations are put in place so that people will be treated fairly. Unlike former Chair of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan’s atttitude, that many believe ushered in the 2008 recession, people will not naturally make the right decisions nor will the economy naturally correct itself. Sin knocks too closely at the door.   

If we scour the pages of Scripture, building relationships for a strong Kingdom Economy has always been the hidden plan of our Creator. Ever since the Fall into sin, God has been behind the scenes working toward a cooperative bargaining relationship with the world. God saved and rescued it. We are to join him in his Kingdom building through heart-felt faith and healthy God focused relationships. With these conditions everyone wins.

And when the time comes for each of us to fully enter into God’s Kingdom Economy in heaven, we will ALL understand and declare, “Jesus, you are our reason for living – You, Jesus, are ALL our reasons.”

Let’s go build some relationships and BY GOD rescue this land!

God Bless You All,

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 27

“Distribution”

“The Grecian Jews complained because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution.” Acts 6:1

People are being overlooked during this pandemic. We have been facing a distribution problem. This is nothing new. 2000 years ago, the early church also had a distribution problem.

Acts chapter six begins, “In those days when the number of disciples were increasing…” This was a crazy time in the early church. People were coming to faith. People were sharing what they had. They were gathering together in the Temple courts and in their homes every day. There was no social distancing in this crowd. The Spirit was moving. More and more converts were bringing more and more excitement to the faith. Miracles were happening. Apostles were already being thrown in jail. Church leaders were already being brought before the Sanhedrin. The Church was peaking with enthusiasm but they also had little organization. It was kind of the wild, wild west for this new faith. The energy was electric. But without oversight and direction, the church quickly fell into a situation that could have potentially robbed this energy and turned it destructive.

In the beginning, the early church was filled with only Jewish believers. The Bible tells us that as the number of believers grew, the Grecian Jews and the Hebraic Jews had a run in. The Greeks realized that when the food was being distributed, their widows were being left out by the hands of the Hebraic Jews. It was time to rumble.

The distribution problem had to be addressed. Here we are given a beautiful example, at the hands of the Apostles, how to handle conflict with wisdom and discernment. Acts 6:2-4 describes it this way:

               “So, the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

The Apostles began by gathering ALL the disciples together. When developing communication and organization, it is critical to engage all involved. This problem was going to be dealt with in the open. Everyone would know how the problem would be handled. They then identified their own roles as Apostles. These Twelve needed to stay focused on studying, preaching and teaching God’s Word. Then they gave direction. The Twelve explained that other men should be assigned the new roles and defined the handling of those practical issues. They also empowered their fellow believers to make their own decisions in choosing who shall serve. They trusted the people to call their men forward that they felt were best prepared to lead. Then they went on to give definition to decisions that needed to be made. They explained that there should be 7 men who should oversee the ministry. They also gave crucial clarification that these men must be known and have a reputation for being filled with Holy Spirit and wisdom. Finally, the Apostles indicated that they would not micro-manage the ministry leaders. They stated, “We will turn this responsibility over to them.” 

Healthy organizations establish healthy ways to handle conflict. It is amazing that without any manuals, the early church has given us a sold template for resolving conflict.

To review this template –

  1. Engage all involved.
  2. Identify specific roles.
  3. Give direction – assigning and defining new roles.
  4. Empower others in decision making.
  5. Bring further definition to tasks.
  6. Do not micro-manage

Following this process, Acts 6:5 indicates the results, “This proposal pleased the whole group.” Everyone was on board, and on the same page, because of the way the issue was handled. The Bible goes on to list the seven individuals who were chosen to serve as deacons, most notably Stephen. These men were then presented to the Apostles. The Twelve laid their hands on them and prayed over them.

What was the final conclusion to the conflict? Acts 6:7 declares, “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”

Peace and unity set the stage for great things! Because the disciples found a healthy way to handle conflict, peace and unity quickly returned to the body. Because harmony hovered over the believers, The Spirit of God moved with great fire and continued to spread the faith.

I’m not sure peace and unity are words I would use to describe our government these days. But there are many business and churches that suffer from this same lack of harmony. Rather than cast a critical eye upon those beyond our control, let’s look closer to home. Are there any areas in your life that might benefit from the early church template? Good, healthy communication brings peace to the soul.  

Let us pray to God for a healthy nation and government. Let us pray for our federal, state and local leaders that they can find greater unity and harmony working together. Let us pray for our church that we will walk in step with the Spirit and with one another. And let us pray for our families – that when conflicts arise, we are able to handle them following the faithful example set before us.

No need to rumble – just stay humble – God will cause the walls of conflict to tumble.

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark