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Pastor Mark’s Devotions, June 16

“Bridge Building – Part 1”

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony.” Psalm 133:1

 

I had a God moment this morning. As I rolled through the new feeds on my phone, I saw an article entitled, “Black man calls police…” The story was about two men, a black man and a police officer, from Minnesota who bonded amid growing protests. Calvin Matthew, a state health inspector for the Minnesota Department of Health met Sgt. Justin Pletcher on May 27th – two days after George Floyd’s death. After reading their story and since we have been inundated with so much social unrest, I thought perhaps their “bridge building” could be the subject of my devotion.  

I put my phone down and tuned into a time of worship. As the music played, I began to ask God to bring a Scripture to mind that would be an example of relational bridge building. Suddenly, the encounter between the Roman soldier, Cornelius and Peter came into my thoughts. I knew the story was in the book of Acts. And as I reflected upon the bridge that was built between this Roman gentile and this Jewish follower of Christ, I realized that this would be the perfect example. Then I sank into the music even more, knowing that I had the piece parts for the devotion of the day. After worship, I turned to my One Year Bible and opened the pages for today’s reading. What was today’s reading? Acts 10:1-23. The passage begins, “In Caesarea, there lived a Roman army officer named Cornelius, who was a captain of the Italian Regiment…” After all this time, you would think that I would no longer be surprised to see the hand of God. No one can tell me that this was a coincidence, you had to be here! I wonder if this is simply God’s sense of humor. Regardless, it reminds me that no matter what is going on in the world, He still holds it all in his hands.

After reading about Cornelius and Peter, my eyes moved on to the Psalm for the day. This reading was from Psalm 133:1-3.  It reads, “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mt. Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the LORD has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.” Are you kidding me? Are you getting this? Our heavenly Father is looking down upon us right now with a huge grin on his face. Yes, he is that wonderful!

Be encouraged today. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) We worship an amazing God, and He takes pleasure in revealing himself to us. Let us continue to ask, seek and knock for His presence in every area of our lives during this trying time.

Below, is the Scripture reading and the commentary associated with the reading from my One Year Bible, and then the story about the two men from Minnesota living in harmony together. Enjoy.

May God Bless You Abundantly Today!

Love in Christ, Pastor Mark

 

Cornelius Calls for Peter

10 In Caesarea there lived a Roman army officer[a] named Cornelius, who was a captain of the Italian Regiment. He was a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household. He gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God. One afternoon about three o’clock, he had a vision in which he saw an angel of God coming toward him. “Cornelius!” the angel said.

Cornelius stared at him in terror. “What is it, sir?” he asked the angel.

And the angel replied, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering! Now send some men to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying with Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.”

As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier, one of his personal attendants. He told them what had happened and sent them off to Joppa.

Peter Visits Cornelius

The next day as Cornelius’s messengers were nearing the town, Peter went up on the flat roof to pray. It was about noon, 10 and he was hungry. But while a meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. 12 In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. 13 Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.”

14 “No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.[b]

15 But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” 16 The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven.

17 Peter was very perplexed. What could the vision mean? Just then the men sent by Cornelius found Simon’s house. Standing outside the gate, 18 they asked if a man named Simon Peter was staying there.

19 Meanwhile, as Peter was puzzling over the vision, the Holy Spirit said to him, “Three men have come looking for you. 20 Get up, go downstairs, and go with them without hesitation. Don’t worry, for I have sent them.”

21 So Peter went down and said, “I’m the man you are looking for. Why have you come?”

22 They said, “We were sent by Cornelius, a Roman officer. He is a devout and God-fearing man, well respected by all the Jews. A holy angel instructed him to summon you to his house so that he can hear your message.” 23 So Peter invited the men to stay for the night. The next day he went with them, accompanied by some of the brothers from Joppa.

Today’s Study: Acts 10:9-23

The Jewish law prohibited certain foods from being eaten (see Leviticus 11). These food laws made it difficult for Jews to eat with Gentiles without breaking the laws, and Jews often viewed Gentiles themselves as “unclean.”

This is why Peter had difficulties embracing what God was calling him to do – it took a heavenly vision, repeated three times. Peter’s vision meant that he should not look upon the Gentiles as inferior people whom God would not redeem. After having the vision, he understood that it was his responsibility to go with the messengers into a Gentile home and tell them the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ.

God sometimes calls us to put aside our cultural prejudices and traditions in order to reach out to people who are different from ourselves. When he does, we need to be ready to put aside our ideas of what is proper, polite, or acceptable. We need to be ready to reach out across racial, cultural, and socio-economic lines to love and accept others the way God loves and accepts us. Like Peter, we need to be ready to humble ourselves and show other people how God is reaching out to them.

 

Black man calls police to alert them he’s doing his job.

(Photo https://mix949.com/mn-police-officers-moving-story-of-reconciliation-goes-viral/

Two men from Minnesota who bonded amid growing protests against police brutality are sharing their story of friendship after a Facebook post recounting their meeting went viral.

Calvin Mathews, a state health inspector for the Minnesota Department of Health, met Sgt. Justin Pletcher on May 27 — two days after George Floyd’s death.

Mathews told “Good Morning America” he made a non-emergency call to the police while inspecting a mobile home park.

“I said, ‘Hey sir, I wanted to call and let you know I am an inspector just in case a citizen calls and says some strange black man is walking around,'” Mathews recalled. “He said, ‘I’m sorry you even feel the need to tell me this.'”

Pletcher, 39, of the Columbia Heights Police Department, said he took Mathews’ call.

“He said, ‘I’m a big black guy with dreads’ and he didn’t want it to become an issue,” Pletcher explained. “I said, ‘Hey man, I get it. It won’t become an issue, but if someone calls, I’ll squash it.'”

Pletcher met Mathews in the small city of Hilltop after Mathews asked if the sergeant could come check his credentials in case someone called dispatch.

Pletcher soon noticed Mathews’ Omega Psi Phi bracelet that he was wearing, which is the same black fraternity Pletcher’s college roommate belonged to.

After learning they had a mutual friend, Pletcher and Mathews spent an hour walking the neighborhood together.

“If you look like me and you run into police, you don’t know who you’re going to get,” Mathews said. “He agreed to walk around with me during my inspection and we talked.”

Pletcher said he and Mathews had a lot in common.

“We like to travel and we both love [musical artist] Prince,” Pletcher added. “[We] both have biracial children.”

Pletcher and Mathews snapped a photo together and shared it on Facebook along with a story of their meeting. The post garnered 218,000 shares.

“I honestly think people need to see there’s some type of hope out there,” Mathews said of the viral moment. “The fact is, none of my other coworkers would’ve thought, ‘let me call the police,’ and that’s the definition of privilege.”

He added, “I’m 49 years old. I have dreads. I’ve never smoked. I’ve been to prison 22 times but to inspect, not as an occupant. I think it all comes down to fear. People are afraid of something they saw on TV. It’s just ridiculous.”

Mathews said he’d like to see police reform.

“Several officers I know said nowhere in the book of training did it say to put their knee on that man’s neck,” Mathews said. “Maybe there needs to be a time limit [for police working] on and off the streets. Maybe there should be mandated counseling.”

“There’s tons of good officers,” he continued. “Something needs to happen with these bad officers.”

Following Floyd’s death, demonstrations began in Minnesota. Pletcher said his neighborhood was destroyed and looting was common.

“I’m not angry about the rioting, I’m angry that’s what had to be resorted to until people listened,” he said. “I’m angry about systematic racism, I’m angry about inequality. It won’t change unless we do something and that’s policing.”

He went on, “The thin blue line, the very idea of a line suggests segregation and if I’m not on the same side of my community, I’m failing them, I’m failing this badge — any officer that disagrees with me needs to think about doing something else.”

 

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, June 11

“Attractive Conversations”

“Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” Colossians 4:6

 

People are asking big questions these days. With talk of paradigm shifts and pivot points, people are wondering what pandemics and protests might mean on the larger scale. Conversations continue to stir about second waves and security breaches which add to the rising levels of anxiety.

Paul says in Colossians 4:5-6, “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversations be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

Paul says, “Live wisely.” Another translation states, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders.” The word, “wise,” can also be translated, “to have skill.” Paul states this in the context of asking for prayer that a door may be opened to those who do not know the message of Christ. So, Paul is exhorting the church to have skills as it deals with outsiders in sharing the Gospel. How are we to be wise (skilled)? Perhaps picking up on the words from James (in an earlier devotion), that we are to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19) If emotions run high, and we, as Christians, are able to demonstrate a strong “EQ” (emotional quotient) – we will show ourselves to have skills. A high “EQ” gives a person the skills to not overact but remain in control and calmly discuss potentially highly charged topics. When we can display emotional control, it gives greater opportunity for the message of Christ to be heard and received.

Paul also says that our conversation should be gracious and attractive to others. So, what does attractive conversation look like? Perhaps it is easier to point to what it is not. Attractive conversation is not blaming, defensive, demeaning or intimidating. Rather, attractive conversation will take on qualities such as; respect, honoring, valuing, honesty and transparency. Perhaps the greatest model for attractive conversation was Jesus. People of all make and models were drawn to listen to him. They were drawn into conversation with him. They asked questions, some had honest challenges and wanted further clarity to his teaching. Jesus honored each question, he listened, and then he also gave honest, respectful, and at times, direct answers.

How is it possible to give a right response to everyone? Paul begins the previous paragraph with the words, “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” (Colossians 4:2) As always, Paul points back to the Lord. Strength, wisdom, compassion, understanding, and revelation are all qualities that depend upon God. As we humbly seek, pray and turn to God, He is able to use every opportunity TO TEACH US. Then as we grow in understanding, we can calmly and respectfully with humble confidence share the message of Christ.

Here are two of the biggest questions people tend to ask;

  1. Why am I here?
  2. What is the purpose of my life?

The direct answer to that question is;

  1. You have been created to be in relationship with God.
  2. The purpose of your life is to live for His glory.

These two brief answers can perhaps be the beginning of a deeply gracious and attractive conversation involving Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

May the Holy Spirit continue to guide us into greater skill as He gives us opportunity to share the Gospel.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

 

 
   
   
   
   

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, June 9

“Treasure”

“The Kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.”  Matthew 13:44

Are you a buried treasure enthusiast? As a young boy, I had dreams of finding buried treasure. Like Indiana Jones, in the jungles of the Amazon, I dreamed of finding a treasure that had been hidden ages ago. I do not think that I am alone. Over the years, there have been people who have traveled the world in search for treasure. They have searched mountains, oceans, tombs, and ancient cities for riches. But there have also been stories of people digging up gold coins right in their backyard. Others have found treasure using metals detector on nearby sandy beaches. And some have even found treasure buried among trinkets at a local thrift store. The idea of finding hidden treasure certainly can get one’s blood pumping.   

For the past decade, thousands of treasure seekers have been pumped to travel into the Rocky Mountains in search of a special-announced treasure. This past weekend, it was reported that the treasure had finally been found. After ten years, the buried treasure trove had finally been unearthed. The name of the man who found the treasure is being kept secret, for now. The bronze chest was believed to have contained not only gold but rubies, emeralds and diamonds as well, estimated to be worth over $1 million dollars.

Ten years ago, Forrest Fenn, an 89-year-old art and antiquities collector, created the treasure hunt. The genesis for the hunt was generated from news that he only had a short time to live. So, he created an adventure for anyone who truly wanted to seek after an honest buried treasure. He hid the treasure in the Rocky Mountains and he left clues leading to the location in a 24-line poem, published in Fenn’s 2010 autobiography, “The Thrill of the Chase.”

It is estimated that over 350,000 people, from all over the world, have hunted for this treasure. Some people quit their jobs, and some even died on the trail, in their quest for riches.

It is amazing what one will do in search for treasure. Back in the goldrush days of the 1840’s, people sold homes, left families, and rolled the dice in hopes that they would get their hands on some of that buried treasure.

In Matthew chapter 13, Jesus talks about buried treasure. He tells a parable about the Kingdom of heaven being like that of buried treasure. He says, “The Kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy, went and sold all that he had and bought that field.”

The genesis of God’s treasure hunt began in a Garden. In the beginning, the treasure was obvious, available and enjoyed by Adam and Eve as they walked, communed and fellowshipped with God. Suddenly, with the onslaught of sin, that treasure seemed to go into hiding. Humanity was no longer, openly seeking after God. They were distracted by other earthly things. Riches of other kinds caught their attention. Since then, the world has been on a chase, wanting riches but digging in the wrong places.     

Jesus entered the chase and tried to highlight the trail. Sometimes his teaching seemed to conceal the path. But if people tracked with him, they would come to know the Way. He also led people to consider the idea of rolling the dice – to go all in. But in this treasure search, there would be no gambling on this roll. For all the risk was upon the one who created the search. God guaranteed a payout, eternal riches, for anyone who would roll the dice on his Son, Jesus Christ. And when the treasures of Christ would be unearthed, the treasure seeker would exhale a cry of celebration and would be willing to go all in, and sell off all other earthly riches because of the joy in the find.

St. Paul describes this joyful discovery as he says, “But whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” (Philippians 3:7-8)

It is pretty amazing that over 350,000 people would canvas and scale mountains in search of financial treasure. Yet, the eternal treasures found in God lay buried right under our feet. Actually, the treasure is found right at the feet of Jesus.  We can find this treasure whatever our location, position or posture in life because Jesus has humbled himself as a servant. He makes himself available to us, whoever we are, wherever we are. When a treasure seeker comes to Him with an open, honest heart, true riches are given. And when that joy is received, all else pales in comparison.

While some of us might still hold out a slim hope to hit those lottery numbers, or dream of digging up those dusty gold coins beneath our basement, let us encourage one another to continue to desire and discover the eternal riches that God desperately wants to unearth in us. These are riches that neither moth nor rust nor anything else in all of creation will be able to destroy.

Someone unearthed the true treasure of God’s grace and described it this way:

God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

This conversation also has brought to mind the beautiful hymn: “Jesus Priceless Treasure”.

1 Jesus, priceless treasure,
source of purest pleasure,
friend most sure and true:
long my heart was burning,
fainting much and yearning,
thirsting, Lord, for you.
Yours I am, O spotless Lamb,
so will I let nothing hide you,
seek no joy beside you!

2 Let your arms enfold me:
those who try to wound me
cannot reach me here.
Though the earth be shaking,
every heart be quaking,
Jesus calms my fear.
Fires may flash and thunder crash;
yea, though sin and hell assail me,
Jesus will not fail me.

3 Hence, all worldly treasure!
Jesus is my pleasure,
Jesus is my choice.
Hence, all empty glory!
What to me your story
told with tempting voice?
Pain or loss or shame or cross
shall not from my Savior move me,
since he chose to love me.

4 Banish thoughts of sadness,
for the Lord of gladness,
Jesus, enters in;
though the clouds may gather,
those who love the Savior
still have peace within.
Though I bear much sorrow here,
still in you lies purest pleasure,
Jesus, priceless treasure!  

God Bless You All,

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, June 6

“The Protestant Church”

“For by Grace you have been Saved through Faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8

 

Did you know that protesting is in our DNA? This is not meant to make anyone nervous. But last night, it dawned on me that our Lutheran church, and actually our salvation, emerged from a march in protest.

Every night, over these past two weeks, we have watched crowds march in protest throughout the cities in America. Have you given any thought to consider that the pillars of our faith came in the midst of protest? Until last night, my eyes never saw that angle. To begin with, Jesus marched into Jerusalem and marched up to the cross in protest to sin, death and the devil. Through his march, he stomped on death and destruction and thus enacted an eternal change that would offer salvation to anyone who would call upon his name.

1500 years later, Martin Luther stomped up the steps of the imposing powers of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther was witness to the abuses of power. He recognized the exploitation that the church forced upon people theologically, politically, economically and socially. Luther was by no means the first to protest and attempt to publicly address these abuses, but because of advances in technology, his protest caught fire. Luther and his cohorts would become known as the “protestants” – they were the “protesters.” The rebel church that would emerge after Martin Luther’s death would come to be known as the Lutheran church – the first, formal “protesting” church of its kind.

This protesting church would be grounded upon five foundational pillars of faith; Christ Alone, Word Alone, Grace Alone, and Faith Alone, and Glory to God Alone. Establishing these theological pillars required great commitment, cost and sacrifice. Martin Luther was threatened and deemed an outlaw by the religious authorities. He was kidnapped and had to go into hiding for nine months. Two years later, unrest boiled over and violence erupted so much so that it grew into what would be known as the German Peasants War (1524-1525). Up to 300,000 lives were lost in this revolt – of that, 100,000 peasants lost their lives. Luther vehemently voiced opposition to this radical violence and carnage, but the rebellion took on a life of its own. After the radical behavior finally died down, the reformers continued to formulate and articulate the specific theological truths from Scripture. Unfortunately, the protesters were unable to find common ground in all areas deemed essential; Baptism, Holy Communion, and Election, to name a few. Thus, the leaders of the protesting movement, namely, Luther, Calvin and Zwingli – would eventually become the identified leaders of the newly established “protesting” churches – Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Baptist.

Today, as members belonging to a protestant church, we owe a debt of deep gratitude to those willing to march for the sake of the Gospel. Because of these protesting efforts, we have been recipients of knowing about God’s greatest gift. We have grown up under the banner of truth declaring salvation is not based upon individual effort but by the effort of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:8-9 has been the banner scripture that has waved over the Lutheran Church for the last 500 years. It states, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Because Martin Luther was engaged in such a mighty battle against an opposing opponent, he fought to protect the purity of God’s grace. He was committed to leave no trace or residue of individual work’s righteousness that would undermine the truth regarding one’s salvation. Thus, Ephesians 2:10 was not emphasized like the light that was placed upon “Grace” and “Faith” in the previous 2 verses.

But being that we are 500 years removed from the intense collision between individual works and the work of Christ, light must shine upon the third verse, Ephesians 2:10. These three verses fit together as if in trinitarian nature. These three verses are to be seen as one. For 2:10 states, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” This verse does not threaten the truth about salvation, but rather explains that God has work to be done out of the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Therefore, because God has saved us by His grace through his Son, Jesus Christ; we are also told that God has good work for us to carry out upon this earth. We are even directed that he has prepared these good works, in advance, for us to do. The one question left to ask is; what exactly are those good works that God has in place for us to do? This is the call of the disciple – to listen, receive and obey.

During tomorrow’s sermon – I will be speaking about what makes for a disciple. Jesus gives three basic directives to be one of his followers. Those directives can be found in John 13:34-35, John 8:31, and Luke 9:23.

In simple terms – a follower of Jesus is:

  1. One who Loves
  2. One who Learns
  3. One who Lives sacrificially

So, if God has works prepared in advance for us to do; we then must ask –

               Who are we to love?

               What are we to learn?

               How are we to live sacrificially?

Protesting will continue. During this time, let us give thanks to our Lord, Jesus Christ who marched to the cross. Let us also give thanks to Martin Luther, and all the protesters of the reformation who marched for the truth of the Gospel.  And if protesting is in our DNA, what message of Christ will He ask us to march for and lift up? You need not worry–He has already prepared it in advance for us to do.

God Bless You All   

 Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, June 4

“A Crisis of Faith”

“If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13

Last week, Jon Steingard, lead singer for the Christian band, Hawk Nelson, confessed on an Instagram post, that he no longer believed in God. Jon said, “After growing up in a Christian home, being a pastor’s kid, playing and singing in a Christian band, and having the word, ‘Christian’ in front of most of the things in my life – I am now finding that I no longer believe in God.” He cites questions about God, the Bible, and his upbringing and said that he can no longer lead songs like, “Drops in the Ocean” in good conscience.

While his confession is troubling, it is important to hear his bandmates response. In their own statement, they declare, “We are called to love one another unconditionally, as God loves us.” And they also said, “Our mission is to inspire and encourage all people with the truth that God is for them and not against them – now this is for one of our own.” What a wonderful expression of love and brotherhood for a friend who is struggling, searching, still seeking to know truth.

As Christians, looking in from the outside, we can easily cast judgments, be angry or share disappoint in Jon’s words. But if we pause and listen closely, there can be a lot we can learn. The reality is that many believers are one crisis away from seemingly throwing in the spiritual towel. If one more unexplainable tragedy occurs, or just one more problem shows up to tip the scale, many feel ready to be done with their belief in God.

So, what is to be done in the midst of a crisis of faith? I would suggest it is very similar to what we are being called to do in the midst of this pandemic and in the face of these peaceful protests. We are called to come along side those who are struggling. We are to remind them that they are not alone. We are to listen and remain open to understand their story. And we are to understand that deeper understanding can emerge in the midst of a crisis.  

Listening more closely to Jon’s words, he makes some significant statements. He expresses the desire to finally be open, honest, vulnerable and transparent. These are important qualities to work through a crisis. Up until now, he has kept his doubts, fears, and questions, hidden in his heart. Nothing good comes from hiding. Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden and nothing good came from it. Jon’s honest confession opens the door to address his crisis of faith and the possibility of discovering a deeper experience with God.

Jon also states, “I want to be transparent with you all – and also open to having my heart changed in the future. He goes on to say, “I am not looking for a debate at all – just a chance to share my story in the hopes some good can come from it. I love you all.”

Wow, Jon makes some amazing comments. Along with transparency, he says that he wants his heart to be open to change. He is saying that he really wants to believe that there is a God, but he just can’t see it right now. He also says that he isn’t looking for someone to fix him or have a question and answer quiz session. His simple hope is that by being honest, something good can happen.

Jon is confessing a lot of different things in his post. One thing is for certain, he is wrestling with spiritual things. Wrestling is a good thing. Wrestling in the wilderness is the place where Jacob, in the Old Testament met God. In that wrestling, Jacob had an experience with God. His name and heart were changed and he became a different person.   

Jon then makes the most revealing statement. He says, “I’m actually open to the idea that God is there.” But he says, “I suspect if he is there, he is very different than what I was taught.”

With those words, Jon just gave a window into the hearts of many people. Most people actually believe that there is a God. But what they have been taught from the Bible has little relevance for their life.  

Hopefully, his bandmates and/or his close Christian friends will allow him to share his story. Hopefully, they will ask questions about the kind of Christianity he was taught. He has already confessed that he is open to God but he needs someone to help guide him in knowing and/or rediscovering the truth about the faith. Someone needs to clarify that everything about Christianity centers itself in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Over the years, I have heard many stories about people growing up in Christian homes that have missed on the centerpiece of our faith – namely, Jesus Christ. Sure, we teach about Jesus being born in Bethlehem, doing some miracles and that he died on a cross. But many people have not been led into a living relationship with Jesus Christ. Christianity can easily become a list of do’s and don’ts and evaluating faith based upon church attendance and activities. If this happens, Christianity simply becomes another legalistic religion, centered upon human good works, that will eventually kill the spirit. It could be that this is where Jon finds himself.  

Most people who have left the church and/or Christianity is because they were taught information about God but not led into a relationship with God. We can gain much wisdom about God, but still be vulnerable to a crisis because we still might not know him. Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” John 10:14. This “knowing” of which Jesus speaks, is about a personal experience with the living God.

In the book of Ephesians, Paul prays that God would give, both wisdom and revelation to the believers in Ephesus. He says, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” (Ephesians 1:17)

Wisdom is not enough. Revelation leaves a mark on the heart in which the Holy Spirit opens up an encounter with the living God. Fully knowing God through wisdom and revelation provides the sturdy foundation from which a life of faith is built. But even in that, be aware that crisis’ of faith can still occur and that is why we need brothers and sisters in the faith to walk with us, and talk with us, and pray for us in our times of need.  

Consider King Solomon. He was the wisest of all the kings of Israel. God gave Solomon all the wisdom the world had to offer. Solomon mesmerized crowds and even the Queen of Sheba with his insights. He spelled out some of his comprehensive wisdom in the book of Proverbs. God chose him to build His Temple in Jerusalem. God gave him peace among the nations. Yet Solomon had a crisis of faith. Solomon lost perspective. In Ecclesiastes Solomon wrote, “God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.” (3:1) Yet somewhere along the line, his wisdom  about God did not sustain him. He began the book of Ecclesiastes with the confession, “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher, “Utter meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” He came to this conclusion that all was vanity after spending his life in pursuit of knowledge, pleasure, splendor and work. Yet in all of it, he lost his pursuit of God and all his efforts left him empty.

Solomon had been given plenty of wisdom. What he needed was revelation. What he needed was relationship. Solomon needed close companions to help guide him back to faith in Yahweh, the living God.

The good news is that Jon Steingard has a band of brothers who are standing with him, praying for him and who are wanting to point him to the truth of Jesus.

As people come to us in the midst of a crisis, may we be a church that is able to guide people to the centerpiece of our faith – that vital relationship with Jesus Christ.

If one of our family members has a crisis of faith, let us not fear. Rather, let us see it as a red flag of opportunity. Doubts that were once hidden are now being exposed. That which is troubling is now able to be healed. That which is questioned has the opportunity to be answered. And that which is unknown – can become an invitation to know the living God on a deeply personal, life transforming level.

May God prepare each of us, in our own crises of faith, to take us deeper with Him.

God Bless You!

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, June 3

“Another Pair of Shoes – Part 2”

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

28 days ago, I wrote a devotion entitled, “Another Pair of Shoes.” The day was May 6th and it was devotion #52. I shared the story of an elderly white woman who lived in Minnesota. As I read her story, I figured many of us, men and women alike, could relate. Gloria Jackson had no health, hunger or shelter issues. But she was single, alone and considered high risk regarding the coronavirus. In the article, she described her physical setting, her emotional struggles, her spiritual wrestling and brewing anger. I heard back from many of you. You could relate to her story and were walking in similar shoes. I also felt that it was important that those who do not share these same struggles, recognize another pair of shoes.

This last week, we have been overwhelmed by another story that has come out of Minnesota. The pain, anger, rage and frustration that has been unleashed over George Floyd’s death, indicates just how many people are walking in these shoes. This story and these feelings of this type of injustice are probably not very familiar to most of us. To wear these shoes, it will require us to open our heart, listen carefully and learn a story very different than our own. It is a call to empathy. It is not a call to sympathy but rather to understand more clearly the feelings of other human beings.

The call to understand the feelings and conditions of another is difficult. Yet this is the call of the Christian. We are directed to carry one another’s burdens. Christ carried our burdens, and as followers of Christ, we are called to carry on Christ’s mission and help lift the burdens of others. Much of the world’s story, in all reality, is different than our own. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to help us accomplish this call. And we are promised that He will do this.

The disciples faced many challenges in trying to carry out Christ’s call. Much of their world, as with ours, was deeply shaped by racism. Racism, by definition is, “Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.” Jews held judgments against gentiles. Jews held prejudices against Samaritans. The Romans displayed outright antagonism towards the Jews. Racism circled and swirled around these people groups just as they still do today in the Middle East and around the world.  

Jesus certainly found himself in the middle of racist judgments. Sometimes I think we forget about the painful shoes he would have worn. Jesus grew up in a small town, born to an unwed mother. He was raised by a father in which the community would have judged him weak. Jesus grew up on the wrong side of the tracks – he grew up in Nazareth. And as the story goes, “nothing good comes from Nazareth.” As a man, Jesus was labeled a radical, targeted as a troublemaker, and judged to be in opposition to God. He was accused of driving out demons in partnership with Beelzebub. He was listed as a threat. He was charged with heresy. He was illegally arrested, beaten and retained in jail. He was falsely accused, falsely arrested and falsely crucified.

Jesus lived his entire life under the weight of racism. Yet, this is in part why he knows our human story so well. Jesus became fully human so that he could know the entire drama. Because of his becoming fully human, he clearly knows humanities hurts, pains, weakness and frustrations. He knows an elderly white woman’s isolation and loneliness. And he also knows the pain and injustice of the African American community. And he truly knows your particular pains and hurts that you are struggling with at this very moment.

Jesus not only knows our pain, he also came to bind up all those who are brokenhearted.

700 years before Jesus took on our story, the prophet Isaiah identified the role, character and call of the coming Messiah. He declared, “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…” (Isaiah 61:1)

Matthew 9:36 reveals Jesus’ heart towards hurting people. Matthew records, “When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus felt the pain. He recognized people’s hopelessness. And he healed them.

May God help us maintain a heart of compassion and point all those who are hurting to the Good Shepherd who can bind up any wound.

Two days ago, I heard Ray Roberts, a former Seattle Seahawk football player, share his story on the radio. His story is very different than my story. His story is powerful, painful, and provokes me to want to know more. I am thankful to be exposed to another pair of shoes. I hope you will find his story helpful as well.

God Bless You!

Pastor Mark

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Ray Roberts Shares his truth as a black American.

I first want to say thank you to those that are down for the cause and willing to sacrifice more than their words to create change. I am not a fan of the looting, robbing, stealing and violence, however I am unapologetic as it relates to the intensity of the peaceful protesters and the discomfort it may produce for those sitting on their hands and finding every excuse imaginable and choosing to be distracted from the underlying issues.

This is my truth – agree, disagree, or agree to disagree, I really do not care. My truth does not represent the truth of all African Americans, but it was influenced by similar and often the same life experiences we all share. I have a lot on my mind and most of it is fueled by anger, frustration, disappointment and sadness, so what I’m going to say is what’s on my mind at the moment. I would like to take this time to paint a picture that I hope will replace the images of the last few days and lead to a level of understanding, sympathy and empathy, and actionable, measurable change. I do not have all the answers and this is not intended to help you figure out what to do. That’s your work.

In 1619, the first Africans were kidnapped and brought to this country. They landed on the shores of Virginia, a place called Point Comfort of all places, and were auctioned off and sold into slavery. From that moment, the blood that ran through the veins of this country did not run for us. The heartbeat of this country did not beat for us. We were never intended to share in its success or live freely within its borders. Think about that, then consider this. Enoch Waters, who graduated from Hampton University in 1933 and worked for the Chicago Defender, the nation’s largest black daily newspaper, and became the editor of the Associated Negro Press, wrote a piece entitled “The Only American.” It reads: “The black man is the only American who came here not seeking freedom, because he had been robbed of it. Not looking for a home, because he had been snatched from his. Not as a fugitive from persecution, because it awaited him. Not in search of opportunity, because it was beyond his reach. Not in pursuit of happiness, because he had left it behind. Not hoping for love, because there was none for him. And not willingly, because he came as a slave in chains.”

Think about that. Paint that picture in your mind and sit with it.

Also sit with this: There were multiple generations of black people born in this country that never experienced freedom. I will say it again: There were multiple generations of black people born in this country that never experienced freedom.

Fast forward to the life and times of my grandfather, Warren Henry Roberts. He served and fought for this country. He fought for freedoms and rights that he did not have access to in this country. When he returned home, he was still called the n-word. He could not eat in the same restaurants or drink from the same water fountains as his fellow white soldiers. He could not sit in the same classrooms or live in the same neighborhoods. The back door was still the expected entrance to most establishments. He did not have the same access to healthcare, education, jobs or housing that the white soldiers had. He could be beaten or even murdered for just looking at a white woman, and many of the perpetrators of these actions were white dudes who fought alongside him. So when I think about Colin Kaepernick kneeling and all of the shouts are ‘He’s disrespecting the flag, the military and this country,’ my blood boils. Our sacrifice for this country is unmatched, and it’s not even close.

Now fast forward to the life and times of my father, Richard Ray Roberts Sr., and my uncles – and in this moment I don’t want to forget all the black women who suffer the most when black men are snatched from their lives and they’re not fathers, they’re not providers, they’re not husbands and they’re not someone to love on. They were denied opportunities, were tormented and had to face and endure blatant racism and hate, and had to bite, scratch and claw for limited resources and essential jobs. It saddens me to know that my dad’s best self was diminished and limited because of systems, mindsets and people who did not value him as a man or as a human.

Then I think of my life. The things I’ve seen. As a kid I witnessed Klan marches in my town. The summer before ninth grade while on a bike ride with my cousin, I was chased by a group of white dudes. I crashed and broke my wrist. I missed the beginning of the football season because of it. And I cannot count the number of times I’ve been called the n-word. My mother was told by my elementary school principal that I should attend a college that focused on football because I would never graduate from the University of Virginia. I felt like I wasn’t completely welcome at the University of Virginia. Even as a player in the NFL while a member of the Detroit Lions, I was pulled over and asked to explain how I could afford such a nice car, or what work did I do to afford it. I was also stopped through my own neighborhood and asked why was I there. I was stopped in Redmond, Wash., just a little ways from my home, and asked if I was lost.

Then I think of more recent things, like athletes being told to stick to sports or players being called SOBs by the president. To African American men being murdered by those who are sworn to protect. When it comes to people of color and protests or push back in this country, it more times than not is met with force and aggression, while whites toting guns, assault rifles and who knows what else are free to move about and within a state capitol building, screaming in the faces of law enforcement and taunting them. Then I think to white mass shooters being apprehended alive and even taken to Burger King or even taken water to be made comfortable. And I see black men have died for selling cigarettes and CDs, while being stopped for a traffic violation, being killed while in cuffs, and like Mr. Floyd begging to breathe and shouting out for the comfort and safety of his already deceased mother. I can’t help but have images of slaves being beaten and hung to death, begging and shouting out for the comfort and safety of their motherland.

I could go on and on.

I believe and feel that what we are seeing and witnessing in this moment is an uncovering or exposing of a wound that was never meant to be tended to nor healed. We were expected to lay down, obey, fall in line, or bleed out. And honestly, guys, there is financial gain for some to keep it that way. CNN, FOX, other sports outlets, other media outlets and platforms all feed the beast. They lack cultural and racial representation, cultural awareness and competence, and engage in divisive language, opinions and programming because it drives listenership, and that fills bank accounts. It’s like a competition or sport in and of itself – who can be the most outrageous, the most controversial, the most divisive. It has become a game to gain the most listeners so that they can pat themselves on the back and feel good about their ratings and put money in their pockets, and although I appreciate the opportunity to speak freely on this station, Bonneville is just as guilty.

So to close, this is bigger than George Floyd, or Trayvon Martin, or Ferguson, or Martin Luther King Jr., or Malcom X. This is about a historical mindset and system that was never, never intended to benefit us, and we were never expected to defeat it or overcome it. And to those of you who are participating in the riots: Know that there are those who see this as an opportunity to destroy, rob and steal. Know that there are those covertly involved to instigate so that the peaceful protestors are blamed. Know that destruction and violence is how the other side expects and wants you to respond, so that they can use these actions so that they can distract themselves from the real issues and use as an excuse not to hear us. Know that if they can’t hear us, they cannot be challenged to defeat their own biases, isms, flawed mindsets, perspectives and actions, and if they can’t do that, they can’t have their hearts changed. And if they can’t do that, then policies and laws do not change. And if that happens, the future is bleak and we continue to lose and injustice continues to prevail.

And to those on the other side: You know the game that is being played. You know what the issues are, and you are choosing to be distracted. By doing so, you protect your level of comfort, and your comfort will be the reason our country will never be its best self. Choose to engage the discomfort of putting in the work. Challenge and defeat yourselves. It is an individual and personal journey, and use your privilege, access, resources, influence, knowledge and power to help make a difference and deliver change.

 

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, June 2

“What’s the Message?”

“He has committed to us the message of reconciliation” 2 Corinthians 5:19

 

Is the message getting across? Protesters have been walking the streets all across the country for seven days. Most marches have been filled with people peacefully walking. Too many marches have been hijacked by groups seeking to cause chaos and destruction. Because of this intrusion, is the message getting lost?

Police officers are trying to meet with protesters and communicate their message. But many times, pushing and shoving begins, bottles are tossed, tensions increase, and before you know it, tear gas and pepper spray are unloaded on the crowd. Because of this infusion, is their message getting lost?

President Trump walks from the White House, across the street to St. John’s Episcopal Church. He stands in front of the church and raises a Bible in his hands. He doesn’t speak a word. What exactly is his message?”

Parents and children emerge from their homes sweeping up shattered glass, scrubbing graffiti, and removing debris; their message is not lost!

The church has a very clear message, but is it getting through? St. Paul says that Jesus has entrusted the church with the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:19 states that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! And all this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)

In the midst of these trying times, do you think the church’s message is lost? As the church, we peacefully attend worship services and speak about God’s love. But there are people who infiltrate the faith and hijack the truth? Does the country turn a deaf ear to the message because it gets drowned out by violence and destruction in the name of Jesus?

Does the church try to meet people in their protest against religion, but tensions rise and one firecracker explodes the peace talks and good will.

Does the church stand with a Bible in one hand, and the church building as their backdrop, assuming that people will get the message?

Or does the church simply sweep, scrub and clean up the mess that others have left behind?

Paul says in Galatians 5:6, “…The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Perhaps in these painful times, picking up a bucket and a brush is one of the most practical way to pass on the message.

For surely, Jesus picked up our iniquities and washed away our sin. As he expressed his faith through love, perhaps it is enough to hear his words, “Go and do likewise.”

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, June 1

“Wheat and Weeds”

“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this’,” he replied. Matthew 13:27-28

Jesus teaches his followers about the Kingdom of God with many parables. Matthew 13:24-30, records Jesus’, “Parable of the Weeds.”

The Parable of the Weeds

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

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As I watch the new reports covering the protests surrounding the tragic death of George Floyd’s, there are definitely two groups of protesters. One group of people are trying to sow good seed. This one group is trying to bring greater attention and conversation to the issues of inequity and racial injustice, through non-violent action. They are trying to plant seeds that will result in greater understanding, respect and peace.  

There is another group of people who are sowing weeds among the wheat. These people have been organized to wreak havoc. They show up at night, seeking to create chaos and cause destruction. Their motives are not to generate conversation. Their actions are clear; looting, graffiti, and causing mayhem. This latter group is being led by an enemy.

In Jesus’ parable, the weeds are allowed to grow together with the wheat until harvest time. In relationship to God’s Kingdom, Jesus says that the weeds must not be pulled out because in doing so, you may uproot the wheat.

Wheat and weeds will always grow together. But it is critical that we are able to recognize and discern the difference between the wheat and the weeds. The wheat seeks to bring in a harvest of love, compassion, understanding, respect, unity and forgiveness. The weeds seek to grow dissension, destruction, and division out of selfish ambition.

As we watch and pray, may we be good seed among the weeds. Let us sow conversations and action that will reap greater understanding. Let us work to cultivate a harvest of righteousness that will glorify God and build His Kingdom of peace.

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark

   



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 31

“Let Us Listen to One Another”

“My dear brothers and sisters: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19

 

I have never personally, faced racial injustice. Police officers have always been friend not foe. I’m not sure that I can do any justice to what has erupted over the last few days. The death of George Floyd has opened the flood gates to emotions and violence not only across our states but across our globe. In the midst of a pandemic which has created a growing sense of powerlessness, George Floyd’s tragic loss of life has exploded tensions that were already steaming and brewing under the surface. Curfews and national guardsmen and women being called out in 24 cities and 12 states, respectively; that is new territory. Unfortunately, the crowds who came out to march peacefully and protest appropriately, have been marred by those whose main goal has been to create chaos, damage and destruction. I believe that most of the country can see through this planned rioting, but it still takes energy away from needed conversation and significant action.

The only time I can recall recognizing I was in a social minority, was when I attended Howard University in Washington D.C. I was involved in a theological consortium in Washington D.C. for a semester. I was the manager of a house full of white, Midwestern theological students. We attended a variety of theological schools. When I walked into a preaching class at Howard University and took my seat, I realized this was going to be a new experience. In a classroom of about 40 guys, two of us were the token white guys. We both came from liturgical backgrounds. We were used to remaining quiet during class and throughout sermons. We, white ones, were about to get a baptism in an African American classroom and approach to preaching. Initially, I was obviously uncomfortable. But quickly, the men embraced us and we embraced a new way of approaching homiletics. My experience was rich, engaging, and thoughtful. By the end of the semester, I greatly appreciated these men who expanded my theological and cultural education.

My experience at Howard University was in a pretty protected environment. I was with seminary students for Pete’s sake. During that same semester, I put myself in a variety of other settings, but I cannot say that I ever really felt unsafe. I helped at a homeless shelter, attended classes with great student diversity, and served some communities causes. I even took to the streets on my own to try to taste homelessness.

Daily, I saw homeless men and women sleeping on steaming grates along the main streets. It looked pretty rough. I wondered what that experience might actually be like. So, one night, I decided to stay out on the streets. I took no money, no identification, only a thin blanket. Very quickly, I felt the sting of the cold winter night. As I huddled in a museum doorway, I experienced for a brief moment what it was to be invisible. Two young couples ran to the entrance and rattled the doors but the place was closed. I was wrapped in the blanket but they simply looked right over me. They never saw me! I was invisible! I couldn’t believe that they couldn’t see me! I walked to a park bench, where a brown bag lay. Inside, was a half-eaten sandwich. It had been hours since I had eaten. I can still remember vividly that I was not about to eat that sandwich. But I also knew, deep down inside, that if this was day 2, I would have gladly dived into that partially eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich. At 2:00 a.m., I found shelter under a pile of leaves in a park by a train station. I could hear couples laughing, trying to find their cars because the bars had just closed. They were all drunk and were discussing who would drive home. Needless to say, neither one should have been behind the wheel. Once again, I was invisible. No one saw me lying at their feet. But I can tell you that the cold was not invisible. The frozen ground eventually snaked its way through the pile of leaves no matter the thickness of the bed. After trying to find warmth for what seemed like hours, I felt a poke in the middle of my back. I rolled over. It was a police officer. He had a stick but he gently pressed into me. He said, “Hey buddy, I just wanted to make sure you were o.k.” I was not invisible to this police officer. He was kind, gentle, and caring. After his probe, I decided to get up and try to walk off the cold. I wandered the streets of D.C. for another few hours. Finally, I walked a few more blocks, and made it back to my home. The experiment was over. I survived. I was cold. I climbed the stairs and climbed under the covers. The sun came up and I slept through the day. As I rested under the warm covers, my thoughts continued to wander. I wondered, “What if I had to go out the following night and try to survive?” The reality settled in very quickly. Without food and shelter, one is going to find any means necessary to numb the pain. Fight, scratch or claw, survival would take on new meaning.

That one night out in D.C. – gave me a fractional taste of what hundreds and thousands of people face every day. But it was only an experiment. I knew from the get go that this wasn’t real. The reality is, I have lived a very sheltered life. Yes, I have had to face my own challenges. But I have never truly had to face hunger. I have never had to face physical, sexual or emotional abuse. I have never lived a day without shelter,and I have been given every opportunity to succeed. I have never felt judged due to my race. I have never faced fear from the police force that wasn’t self-inflicted.

The people who are going to walk in protest tonight; their story is not my story. There are races and cultures that have had to live with inequities and inequalities that I have never had to deal with.

In this moment of growing tensions, frustration and desperation, I am called back to the words of    James 1: 19. He reminds us, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this; Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Prayerfully, as a nation, we can take a deep breath. Let us listen and listen and listen some more – to our brothers and sisters who have lived and experienced life different than our own. May we show patience, empathy and compassion. Let those, whose stories are different than ours, not remain invisible. Let us take heart, have courage, and try to listen and learn more fully about the painful stories of those hurting.

Let us not confuse those who long to be heard and valued with those who simply want to cause chaos.

Let the police force reign in the riots. And when we have listened long enough to truly care about the cries of aching hearts, then let the conversations begin and respectful action follow. God has placed us here, at this moment, to carry one another’s burdens. Carrying those burdens include people with backgrounds that are both, similar and different than our own.  May we be God’s servants seeking greater understanding. And may Jesus carry us forward. God help us!

Only by His Grace.

May God Bless Us All!

Pastor Mark

 

   



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 30

“Antivirus”

Jesus said, “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” John 16:7

 

Lately, every time I turn on my computer, I’m flashed with a reminder that I need to update my Malware Protection. Given our isolation, that update has not been possible. The national news also has been regularly reporting that hackers are on the rise. They are reminding us to take serious action in protecting our personal information and passwords.

Tomorrow we celebrate Pentecost. Pentecost is the event that marks the official beginning of the Christian Church. More than that, it is the moment which makes available the power of God to rest and reside within each individual believer.

This power of the Holy Spirit transformed the disciples’ lives and transported them forward into the world proclaiming the salvation found in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit also provides protection. The Holy Spirit can be seen as one who protects our personal faith against hackers, namely Satan. I came across this article entitled: “Antivirus: Holy Spirit.” It might be helpful in considering the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

ANTIVIRUS: HOLY SPIRIT

Jesus said in verse 7 of John 16, “For if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”

Jesus was God in the flesh, of course. He could have spoken this world out of existence at any given time, but I would like to use an illustration of the Holy Spirit to those who use the computer and realize what a great tool it is for the cause of Christ.

Before you accept Christ as your Savior, you are full of sin without any hope of living the life that Jesus calls more abundant. You have been given a death sentence. While you are here on this Earth, you learn and fill your memory full of things–even good things–that will get you nowhere with God. It’s like a computer with no protection and full of viruses and things that are not useful and headed for self-destruction.

Satan, the extreme virus that invades your mind. (Hard drive) When you accept Jesus as your Savior, there are a few things that happen when you do:

First of all, God sends the Holy Spirit to live inside you. Jesus said He comes: he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. The Greek word for “reprove” is elegchô which means “to convict.”

Number 1. He convicts us of our sin. (He scans us and calls for removal)

Number 2. He was raised from the dead that you and I could not only have our sins subtracted, but so we could have His righteousness added. (Sin is deleted and the antivirus takes over)

Number 3. He convicts of judgment: It’s not the judgment that is to come. This world has already been judged, and it’s guilty of sin. (Romans 3:23) For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. We are guilty, and the Holy Spirit speaks to us and shows us that we are only filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) in the sight of God, but because of Jesus, we are accepted and forgiven by His grace and mercy. (We see the need for an antivirus because we are vulnerable to all)

When you ask Jesus into your heart, it’s as if you download a file in your computer for an antivirus program, except this is a living holy being called the Holy Spirit and the subscription will last forever.

It’s the third of the trinity, Father (God), Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit (indwells the believer) We need the Holy Spirit as our computers need an antivirus. There are many brand names of the program, but there is only one that works. There is only one that never needs updating, always the same yesterday, today and forever. Best of all it’s free for the asking. (Romans 10: 9-10)

Tomorrow, as we celebrate Pentecost, let us acknowledge our need and give thanks to God for his Malware Protection Plan!  Thank you, Holy Spirit. Empower us all to a deeper faith in Jesus Christ!

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark