Pastor Mark’s Blog
 
 

Pastor Mark’s Devotions, March 31

“Michael Dennis”

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He is Risen!  He IS RISEN INDEED!!

In Christ, Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, March 30

It’s Monday, Let Us Pray”

“Our Father, Hallowed Be Thy Name…”

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

Let us pray,

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

-You have promised to ALWAYS BE WITH US!

-You have promised that YOU HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Always trying to look out for you!

Love and Peace, Pastor Mark



 

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



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, March 29

Marathon Mindset”

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

 

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

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

He stated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Bless You!

Shalom!  Pastor Mark 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, March 28

“Rosetta Stone”

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

Can you speak in a foreign language? I took 3 years of Spanish in high school but about all I can remember is, “Esta Suzanna in casa?”, “Si, esta con una amiga.” That would not get me very far in Mexico!

Today, I heard that Amazon, Walmart and Walgreens are wanting to hire thousands of workers. I found it surprising that Rosestta Stone was also on that list. Why are they needing to hire thousands of workers? Perhaps students studying at home are using Rosetta Stone to fill their foreign language requirement. Perhaps locked down adults are using this time to learn the language they’ve longed to know. If this is the case, I think it’s awesome that people are using this time in constructive and broadening ways. I’m still hoping to dust off my guitar and develop tougher callouses.

Besides learning a language from a foreign land, maybe it’s also a time to listen more closely and learn the language of our loved ones. Listening from the heart and learning one’s love language is quite a gift.

If you have forgotten the 5 Love Languages that Gary Chapman explains, they are:                                     

1. Quality Time, 2. Words of Affirmation, 3. Acts of Service, 4 Physical Touch, and 5. Receiving Gifts.

Each of us “speak” a combination of these five languages, but there is usually one or two that prominently stand out. Perhaps over dinner tonight, you might bring up the subject of “Love Languages”. You might ask your spouse or family to talk about, discuss and discern which languages you each speak. LISTEN CLOSELY. You are about to give and receive a special gift. For those of you who don’t care about gifts, give it anyway. The key is to speak and invest in your loved one’s key language. As you become more fluent in their language, you will make incredible deposits deep into their hearts and into your relationship for a lifetime.

“Donde esta in la sala?” “No, in la cocina!”

God Bless You!   Pastor Mark

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, March 27

                                                                                    “PPE”

“Put on the Full Armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Eph. 6:11

During the Covid19 crisis, we are learning new terms and their meanings. There is no question that people, while they might not comply, understand the meaning of “Safe Distancing”. Also, the phrase, “flatten the curve” will bring a picture to mind not quickly forgotten. Before this pandemic, I could not tell you if I had ever heard the acronym, “PPE”. Now those letters are thrown around regularly and everyone knows what it means; “Personal Protective Equipment”. We are also very aware of the lack of personal gear for our health care providers. When I first heard this term repeated on the news, it seemed a concern that was a healthy distance away. I know that I wasn’t alone. But then I quickly realized the concern is much closer to home. Dawn and my niece, Grace, are on the medical front lines. Grace, my niece, who is an EMT serving the downtown Seattle area, is given one mask per day no matter how many calls. So also, Dawn’s clinic had one box of masks that had to last the entire week for all employees.  

All our health professionals and those serving the public are in great need of greater Personal Protective Equipment. It is no more clear than watching the news and witnessing nurses wrapped in black plastic garbage bags. Prayerfully the Federal Government and private companies will begin flooding the states with the equipment that is needed.

The reality is, we all need Personal Protective Equipment. As Christians, we are called to recognize our need for spiritual protective gear. St. Paul, in chapter 6 of Ephesians, says that we need this equipment in order to protect ourselves from Satan’s scheming. The Bible tells us that Satan is the Father of all lies, who wants to steal, kill and destroy. He wants to destroy our hearts, trample on our faith, and trip up our trust in God. Earlier in chapter 4, Paul states that it is the leadership in the church to help “equip God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining the full measure of Christ. (Eph. 4:12-13) The people of God will not be equipped for works of service nor grow in maturity, if we do not put on the proper personal protective gear. In truth, people are being cut down by our enemy every day! Paul points out that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but similar to Covid19, he is an invisible enemy. We cannot see him coming, but we can clearly see his effects. If the world can acknowledge the effects of this virus and take global action, why is the world so blind to the effects of the spiritual virus, our enemy, Satan?

To protect ourselves against this hidden enemy, Paul says, “Put on the FULL ARMOR of God so that you can take your stand.” We could not conceive of sending our soldiers out on to the battle field without a weapon and proper battle gear. It seems like we are sending our health workers out to the front lines wearing rags like the militia of the Revolutionary War. And the country is up in arms about this tragedy.  So too, we cannot send our fellow believers out into the world without armor and expect them to stand.

Paul states, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”

Paul identified the personal equipment we need to protect ourselves. Now what? Consider today you are entering bootcamp. Bootcamp is a place where you are broken down, built up, and learn how to become proficient with your armor. Yes, one could argue that it is time we storm the beaches of Normandy. I’m not sure it’s time for a frontal attack. Basic training lasts between 8-12 weeks. It looks like a lot of us could be sheltering in place for 8-12 weeks. Let us use this time to become more mature in the faith. You might have your sights on hoping this crisis disappears as quickly as possible. Friends, another crisis is around the corner. Somehow, somewhere, sometime. A fire, a flood, an earthquake; a cancer diagnosis, a heart attack, a child’s addiction. This time can be training so that no storm nor trial will toss us to and fro. And when we are released, we will move with greater power and purpose. Let our goal drive us to graduate from this basic training with greater faith, deeper trust, broader hope and a convincing confidence in God.

There was a time, and still is in certain countries, where people have to share a Bible. People have to guard the scriptures like they are N95 masks because they are in such short supply. We do not face this crisis. More than likely, you have a Bible sitting on a shelf somewhere. If it has been collecting dust, brush it off and begin reading the Gospel of Matthew. If you’ve already been picking up your weapon – “HOORAH!!” – keep going! Take this time and make this commitment to yourself to read through the entire New Testament. If you can picture me sitting in my home writing this devotion to you, read the Bible like you can picture God dictating something he wants to share from his heart to yours. Bootcamp Christianity begins with being handed the Word of God and gaining a greater familiarity with the character and nature of God – for yourself!  The Word of God is the foundation of our Personal Protective Equipment. Miss this one, and any of us will be fully exposed to our enemy’s schemes. Battle tested by God’s Word with prayer and the Holy Spirit – and bound together – we will be a tough out!

God Bless You All!  Chow is at 0600 hours. See you there!

In Christ, Pastor Mark

 

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, March 26

“Some Things Bear Repeating!”

“Therefore, the LORD himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

This morning I turned on, “The Today” show. Hoda Kotb turned to Savannah Guthrie and said, “Can you believe today is 3 months since we celebrated Christmas?” Wow, March 25th, think of all that has taken place since December 25th. Life can turn on a dime. Life can also quickly turn from the effects of an invisible virus spreading around the globe. Keep in mind, that life can also be transformed in a moment, and for a lifetime when one turns toward the empty tomb. Jesus is risen! He is risen, Indeed!!. In eighteen days, we will be celebrating the greatest day in history. And whether we are together or not, Jesus conquered death and the disciples despair turned on a dime, for the rest of eternity!

But before we jump ahead to Easter, I’d like to jump back to the thought of Christmas. After watching “The Today” show, and after drinking my fourth cup of coffee, I starting cleaning up some papers in my bedroom – old bills, old Christmas cards (I’m not joking), and, if you can believe it, our old December church newsletter. I was gathering all the papers to burn n the fireplace. But I took one last glance at the title of my newsletter article. It was entitled, “The Glow Room”. I decided to read it one last time. Remember that story? A lot of people responded to “The Glow Room”. I’m not sure if they responded because it was so unexpected or because they related to the ultimate message. As I re-read that experience, I thought perhaps this message bears repeating. If you find yourself battling the darkness these days, feeling isolated and alone. God sees you! God is with you! Bear to hear this Good News – “Immanuel” – GOD IS WITH US!

“The Glow Room”

I ripped and tore the sheetrock from the main wall in my living room last weekend. This was a project that I had studied, pondered and procrastinated for the last five years but never actually pulled the trigger. Suddenly as I pulled off a large chunk of drywall, a darkened space opened up. In the middle of the 23 foot wall, up about 6 feet, I saw behind open studs, a black framed, finished space. The space was 6 feet long, 8 feet high, and 2 feet wide. It seemed like a secret space. What was it for? Why was this space buried behind drywall and paneling in the main room? A strange place to be sure. Was it originally built into the house back in the 1970’s or was it added later? There was no insulation between the studs that opened into the main room. A camouflaged door was created for access through the attic. Power was available and a large aluminum shade lamp with clamps rested on the floor. What could this be? 

The following days, I discussed the space with friends. I took pictures and sent them to family. I even talked it over with the heat pump estimators who came to give bids on a new heating system for my house. Some people suggested that the open framing in the wall might have been intended for windows. After short discussions, everyone simply shrugged their shoulders and didn’t have any real ideas. Finally, the third “bid” man arrived. (it’s always the third one right?) We first talked about the business of heating, then I quickly turned his attention to “the space”. He looked, scratched his head and we climbed up into the attic. Suddenly he said, “I’ve seen this before. I’ve entered other people’s attic spaces where the owners are not even aware that there is a “space” finished in their attic with power and lights – fully enclosed.” Then he declared, “It’s a GROW ROOM!” “Are you kidding me?” I said. He replied, “I’d bet money that it’s a grow room.”

HUH!!  A secret place, laid dormant for decades, a dark space ready with power, and light, all ready for growth.

Why am I writing about this at Christmas? Let’s just say I felt inspired!

Over the decades, one could argue that Christmas has become a crazy time, moving at a frantic pace, over indulging on stuff that we don’t really need, while running on empty and finishing the race exhausted.  Have we forgotten about the “secret place”?

Maybe this year – we re-capture “the secret place”. Maybe this year we re-discover the secret place of Bethlehem, where Jesus entered the darkened world. The secret place that laid dormant for a thousand years; King David’s hometown. This secret place that has hidden in its name, a special meaning. ‘beth’, meaning ‘house’, and ‘lechem’, meaning ‘bread’. Bethlehem is God’s house of bread, the place that would provide the birthplace of the “bread of life” from which all the world might be nourished. Maybe we re-focus upon the dark, black space in which the shepherds lived – keeping watch over their flocks by night. And maybe we re-experience the power and light of the glorious angels declaring the great good news about a Savior’s birth.

Jesus was born in a dark, black, secret place, inhabited by animals and laid to rest on a bed of straw. God chose this humble, holy place for his Son, the light of glory to be born. And he chose this darkened world, in which he tore open the heavens and ripped open the skies that the King of glory would grow and generate power that would ultimately overcome sin, death and the Evil one.

Perhaps you find yourself in a darkened place this holiday season. Perhaps you feel hidden from the world and no one sees. Remember that God has chosen to do his greatest work in the midst of secret, hidden, darkened places. The Lord sees you. GOD IS WITH YOU! In fact, that’s what this secret season is all about. EMMANUEL – meaning, ‘GOD IS WITH US’!  And God IS with us!!  Not only that, there is power with us, (the Holy Spirit)! And there is a lamp with us, (God’s Word). And there is the light, Jesus Christ himself is with us!

We live in a grow room. It can be very dark. But may it become a “GLOW” room. May the light of Christ grow and glow in our hearts this Christmas Season. And we re-ceive God’s Great Good News,

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that is for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

Merry Christmas!   Pastor Mark

P.S. – Looking to Celebrate Easter with you – one way or another! He is Risen. He is Risen INDEED!

 

Dear Our Saviour’s Family;

Last week, online, we mentioned about this well-done series focused on the Gospels called, “The Chosen”. 

You can stream it in a variety of ways – perhaps easiest is on YouTube. 

 

If you have questions, give Arnold Ronning a call, he would be happy to help.

God Bless, Pastor M

The Chosen is already available free, but in light of current events, with so many stuck at home, we’re taking it to the next level and offering the opportunity to watch Season One TOGETHER. 

Eight days. Eight episodes. Live around the world. 

Join us to watch Season One of The Chosen live, one episode per night, starting with Episode One on MARCH 29, 9:00 PM ET, and culminating with the season finale on Palm Sunday. 

Each night will feature an episode, behind the scenes commentary from Dallas, a live appearance from a different special guest actor from the show, and your live chat with others around the world. 

You can google, download the APP or simply find it on YouTube.

 

 

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions March 25

“Thank You!”

“No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Can we realistically be thankful today as the coronavirus is spreading exponentially? Can we be thankful when 30% of the value of our retirement funds have disappeared. Can we be thankful knowing that schools will be out for 6 months and families are searching for a way to survive. It truly depends upon our focus. We know we are to be thankful, for it is God’s will, but it’s still very hard to do. Maintaining a thankful heart through the ups and downs of these unprecedented times is extremely challenging. Does it help to understand that being thankful is a spiritual exercise. The Greek word for thanksgiving, “eucharist”, is related to the words, grace, joy, and character to name a few. To receive and retain these qualities is only by the power of God and the exercise of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that wakes us up to the gift of grace in Christ Jesus. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that brings forth greater joy in life dipped from a spiritual well. It is the Holy Spirit that hones, shapes, and prunes in order that we grow greater character and bear much fruit. And it is the Holy spirit that exercises in us a thankful heart in difficult times. Finally, it is God’s will for this to take place. Thank God!

I am thankful for the wonderful perogie and goulash Isaiah and I ate together at a Polish restaurant two weeks ago in La Conner. But the following story about the Polish railway worker, Jan Grzebski has much more food for the soul.  

Back in 1988, a Polish railway worker named Jan Grzebski was hit by a train. He lived … but only barely. For the next 19 years (until the year 2007), Grzebski was in a coma.

He awoke in 2007 to a whole new world. Nineteen years earlier, Poland was a communist state. Grzebski noted that back then meat was rationed and there were huge lines at nearly every gas station. And, “there was only tea and vinegar in the shops.”

But 19 years later, he awoke to a free nation where he said there were “people on the streets with cell phones and there are so many goods in the shops it makes my head spin.”

But something puzzled him. “What amazes me is all these people who walk around with their mobile phones and yet they never stop moaning.”

These people had freedom, and food and wealth greater than Poland had had for decades … and yet Grzebski woke from his coma to find that ALL they seemed to want to do was grumble!

If the habit of thanking God is not firmly exercised by the Spirit for what we DO have, we soon we become soft and flabby and ungrateful for what we don’t have.

Holy Spirit, exercise in us your power to see all for which to be thankful!

I Thank God for ALL of You!

In Christ, Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Daily Devotion 3/24/2020

“Little by Little”

“The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you little by little.” Deuteronomy 7:22

Israel spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness. Moses passed the baton of leadership to Joshua. The next generation of Israelites followed Joshua into battle. They first destroyed the city of Jericho. More accurately, we need to acknowledge that Yahweh was the One who brought down the fortified walls of Jericho. Yes, Israel was on the move. It was time for them to take the land. God promised to drive and deliver Israel’s enemies into their hands. And the Israelites were to defeat and destroy them. God said, “Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.” These words sound uncharacteristic from the Heavenly Father we know whose nature is love. But not fully understanding the culture, climate and times – God’s words require a step of faith as He explains, “For they will turn your hearts away from following me to serve other gods.” We must trust that God, our Father recognized the existential threat these nations posed toward his people and his plan for salvation. In some similar way, perhaps how the Nazi war machine of World War II posed a physical threat to the lives of the Jews.  Yahweh continues, “Do not look on them with pity and do not serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you.” He goes on, “You may say to yourselves, ‘These nations are stronger than we are. How can we drive them out? But do not be afraid of them: REMEMBER WELL what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt.” The Hebrew word, “zakar”, to remember, also means “to recollect” or “to reflect deeply upon something or someone”, in this case, namely Yahweh Almighty. God is telling his people to “take seriously to heart” the mighty power of God over those pagan nations.

Finally, God says, “The LORD your God will drive out those nations before you little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once.” Why does God say, “Little by little”? He explains, why, in the next verse, but don’t you hate, “little by little”. It would have been so much easier if God would have just cleaned the land of Canaan all at once. The Israelites could have washed their hands of the whole mess and could have moved on with drinking the milk and eating the honey that was promised. But in the end, the children of God were going to have to continue to wash their hands – over and over and over again, trusting in God to deliver.

So often, in our own lives, we wish troubles, fights and challenges could just be washed away all at once. But more times than not, they are overcome, little by little. The truth is, we are called to trust God in the little things and to wash our hands, over and over again until the job is done. Just as we are called to do today in getting rid of that nasty Covid19 virus! So wash! So too, think of the Allies in World War II. They had to advance little by little as they re-captured village after village in France and “Island Hopped” across the Pacifc.

God says to Israel, “You will not be allowed to eliminate all the nations at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you.” God is going to move Israel through Canaan in a step by step process in order to protect them. What kind of protection? He mentioned the multiplication of wild animals but perhaps that also meant protection against sickness and disease. However far reaching, God was going to protect his people through the process.

Today, our wish is that this coronavirus could be wiped and washed away all at once. But more than likely it will be a step by step process. Little by little, day after determined day, researchers, scientists and practitioners will discover how to destroy this invisible enemy, this pagan disease. Perhaps not on our preferred time schedule. But trust that this WILL take place! Why do I say this? Because God continues to be sovereign over all things and his plan of salvation is still being brought to completion. REMEMBER WELL, the Rock of our salvation. He is our Champion. He is our Victor! And He shall surely do this!            

In Christ, Pastor Mark

 



Pastor’s Devotions March 23

 

Milk and Honey -10 weeks away”

“We went into the land to which you sent us, and it DOES flow with milk and honey!” Numbers 13:27

Yesterday, I talked about Israel subsisting on manna in the wilderness for 40 years. Not exactly the full menu that we would find at the Cheese Cake Factory – but then again, by God’s grace, he saved Israel from starvation. The bummer is, little did they know, as they started their grumbling against Moses, that milk and honey was waiting for them 10 weeks away. Yahweh led his people around enemy territory to keep them safe. Yahweh brought them to Mt. Sinai to give them life-saving laws and protect them from further mayhem. Then Yahweh guided them to the edge of the Promised Land – to the land of Canaan. Yahweh was faithful to his promise to Abraham 400 years earlier. The people of promise were about to step into their future. There was only one last step. Yahweh told Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites.” Perhaps after the debacle at Sinai, when the people turned their hearts from God and worshipped a golden calf, Yahweh wanted to test the hearts of his people once more – would they trust him?

The explorers were sent out and canvased all throughout the land of Canaan. They returned and reported to the whole community of Israel the glorious news, “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it DOES flow with milk and honey! HERE IS THE FRUIT.”

But that wasn’t all the news. The spies also delivered some sobering details. They declared, “But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large.”

Caleb, one of the explorers, silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are! And they spread a bad report about the land they had explored.”  And I would add, fear spread like a raging wild fire throughout the community.

The children of Israel were at a crossroads. Would they listen to Caleb and step into Canaan with faith and trust? Or would they step back in cowering fear and paralyzing panic? This was a critical time and one to not be taken lightly.  For as archeology would confirm, the Canaanites indeed had mighty strong fortified cities. It would take an immense effort and great faith from a wandering band of former slaves to take on these Canaanites.

Caleb tried to inspire faith and direct their focus to Yahweh. But once again, scripture tells us of a people resistant to the word. Once again, they rose up against Moses and this time they also wanted to stone Caleb, the messenger. And once again, fear can cause crowds to do crazy things.

Milk and honey were moments away. Another one of God’s mighty miracles was about to be put on display. The people of Israel were going to have a land of their own and life in safety. But fear caused the crowds to riot and respond in a frenzy.

Yahweh intervened in the midst of the chaos. He gave them the community their test score.  Their grade was circled at the top of the page. It was written in red. And it meant that God’s chosen people would return to the wilderness and try to relearn to trust in their deliverer. Most would not make it back to Canaan. Caleb and Joshua would eventually lead the next generation of Israelites to step into Canaan and experience the land of milk and honey that was always meant for them. It would take 40 years.

Today is Monday, March 23, 2020. How far away is the milk and honey? No one knows – 10 weeks or 10 days? Let us pray that it will not take 40 years! Without a doubt, giants are out there, and the fortified walls look awfully high. But we, ourselves are at a crossroads. Do we look at the giants or do we look to Yahweh God? Do we cower in the face of the invisible giant Covid19? Or do we face the One who has delivered us countless times before. Will we trust his Word? Our whole life boils down to this one, fundamental question. Will we trust in God’s Word? Adam and Eve didn’t do it. Israel couldn’t do it. The whole community except for Joshua and Caleb rejected it. The truth is, the whole world resists it. But the Word has been spoken. And Jesus has said, “Have courage, for I have overcome the world.” Have no fear little flock, trust in Him and don’t worry about the test. The Good Shepherd has the test in hand and the score has already been circled in red by his blood poured out on the cross at Calvary! You are safe in the hands of the Beloved.

So, today, let us receive the words Caleb spoke many millennia ago. Let his words bring silence to our fears. Let us take that step of faith toward our Heavenly Father and toward our future. “For we should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’ By the power of Almighty God, this shall certainly be so! Covid19 WILL BE conquered and the land of milk and honey, promised by our Father will lie before us.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotion 3.22.20

Just a note to all of you early-birds who might have listened to Pastor’s Sunday sermon early Sunday – There’s a wonderful intro to the service that was posted later in the morning. If you didn’t catch it, it’s well worth your time to listen now!!

“Manna in the Morning”

“Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you.” Exodus 16:4

The people of Israel had just been set free from 400 years of slavery in Egypt. They had witnessed 10 different plagues that demonstrated Yahweh God’s power over the Egyptian gods. They watched the pillar of cloud and fire lead them and defend them. And then 2.5 million people walked through the parted Red Sea, on DRY ground no less. And as the wall of water consumed the Egyptian chariots, the Israelites cried and wailed in victory.

For three days the people of Israel traveled into the wilderness with an unknown future. And then it began; the grumbling. Exodus 16:2 records, “In the desert, the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.” In 72 hours, God’s chosen people began to show signs of dementia. They said, “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…” Are you kidding? Wait a minute – Were these people not slaves? Were they not crying out to God, for hundreds of years, because of the horrible conditions in which they lived? And did not God miraculously, over and over and over again, show his glory and deliver them from their slave masters?  The answer is; Yes. And the truth is; how quickly we forget!

“Therefore”, the LORD says to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.”

Notice the grace and compassion of Yahweh God as he responds to the grumbling and panicked cries of his children. Why does he respond? Because he loves them. He is their provider and their protector. But also notice that as their heavenly Father, he tells them that they are to go out EACH DAY and gather bread. He tells Moses, “In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.”

If that gathering was anything like the last few weeks, we can get a pretty good idea how that first day went. Can you picture it? I’ll bet you that it was your worst nightmare at Walmart on Black Friday times one thousand. I’ll lay down a $1000 bucks that it was a madhouse a million times over. Some people waiting up all night to be the first ones to see the flakes fall. When the manna begins to arrive, people make a mad dash across the landscape, fighting tooth and nail for their territory. Arguments flaring up over some flakes being larger than others, and some stealing other people’s stash. Some people would have baskets and others would be trying to load as much as they could in their robe sleeves and blankets. Still others would make alliances and have a team guarding the manna back at their tents while other members would return over and over building up their stockpile. With no supply line guarantees, I’m sure mayhem showed up in mighty ways – and many people would need Allstate after the day was over.

Watching the news, it seems pretty easy to imagine, after 3,466 years, I’m not sure a whole lot has changed in human nature. I’m afraid we still don’t take instruction very well. But then again, maybe that’s not totally true. We DO see empty streets in downtown New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. We ARE watching many people who are restricting their movements and staying home. Yet watching Florida beaches, bars and restaurants, it is clear that many people are going to do exactly what they want no matter the consequences.

So, God’s provision was going to provide a test for the people of Israel to see if they would trust him.    Keep in mind, 72 hours earlier – God had just done an unfathomable miracle by bringing his people across the Red Sea. He also had given them a steady diet of dynamic power releasing plagues over Egypt. Besides the test of the daily provision – the test would be to eat the same meal for the next 40 years. What if you had to eat bean burritos for the next 14,600 straight days. That puts a new perspective on this whole ordeal.

Now the bread that they would daily gather was called “manna”. In my mind, manna would have looked something like those round rice crackers that you can stack ten high. They would kind of look like those old communion wafers that stick to the roof of your mouth. So, how many wafers would it take to make a meal out of those styrofoam yummies? One heck of a lot! And then for 40 years? Yeah, I’d say there’s some trust challenges to be found in that. And I don’t think they were those 4 cheese artisan kind at Costco. At least those have some flavor – but we ARE told that they were thin and crispy with a touch of honey – does that help? I’ll bet they came up with some crazy casseroles over the years. I mean just look at what the Norwegians have tried to accomplish with the potato? Somehow, we’ve been convinced they are holiday treats!!

Well, those Israelites that attempted to hoard the bread beyond the day soon found out it wouldn’t last. The next day’s supplies quickly turned moldy and were filled with bugs. But also, the following day, God turned again to his people and supplied another ration of manna, more than enough to meet their daily need. And this went on, and on, and on in the wilderness, for 40 years. God demonstrated to his people that he WAS trustworthy, because he DID provide sustenance in a dead, dry and barren land – think Mars! Eventually, He even brought his people to the Promised Land – the land of milk and honey – and much, much more!

Today, we have been guaranteed that all supply lines are intact, yet look at the mayhem and fear of the last couple of weeks.  Long standing lines. People hoarding any and every perceived essential. Mayhem in the marketplace.

Doesn’t the test still stand today? Can we still trust our Yahweh God to provide for our daily needs?

God gave out a daily dose of bread so that the people would recognize their deep dependence on Him. Does this recognition bring deeper meaning to the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, “Give us this day our DAILY BREAD”? Yes, we pray for God to provide for all our daily needs but do we also recognize that this is so we daily depend upon him and know that his daily provision is a daily exercise?      

Where will the next 72 hours take us. Every evidence points to the reality that this pandemic will get worse before it gets better. Even though we cannot predict the future, we have a God who ALREADY knows our DAILY need. And God WILL provide for us! This time, let us not forget!

One last thought for the day. Let us also be mindful that Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, they must deny themselves, take up their cross DAILY and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Jesus tells his followers that following him whether walking through the wilderness or sitting home watching Netflix – there is a DAILY surrendering to him. What is it today that you need God to provide but also, what do you need to surrender to him? Dear Christian, understand that Jesus comes with daily food and calls us to daily surrender, in order that would live daily life extraordinarily

Manna for the morning. Tomorrow is Monday. Let us begin the week partaking of the daily bread that God provides.             God Bless You All!             Pastor Mark