Pastor Mark’s Blog
 
 

Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 9

“Isaiah 55”

So is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me void, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11

 

Devotion day 55 has led me to Isaiah 55. The prophet records powerful words that we need to hear today. I’m going to include the entire chapter below so that you can breathe in this Word of God for yourselves.

In Isaiah 55:8, I love the reminder that God’s thoughts are not my thoughts and His ways are not my ways. This word means that I must re-orient my thinking and re-evaluate my actions. Left to my own thoughts and decision making, my conclusions will not align with God’s will. This word demands that I  listen for God’s Word and understand the language of the Spirit in which He speaks. This is not a natural response. It requires a determination of my will to surrender to Him and open my heart to follow his lead. God needs to initiate and we are to obey in order to walk within His will.

Jesus knew this word. In John 8:28, Jesus said, “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” He goes on, “The One who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” Jesus demonstrated his greatest love for his Father as he walked in obedience to his will. Jesus’ human thoughts led him to consider walking away from the cross. But it was his sacrificial love and obedience to his Father’s word that would guide him as a suffering servant and become the Way of salvation for all.

I also love Isaiah 55:11. “So is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return void, but will accomplish what I desire.” If God’s Word is spoken, it will enact change! The one thing that God’s Word will not do is leave conditions status quo. If our church or our personal lives remain status quo, it means we have not received his Word – spoken from his mouth. Sometimes Christians make the mistake believing it is enough to put the words of the Bible in their brains. If the words of Scripture are not combined with the Spirit, the word can easily return empty. It is the power of the Spirit that enacts change. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day, believed that the Law was God. So also, some Christians mistakenly believe the Bible to be God. This belief will quickly turn Christians into Pharisees. Jesus speaks to the Pharisees, “You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent.” (John 5:37-38) He continues, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39)

God spoke His Word into the writers of Scriptures. They recorded his Word for us and the world. But His Word must also be written upon our hearts. The Holy Spirit is the one who brings God’s Word alive to us today. When the Spirit is moving, the Scriptures explode with wisdom, revelation and truth! If we do not have a relationship with Christ, the Gospel truth can quickly be converted into legalism and Law. Without knowing it, we can find ourselves to simply be a new version of a New Testament Pharisee. How do we guard against “Phariseeism”? We check our hearts and determine whether we are living in LOVE or living in JUDGMENT of others. A Pharisee stands in the place of God to judge others. A Follower of Christ stands in the gap to love others and surrenders judgment to God.

Most of Jesus’ words bounced off the hearts of the Pharisees. But the Bible records Jesus speaking many words that exploded with power, revealing Him to be the Son of God. In Matthew 8:1, Jesus spoke to a leper, “Be Clean!”, and he was cleansed. In Mark 4:39, Jesus spoke to the waves, “Quiet, Be Still!” and they died down. In Mark 5:8, Jesus spoke to demons in a possessed man, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!”, and they fled. In Matthew 9:6, Jesus spoke to a paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home!”, and he went home. In Luke 8:54, Jesus spoke to a 12-year old child who had died, “My child, get up!”, and she arose. In Matthew 21:19, Jesus spoke to a fig tree, “May you never bear fruit again!”, and it never did.

In John 11:43, Jesus spoke to Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, “Lazarus, come out!”, and he walked out of the tomb. In John 20:16, Jesus spoke to Mary on the morning of his resurrection. He spoke her name, “Mary!”, and her life would never be the same.

Do you think God’s Word speaks today? Do you think God’s Word speaks TO YOU today?

As Peter confessed the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead and that they were witnesses of that fact. Today, I confess to you today, that I am a witness to the fact that Jesus still speaks! If you have not heard his voice in your heart, something wonderful is awaiting you. It is not an audible voice. But our hearts need to be tuned into his frequency. He is speaking; often we just are not tuned in. Ask him to speak. Invite him to reveal His Word to you. Jesus promised in John 10:2-3, “The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

Jesus speaks in, with, and under the Scriptures. Just as Jesus is in, with, and under the elements of Holy Communion, so too in His Word. More than that, He can speak at any moment. His Word will always confirm the words of Scripture.

Years ago, I remember a young adult standing at the altar of our church. He was waiting to receive communion. He was the son of a member in the congregation. As is typical of young people, he had drifted away from the faith. Little did I know, in that moment, the Spirit of God would speak to Matt and leave him changed. In coming years, he felt the call to overseas missions. He packed up his family, moved to Africa, and has never felt more fulfilled.

God is not going to call all of us to Africa. But the Spirit of God is going to call us in ways that are not our own ways, nor will they be our thoughts. But his Word will leave us changed, knowing that He still speaks today.

Let us surrender our thoughts and ways to the Lord. Let us go forth, listening, learning, receiving, waiting, looking, anticipating God to speak – and then wait for him to speak again.

On this beautiful, 80 degree day – Let the full force of God’s Word wash over you and speak:

Invitation to the Thirsty

55 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
    a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

12 You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
    and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
    for an everlasting sign,
    that will endure forever.”

 

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark

 

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 8

“V-V Day”

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray…” 2 Chron. 7:14

Today, May 8th, is the 75th Anniversary of V-E Day. This day marks the end of World War II in Europe, known as “Victory Europe”. The youngest living veterans of this foreign war are nearing 92 years of age. Needless to say, there are not too many veterans left alive. The war, to be remembered for the ages, that cost nearly 70 million lives, is nearly forgotten by younger generations. Soon, museums will be the ones left to tell their story.

Recently, I listened to General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s speech following the signing of Germany’s unconditional surrender in Reims, France. He talked about the “togetherness“of those soldiers who fought on land, in the air, and on the sea. Together, they were able to overcome a terrible enemy. Together they were able to establish peace on European soil. The war was not completely over, for victory over Japan – “V-J Day” would not arrive until August 15, 1945.

Some have stated that we are at war with the coronavirus. Is that true? Are we together, as a nation, in that declaration? I’m not sure. If we are, it feels more like the Vietnam War than World War II. The Vietnam War did not unite the nation. The Vietnam War divided the nation. The Vietnam War was confusing, unclear, and troublesome. The soldiers of that war came home to little appreciation and much hostility. There were terrible casualties in both wars. But in the former conflict, they fought together. The enemy was clear. The objective was without question. The cost would be mighty. But those on land, in the air and on the sea – so also those at home – would make sacrifices, work together, and wrestle the dragon to the ground.

If we are at war, this is a new war. It is a war we have not seen before. We face, for all practical purposes, an invisible enemy. In former world wars, the nation was called to action. People of all kinds were put to work to achieve the common goal of freedom. In this war today, most people are called to inaction. People are called to sit on their hands and watch their life savings and small business’ dreams wash down the drain. There seems to be a growing fight among ourselves rather than against this coronavirus because there is no clear objective.

V-V Day will arrive. The Victory over the Virus will be celebrated. But when will that victory be achieved? It seems that the coronavirus will be unwilling to sign off, until a vaccine is found. But when the vaccine is found, will that mark the end of the war or symbolically like taking of the beaches at Normandy? Right now, if we have secured the beaches, it seems like a lot of people are satisfied to slather on sunscreen and play in the surf. But the truth is, we have yet to organize an assault on Normandy. The time has not yet come. And when we do have a vaccine, and when we execute the assault on Omaha and Utah beaches, we will still be a long way from Berlin. The good news is that a vaccine means that the days for Covid19 are numbered. The bad news is that there will be more casualties on the road to that victory.  

This new war is challenging everything we know about how to fight. We must determine new technology and acquire new insights to combat our foe. But is there anything we can carry forward from those who have fought before us? The word from the Supreme Allied Commander, is still ringing in my ears; “Togetherness”. If there is one truth to take away from a World War that inflicted massive casualties, let it be a commitment to fight together. This fight will not be identified by those soldiers who fought on land, in the air, and on the sea. Rather, this new war will require those in politics, in financial markets, in medical fields – and all of us around the country, to come together to win this war.

Many challenges face us in these coming months. But if we attack these challenges together, by God’s grace, we can save lives, restore peace, and perhaps find greater unity than our divided past.

This unity will only be found by God’s grace. Just as God led this nation through World War II, God is the one who will unite our nation and provide vision for our future.

As people of God we must pray! We must pray for God to press in upon his people. We must pray for the leaders of our nation and for all our people, to live in humility and unite together.  

After King Solomon finished building the Temple in Jerusalem and his royal palace, God came to Solomon. He said that he had heard Solomon’s prayer. God also promised in times of plague and hardship, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Let us pray for humility. Let us pray for unity. Let us seek God. The beaches at Normandy will be taken as before. A vaccine will be found. Berlin will be conquered as before. Treatment will be made available to all in need. The virus will be brought to its knees. V-V Day will surely come! 

God, bring us together and win this war.

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 7

“Meditation”

On his Word, he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:2

 

Did you know that meditation is a biblical exercise? The book of Psalms begins, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit is the seat of mockers. But his/her delight is in the Word of the LORD, and on his Word, he/she meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2)

For the most part, meditation has been surrendered to eastern religions and typically feared by Christians. Yet, 3,000 years ago, King David highlighted the blessing of focused attention upon God’s Word.

Meditation didn’t become popular in the United States until the early 20th century. But long before yoga began stretching its legs here in the United States, David had stretched into the benefits of thinking deeply and meditating upon God’s Word.

Meditation is often seen as the practice to “still one’s mind”. David’s intention was to “still his mind upon Scripture.” Typically, the goal of meditation is to empty one’s mind of worry, stress, judgments and other distractions. David directs us to remove distractions by replacing them upon the truth of God’s Word.

Attention to breathing is another element of Meditation. As believers, the goal is not only to pay attention to the pace of our own personal breathing but also receive the breath of God. Being filled by the Holy Spirit, is the key to experiencing peace and contentment.

2 Timothy states, “All Scripture is God breathed.” Also, Hebrews 4:12 declares, “For the word of God is living and active.” Because of this, our goal is not simply to become more “self” aware through meditation but rather more aware of God.

One act of Christian meditation is surrendering ones worry, stress and distractions to the Lord. The other act is to then have that void filled with the presence of God. For IN HIM our very source of life, hope and breath is found.

One important practice can be to find a few Bible verses that fill you. As believers, our most effective mantra is a promise of God. When I ran the L.A. Marathon years ago, there were many miles that I repeated, Philippians 4:13 over and over again, “I can do all things THROUGH CHRIST, who strengthens me.” (And I actually finished!) In the past year, Jeremiah 16:6 has been a powerful verse that has helped to center me in times of difficulty. It states, “The LORD is my strength and fortress, my refuge in the time of trouble.”

What verse might you commit to memory that the Lord could bring to you in your time of need?

In early Christian circles, it is believed that some used the word, “Maranantha” as a sort of mantra. The word comes from 1 Corinthians 16:22 and means, “Come, O Lord”.

David not only meditated upon the Word of God, he also meditated upon the works of God.

In Psalm 77:12, David declares, “I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.”  

He repeats this focus in Psalm 143:5 as he writes, “I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.” He continues, “I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.”

Reflecting upon God’s faithfulness in history and in our personal lives can also be a real source of strength and peace. God has been faithful in the past and we can trust in his faithfulness in the present.

Finally, for me personally, I have found great peace and strength receiving God’s word through worship songs. In the morning, undistracted, I give focused attention to the lyrics of Christian praise music. The artists who have written these songs are pouring their hearts out to God. These songs have been a rich source of strength to my soul each morning. Often, I receive inspiration for my devotions, sermons and other matters of life during that time.

I’m not sure if we are headed for some serious “Dog Days of Summer.” But whether they are long or short, whether day or night, biblical meditation can be a practice that can help us become more aware of God and focus our mind upon his faithfulness. As we focus upon the breath of God – peace will come.

            “On my bed I remember you; I meditate on you through the watches of the night.” Psalm 63:6

God Bless You!

Pastor Mark

 

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 6

“Another Pair of Shoes”

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark

 

 

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 5

“Where’s the Beef?”

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore:

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

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

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

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark

 

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 4

“Jubilee”

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good things can happen on Day 50!

God Bless You!

Pastor Mark  

 

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 3

“What’s the Score?”

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

 

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

 

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

7 x 7= 49.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
(ONE YEAR AGO….)
 

“Do you Know the Score?

72-58

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love in Christ, Pastor Mark

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

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



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 2

“Praying the Psalms”

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today, this is my prayer:

               “I waited patiently for you LORD;

               You turned to me and heard my cry.

               You lifted me out of the slimy pit,

               Out of the mud and mire;

               You have set my feet upon a rock

               And gave me a firm place to stand.

               You have put a new song in my mouth,

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

               Thank you, Lord Jesus!

God Bless You All,

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 1

“Empathy”

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Bless You!

Pastor Mark

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 30

“Messiah”

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

 

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

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

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

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

The note said, (written in Hebrew)

               “Concerning the initial letters of the name of Messiah:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Bless You in the name of Yeshua,

Pastor Mark