Pastor’s Devotion #116

“How Many Miracles Will It Take?”

JESUS DID MANY OTHER MIRACULOUS SIGNS in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written THAT YOU MAY BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have LIFE in his name.” John 20:30-31

 

The Apostle John, traveled with Jesus for three years. According to his own words, he witnessed countless miracles performed by the Son of God. As he was moved by the Holy Spirit to write his personal account of the Gospel, do you think he ever wondered, “How many miracles will it take?”  How many miracles will it take to convince his future readers that Jesus truly is the Savior of the world? It seems John arrived at the number 7. Seven is a complete number. To the Jews, seven is a perfect number. Seven days of creation. Seven days in a week. Seven Jewish festivals. Debts released every seven years. The Year of Jubilee was to happen every 49 years, seven times seven – doubly perfect. In his Gospel, John records seven “I Am” statements of Jesus, in essence, declaring himself God. In his book, Revelation, John even records a message from Christ to each of the SEVEN Christian churches.

Which do you think came first for John, the number 7 or the miracles themselves?  However it emerged, moved by the Spirit, John recorded 7 key miracles between chapters 2 through 11. Each miracle mounting with growing meaning and impact. The first miracle records Jesus turning water into wine (John 2:1-11). Then John records Jesus healing an official’s son (John 4:43-54), followed by the healing of a man who had been an invalid for 38 years (John 5:1-11). Jesus, then feeds 5,000 people with only five tiny loaves and 2 fish (John 6:1-13). He then walks on water to meet is disciples in the midst of a storm (John 6:16-21). Jesus gives sight to a man who was born blind (John 9:1-7). Finally, after four days, Jesus resurrects his dear friend, Lazarus from the dead (John 11:38-44).

Since John was an eye witness to all of these miracles, and certainly he had to be drawn back in, recalling and recording the magnitude of these moments; do you think, he thought, “How many more miracles will people need, to prove that Jesus is truly who he said he is – the promised Messiah?”

This line of thinking came to my mind, as I recalled, the miraculous moments I have been witness to over just the past few months. How many more miracles DO I REALLY NEED to demonstrate that Jesus is truly the promised Messiah? How many miracles do you think YOU need? How many miracles will it take for your skeptical son or daughter, cousin, niece, friend or neighbor to come to believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior? The truth is, it’s not so much about the number, it’s about the heart. It’s always about the heart. It’s about being open rather than being resistant. For many, it doesn’t matter the miracles, they are simply not open to the humble, honest, transparent confession of someone captured by the love of God. In part because they have been lied to, or deceived, or at the very least, distracted away from the truth. The Bible tells us that faith comes by hearing. But that hearing is not generated by our human words. Faith is generated by the Holy Spirit. Faith is spoken by the Spirit into the hearts of those who will receive him. Thus, the mystery – and so our need to pray! We pray for the Spirit to move over the hearts and minds of us all, to be fully convinced of the Truth about Jesus Christ. And may we thank Him for the miraculous moments that are still taking place today, right in our very midst!

Whether it is received or not, I felt compelled to write down what I have been witness to over the past few months. I have talked about the necessity, in today’s world, to move from what has typically been a “private” faith into a growing “personal” relationship with Jesus and a “public” proclamation of who He is. As we have prayed and asked God to lead us. He has been answering our prayers! We have seen a steady stream of our own people willing to “publicly” testify and share their miraculous testimonies. As I remembered the stories and have recounted the moments, guess how many I came up with. Seven. I’m sure there are countless others, but these are the ones I’m highlighting today. I am praying that seven modern day miracles, at the hands of Jesus Christ, will more fully convince the nominal believer and the committed skeptic, that Jesus Christ is worth a closer look. Come Holy Spirit! Perhaps, one day, my grandchildren might be sitting on the fence of faith, and maybe after they read this devotion compiled by their grandfather, no longer living, but bearing witness to this selected list – perhaps they might take a closer look. So, I pray! Come Holy Spirit!

The miracles began with the testimony of a woman in our church, who had battled cancer for over two years. She is still in the battle. Cancer had spread to her brain. Prayers for healing. Intercession for intervention in the name of Christ. The day she arrived to begin treatment for the tumor – the doctor declared without human understanding – “The tumor is gone!”

A young executive was called upon to take the helm of a growing insurance agency based in Seattle. As the pressure mounted and physical pain emerged, he found himself calling out, crying out to God for help and relief.  In the middle of the night, he awoke to a Scripture verse spoken to him. A completely unfamiliar Scripture verse. One in which, he called out in the darkness, as if young Samuel calling out to God, for clarity. He again received the word, “1 Chronicles 4:10”. He woke his wife. He wrote it down. What could this mean? In the morning, He opened his Bible to 1 Chronicles 4:10, which read, “Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain. And God granted his request.” Having never heard of Bruce Wilkinson nor his tiny book, The Prayer of Jabezhis pain left him and has not returned!

A woman who lost her husband, lost her stability, lost her health and lost her will to live. She described a loss and lack of connection with God that seemed insurmountable. Yet through her pain and emptiness, she shared her experience and life changing encounter with the mercy and love of God. God has opened her heart and increased her faith. God has placed her feet on steady ground and given her the fire of the Holy Spirit that burns within like never before.

A retired, extremely wealthy and successful business man – who had every luxury at his fingertips. He described the joy of a successful career – but now, has come to understand, in indescribable fashion, the true riches and wealth he has found in the treasure of knowing Jesus Christ. His focus, attention and what he values as success has been turned upside down – on its head. He is now in hot pursuit of knowing his Savior, Jesus Christ, on a daily basis and living to obey his will.

A young woman lost her seven-year-old son almost 20 years ago. She recalled a conversation with him before he passed away. She wanted to know that he made it safely to heaven and that he would let her know. He agreed he would send a sign, only if God allowed. They talked about yellow flowers and a green snake. After his passing and she returned to work as a nurse in the ER – a fellow nurse came to her one day, carrying a single yellow rose. When asked why she brought her the rose – she had no answer. She just felt she was to bring the rose to work for some reason. Tears fell from a mother’s eyes. Later that year, while hiking in Colorado, she almost stepped on a snake. She had seen plenty of snakes in her day, but never like this one – a neon, green snake, lying across the trail. Once again, tears fell from her eyes. She received the message. God allowed her son to deliver the message, loud and clear – he made it home to heaven safely!

A woman lost her husband, surrounded by the love of her family. As we shared memories, she recalled losing her father years ago. They had been very close, and his passing was terribly traumatic. She felt utterly lost. She prayed, and cried out to God for help. She was given a dream and taken to see a glimpse of heaven. The experience was so powerful and wonderful, that she never wanted to return. She woke up at peace, without fear, assured that her father was home and one day, she would be too.

Finally, last week, on Wednesday, I received this text message:

Dear Pastor Mark,

Early on January 5, just as I was beginning to wake up, I saw words and heard a voice say, “The cancer is gone!”

Monday, of this week, (January 25th), I had a CT scan. Today, Wednesday, I saw the doctor and with a smile on his face he said the same thing. God is so good!!

This, from a woman who had never personally heard from, nor seen a direct message from God such as this! Now she knows! Now she knows!!

So, how many miracles will it take? Do your friends or neighbors need more? OK, I have two more bonus miracles to share with you – from a few years ago.

 

Mary Jane Lund. After hospice had been called in, she confessed to having Jesus, personally come and hold her hand, during the night, in her time of need. Mary Jane carried her share of anxiety and worry through life, and also as her last days approached. After that morning, a peace that passes understanding fell upon her. Some might want to dismiss this because of the pain meds administered by hospice. But those present know better. This peace remained visible upon her face. Those close to her could clearly see, it was more than medications. And it remained until her time to go home.

Erling Skrinde. He walked directly into my office after a doctor visit. A man in his late 80’s, the doctor gave him 3 months to live. The doc told him to get his affairs in order and maybe meet with his minister. Erling and I went on to meet weekly for over three years and he lived a total of SEVEN more years. Erling was a quiet, humble, Norwegian farmer who attended the local Lutheran church for most of his life. He was a man of few words. One day, without warning, Erling shared an out of body experience with me. He was in surgery, was lifted above his body, watching everything in the room and given a glimpse of heaven. It was not his time. He was healed and returned to his farm. He kept his experience a secret for years.

He chose to share his miracle with me. I’ve been blessed to have these many miracles shared with me; countless miracles.

I haven’t even mentioned, my friend, my brother from another mother – Ric Shallow. He has a story, and a book detailing his whole miraculous experience!

Today, I am choosing to share these miracles with you!

So, what do you think? How many more will it take?  

If you find yourself on the fence, I hope this moves you off. And so, I pray! Come, Holy Spirit!

LET’S ALL PRAY! “Come, Holy Spirit!”

God Bless You All,

Pastor Mark 

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 29

“The Water is Running!”

Jesus stood and said with a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within them.”                John 7:37-38

 

Have you ever left the water running? The other day I was watering my petunias. I put the hose down and some weeds pulled my attention away from that task. Then I became distracted with a pile of debris on the side of the house. That distraction led to a few other random chores. Needless to say, I never returned to turn off the running water. It ran all night! I didn’t realize the water was running until I went outside in the morning. It made me sick to think about all those gallons of water just pouring out onto the ground.

22 years ago, I stood in front of a fountain in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. The fountain was a drinking fountain. Water flowed from that fountain continuously – 24 hours a day. I remember thinking about all those gallons of water than ran nonstop and very few people were interested to take a drink. It was a holy place and I wanted some holy water, so I put my mouth under the spigot. I was surprised. It ran hard and fast and splashed all over my face.  

In John chapter 7, Jesus calls the crowd in Jerusalem to come take a drink of the running water. He was not referring to water that ran from a hose or a drinking fountain but that flowed from his Holy Spirit. Jesus wanted people to know and understand and experience the fulfillment of drinking spiritual water. Jesus cried out to the crowd, WITH A MIGHTY VOICE, as if to say, “LISTEN UP and PAY ATTENTION!!” He said, “IF ANYONE IS THIRSTY, LET THEM COME TO ME AND DRINK.”  Then he declared, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN ME, STREAMS OF LIVING WATER WILL FLOW FROM WITHIN THEM.” Jesus revealed the truth that if anyone comes to Jesus and believes in Jesus, not only will they be filled, but living water will flow from within them.

Years ago, I remember thinking about the challenges of preparing and preaching a sermon every week. I thought, “If I am going to be a pastor for another 20 years, that means I’m going to have to come up with over 1000+ more sermons. How am I going to be able to do that?” Suddenly, a picture of an outside water spigot came to mind. I realized that the water at that spigot is always available. If I get thirsty or dehydrated, it’s because I do not have my mouth in position to drink. Then I realized that the issue wasn’t for me to come up with one thousand messages. The issue was whether I was going to drink and receive the flowing from the Spirit. And then it hit me, the messages and all of life flows from the Spirit. The pressure was gone and the pursuit was on – continue to drink! I quickly felt the Spirit tell me, “If you continue to drink, you will never run dry!” Wow, what an incredible gift and revelation. A mental picture has remained and sustained me over all these years. The picture has me leaning down under the spigot, water is gushing out, I’m drinking, and the force of water is splashing all over my face. Just like it did at St. Peter’s Square.    

This is day 75 for these daily devotions. Some people have wondered how I can continue to crank these out every day. There is only one way. I’ve been drinking from the fountain. This isolation, has allowed me to intentionally drink more deeply. Worship, reading, praying, resting, and writing have been key postures that put me under the spigot.

How about you? Are you thirsty? The water is running. The truth is, the water will never stop flowing. Jesus invites you, “Come take a drink.” The Spirit of God wants to pour himself into you. Let’s drink TOGETHER. Streams of living water are waiting to flow and splash all over your face. Thank you LORD!

God Bless You All!  

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s February Blog

Pastor Mark’s February 2020 Blog . . . 

“So. . . Who’s Telling the Truth?”

 “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said,

If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”   John 8:31

 

Did you watch the Democratic debate on January 14? If so, you might have noticed something interesting on the hand of candidate Tom Steyer. There was a symbol crudely drawn in pen on his left hand. A closer look revealed a large cross with four smaller crosses drawn in each quadrant. So, what did this mean? Was the symbol a secret code or some subliminal message sent to our subconscious?

Come to find out, since 2017, Steyer has drawn, what is known as a “Jerusalem Cross” on his left hand each morning. (Yes, he is a Christian, but no, he did not know it was a “Jerusalem” cross when he drew it). When the media asked him what it meant he said, “It means to tell the truth no matter what the cost. For a while now, I have drawn it on my hand every day to remind myself to always tell the truth.”

Does Tom Steyer tell the truth? I don’t know. But the idea of telling the truth, what a novel idea.

Who do you trust to tell you the truth?

Do you trust the President, Congress, foreign governments, financial institutions, media outlets, Facebook or twitter? Perhaps you look to lawyers, doctors, educators, religious leaders, counselors. Will your plumber, electrician, auto mechanic, or financial advisor tell the truth?  It’s easy to become cynical when lies seem to roll off tongues as water rolls over the falls.

Do you think this growing distrust in humanity carries over into our trust in the one who declares,

I AM Truth”? Jesus declared, “I AM the way, the TRUTH and the life.”

Jesus declared that he embodied truth

and that if one would hold to his teachings,

they would come to know the truth and that truth would set them free.

Can this be true?     I absolutely believe this to be true!

But like any truth claims, they need to be vetted. As Christians, we need to test, try and press into these claims of Christ to see for ourselves whether they prove to be true. It should be crystal clear that we cannot simply trust our culture and the morals of the common man to lead us to truth. We must ask, seek and knock for deeper truth and come to know this truth for ourselves with a confidence that comes from personal investigation, experience, study and revelation.

Over the past few days, snow and icy roads have made travel difficult. But during this time, I have felt the truth of God’s Word spill over me in a refreshing way. I’ve been reading from my One Year Bible, in the midst of Matthew’s Gospel.

I want to share some of the truth that renewed my soul…

“Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he said, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor -sick people do.

Then he added,

“Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture,

I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.

For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous,

but those who know they are sinners.”    Mathew 9:10-13

“Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd….

He said to his disciples,

‘The harvest is great, but the workers are few.

So, pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest;

ask him to send more workers into his fields.”   Matthew 9:35-38

“What do I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, ‘We play wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t mourn.’ For John (the Baptist) didn’t spend his time eating and drinking and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners?’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.”

Then Jesus began to denounce the towns where he had done so many of his miracles,

because they had not repented of their sins and turned to God.    Matthew 11:16-20

At that time Jesus prayed this prayer:

“O Father, Lord of heaven and earth,

thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever,

and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!”   Matthew 11:25-26

Then Jesus said,

Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens,

and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you,

because I am humble and gentle at heart,

and you will find rest for your souls.

For my yoke is easy to bear and the burden I give you is light.”    Matthew 11:28-30

So what truth can be found in these words of Christ? I will let King David clarify the truth from Psalm 14…

“Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’

They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!

The Lord looks down from heaven on the entire human race;

he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God.

But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt.

No one does good, not a single one.”    Psalm 14:1-3

The truth is, we are all sinners! We are all sick and who by nature do not seek after God. We need a Savior!

We are called to repent of our sin before God and turn to Him and live! We are to be “childlike” and out of our physical weariness and emotional fatigue, come to Jesus and He will give us spiritual rest. We are to walk in His ways. We are to know that Jesus is humble and gentle and will lift us up and will carry us when we are weak.

As we grow in His grace, God who is in charge of the harvest,

will send us into his harvest field to share this grace with others.

The world embraces a lie. The world believes that we are by nature good and out of our own goodness, we will seek to help others and improve the world around us. Because we are good, we need not God and/or to turn to one that does not exist. We are to be wise and clever in our own minds, and have the capacity to find all the answers to our problems on our own. We are to find rest within ourselves and discover our path for self. If there is a God, he is controlling, manipulative and angry. We need to be strong in and of ourselves and relying upon someone else shows weakness.

But, let not your hearts be troubled. Truth remains! And we are called to know Truth! Where is it found?

Not in a man with a cross drawn on his hand, seeking the power of the presidency. Rather, from the man whose hands were placed on a cross, seeking to give his life for all the broken sinners of the world, and in his human weakness and sacrifice, he empowers us to live an abundant life.  

If the faith you cling to seems heavy and burdensome or irrelevant and insignificant, perhaps you need a dose of deeper Truth….

Repent in prayer.

Turn to Jesus, come to Him and ask him to teach and reveal to you more of his Truth. Expose yourself to the teachings in his Word, and have him expose where you are holding on to legalistic religious tradition.

He is humble and gentle, a compassionate shepherd,

who in great power has a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light.