Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 26

“Loaves and Fish”

Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” Matthew 14:16

 

Midway through the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is going to test the disciples understanding of God’s Kingdom. In chapter 14, Jesus withdraws, by boat, to a private place after hearing about John the Baptist’s beheading at the hand of King Herod. Crowds of people follow him on foot. When he lands on shore, the people are waiting for him. He has compassion for them and heals their sick. As evening approaches, the disciples approach Jesus with a concern. They say to him, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” (Matthew 14:15)

Jesus responds, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” The disciples answer him, “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish.” (Matthew 14:16)

At this halfway point, as there are 28 chapters in Matthew’s Gospel, you could almost call this, the story’s, “Halftime.” Jesus is looking for rest. Up to this point, he has been preaching, teaching and healing the sick. He has called his 12 disciples and has been carrying on his mission non-stop. In this moment, Jesus wants a break. But the crowds don’t back down. Instead, they track him down. Then when evening comes, and the disciples come with their concern, Jesus moves in to see about their understanding of the Kingdom. Keep in mind, that at this point, Jesus has already sent his disciples out on an internship. In chapter 10, Matthew records Jesus giving the disciples authority over evil spirits and their ability to heal every disease and sickness. He sent them out without any money or supplies. Jesus said, “As you go, preach this message: ‘the kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, rive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” The disciples have already experienced God’s supply in the midst of scarcity. Then, in chapter 13, Jesus continues to teach about the Kingdom of God. He speaks to them in parables and compares the kingdom to a Sower and seed. He goes on and uses the examples of weeds, mustard seed, yeast, and a net, to further teach kingdom principles.

Now with a throng of thousands surrounding them and with virtually no food whatsoever, Jesus challenges the interns to provide food for the crowd. They still have much to learn. Instead of turning to Jesus, trusting him to provide, they despair over their tiny supply of bread and fish. This test exposes that the Kingdom has not yet penetrated the hearts of his students. They will need the second half of the mission to grow more fully into the knowledge of God’s power. But truthfully, the full experience of God’s power will not be fully realized until the event of Pentecost and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. It is then that the disciples will walk in boldness and confidence, knowing God’s Kingdom power and provision.

Last night I watched a video clip on YouTube entitled, “The Story Behind, ‘The Chosen’.” Dallas Jenkins is the director and producer for this Gospel series.  As the story goes, Dallas Jenkins was an up and coming Hollywood producer. He had been noticed by a number of powerful people in the film industry who wanted to support him. He thought this was his great moment. They produced a film entitled, “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.” This film was going to launch his career to new heights. The film did not do well at the box office. In fact, Jenkins recalled that the film crashed and burned so mightily that he believed his future in Hollywood was over. He returned home to lick his wounds. While he and his wife prayed and sought God for greater understanding in this disaster, they both were drawn to Matthew’s account of Jesus feeding the 5,000. They didn’t really understand the deeper significance of the story, but they knew God was wanting to reveal something to them.

Jenkins recalled that the very same night, while he was at his desk at 3:00 am (I might add, the fourth watch of the night), he received a text message. It was from a person he called, “an acquaintance.” He had not spoken to this person in quite some time and would not really even call him a friend. Jenkins said that this text arrived completely out of the blue and read,

“Remember, it’s not YOUR job to feed the 5,000. Your job is to bring your bread and fish.”

 Jenkins was dumbfounded and replied,

“What led you to say that?”

The return text said,

“Wasn’t me – I felt led to tell you that right now.”

Jenkins testified that in this most dark moment of his life, God met him at 3 am. He said that this moment would mark his life and he would never be the same. He says that he approaches everyday with great peace, knowing that it is not his job to feed the 5,000. His job is simply to provide what loaves and fish he has. If he does that, he trusts God to do the rest.

From this new enlightened kingdom principle, Jenkins entered into “The Chosen” series with complete trust. He and his crew would bring what they have, and God would do the miracle. Since that time, they have witnessed God’s miraculous provision over and over again. They have faced many untold challenges, yet God has continued to provide, often at the eleventh hour. They are currently preparing for season 2, with the hope of filming 8 seasons. Over 33 million people around the world have visited the site and more are viewing it every day. They are the number one publicly funded series in film history.

We are sure to face many tests and challenges on our own journey of faith, especially in the midst of this pandemic. But may we hold on to this kingdom principle of Christ. May we also be encouraged from this living testimony from Dallas Jenkins. Let us offer whatever loaves and fish we have, and let us trust Jesus to provide the rest.

Let the third quarter begin!

God Bless You All,

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 13

“The Path to Reopening”

“The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.” Leviticus 23:1-2

Governor Inslee has appointed four phases as a pathway to reopen our economy and allow people to assemble. Interestingly enough, God appointed four feasts in the Old Testament, as a pathway to acknowledge him and assemble his people together. Not only that, but within these four feasts, Jesus also points to understanding how God is using this pathway to open up his eternal Kingdom and assemble his people forever.

God directed Moses to establish four feasts: (Leviticus 23)

  1. The Feast of Unleavened Bread – Passover
  2. The Feast of Weeks – Pentecost
  3. The Feast Trumpets – Day of Atonement
  4. The Feast of Tabernacles – Ingathering

The first feast: The Feast of Unleavened Bread began with the celebration of Passover. Passover was the celebration to remember God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt. During this Passover meal, the Israelites ate roasted lamb, unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and drank wine to recollect God’s strong arm setting them free. It is during this Passover meal that Jesus celebrated his Last Supper with his disciples. It is at this meal that Jesus brought new meaning to this gathering. He identified himself as the Passover lamb. In the breaking of the bread and drinking of the third cup of wine, Jesus established himself as the one who’s body would be broken and blood would be shed for the redemption of all people.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread was to follow the Passover celebration. For seven days, the people of Israel were to eat bread made without yeast. Bread made without yeast represented both “bread of haste” – for when the Israelites left Egypt – they had to leave in a hurry and did not have time to allow bread to rise. Yeast also represents sin. In preparation for the Feast of Unleavened bread, the Israelites were to remove all items containing yeast from their households, representing the removal of sin from their lives. This first of four feasts was focused upon God’s salvation. Passover was to point to God who opened a pathway for the Israelites to be free from slavery. Jesus followed the pattern of this feast but pointed to himself as the pathway for all people to be free from sin.

The second feast: The Feast of Weeks is also called the Feast of First Fruits. This feast began with the first grain of harvest. After seven weeks, counting off 50 days, Israel presented an offering of new grain to the LORD. This feast was also called “Pentecost”, as the feast was celebrated 50 days after the beginning of harvest. It is during this Jewish festival that God sent the Holy Spirit as a sort of first fruits, beginning the harvest of God’s Kingdom. Pentecost is the day that power was bestowed upon the disciples. The early church formally assembled after this event and they began to spread the Gospel message to the world. Paul points to the evidence of the “first fruits” in the hearts of believers through the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5. He says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Through the Holy Spirit, God opened up phase 2 of his path into his Kingdom. In phase 1, salvation was made secure through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In phase 2, the power to live out that salvation is provided through the empowerment of God’s Spirit. Phase 2 begins the move of God’s message out into the world, and that his salvation is open to both Jews and gentiles. The first fruits of God’s Spirit, lived out among his people, is to be the witness to the world, that they would join in this pathway to God. 

The third feast: The Feast Trumpets was to be a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. This feast would mark the end of one year and the beginning of the next. Postexilic Judaism would celebrate this day as Rosh Hashanah, i.e. New Year’s Day. The Feast of Trumpets was to prepare for the most holy month of the year. During this month, the nation was to celebrate the Day of Atonement. This was the one day of the year in which atonement for the sins of the nation would be made. The High Priest would make sacrifice for the sins of the nation. It is on this day of Atonement, that Jesus was crucified upon the cross at Calvary. This was the final sacrifice and atonement made for all nations, for all sin, once and for all.

When Jesus returns at his Second Coming, his appearance will be preceded by a trumpet blast. Jesus said, “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Many coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Matthew 24:30-31)

The fourth feast: The Feast of Tabernacles is the final assembly at the end of the harvest. The nation of Israel was to gather together, and live in tents (booths) for seven days as a reminder of their being brought out of Egypt. This end of the harvest was to celebrate God’s faithfulness and provision for his people. This feast is also called the “Feast of Ingathering”. It was to be a feast after all the crops had been gathered in from the fields. Within this fourth feast, it is believed that God will gather in his people on earth and open the ultimate pathway home. No one knows the exact time or date of the opening of phase 4. But as God has opened up each of the previous feasts as pathways to draw the people closer to him, and as Jesus has used these feasts as a template for the pathway he’s opened up to the world, it would seem consistent that Jesus’ Second Coming would arrive during the timing of the fourth feast and gather in his people to return home.

Our state governor is trying to work four phases to open up our economy. God has been working since the Fall to sin, to fully reopen his path into his Kingdom. He has given us four feasts to track his movement. We are closer today, to this reopening, than yesterday. Let us keep our lamps burning. Let us stay alert, awake, and watchful.

He has come. He will come again!

God is certainly working His path toward reopening!

God Bless You All!

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

 


Pastor Mark’s December Newsletter Blog

“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