Pastor Mark’s Devotions, July 23

“Hope”

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 6:19

 

There is a nautical term used in the sailing world today that is called “kedging.” A kedge anchor is used when a ship is grounded or found in turbulent seas. Sailors will row the kedge anchor as far as they can from the ship in the general direction they wish to move to. They drop the kedge anchor into the sea. Once the anchor finds purchase on the bottom, the sailors on board begin to operate the winch and pull their way towards the anchor. This is known as kedging.

We don’t normally think of moving towards an anchor. The anchor often represents the past. It holds us back. Sometimes, however, the anchor is our future. We move towards it. In especially turbulent times, we need to pull ourselves into the future with the anchor of past revelation. The past then becomes the only means into the future.

The author of Hebrews declares in Hebrews 6:18-19, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” And what is this hope that is kedging our way into the future? It is Jesus, who has entered into the inner sanctuary, behind the curtain, on our behalf, to become our high priest and provide the sacrifice that gives life to our souls.

Many people, Christian or not, attempt to anchor themselves to what seems like stable ground. People will link themselves to career, finances, friendships, health or home. But when turbulent times come, the hold breaks free and they are thrown by the tossing waves. It is easy to see so many being tossed in the midst of these turbulent times. Perhaps you might be getting thrown around and feeling a bit hopeless. If so, take a close look at your anchor line. To what have you anchored yourself? Storms can be life threatening, but they can also be opportunities to recognize what needs to be abandoned and what needs to be held.

 Anchor yourself to Jesus. He is our hope, firm and secure, for today and into our future.

YOU CAN STOP HERE AND GO ABOUT YOUR DAY.  BUT IF YOU ARE HUNGRY FOR MORE, READ ON…

This week, I’ve been reading C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. Chapter 10 is entitled, “Hope.”  If, today, you feel in danger of losing your way and fear drifting out into open water, perhaps C. S. Lewis can anchor you to the hope we have in Jesus Christ and pull you in toward safer shores and your certain future.

C.S. Lewis writes;

“Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’; aim at earth and you will get neither. It seems a strange rule, but something like it can be seen at work in other matters. Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health one of your main, direct objects you start becoming a crank and imagining there is something wrong with you. You are only likely to get health provided you want other things more – food, games, work, fun, open air. In the same way, we shall never save civilization as long as civilization is our main object. We must learn to want something else even more.

Most of us find it very difficult to want ‘Heaven’ at all – except in so far as ‘Heaven’ means meeting again our friends who have died. One reason for this difficulty is that we have not been trained: our whole education tends to fix our minds on this world. Another reason is that when the real want for Heaven is present in us, we do not recognize it. Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy. I am not now speaking of what would be ordinarily called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers. I am speaking of the best possible ones. There was something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in the reality. I think everyone knows what I mean. The wife/husband may be a good spouse, and the hotels and scenery may have been excellent, and chemistry may be a very interesting job: but something has evaded us. Now there are two wrong ways of dealing with this fact, and one right one.

  1. The Fool’s Way – He/she puts the blame on the things themselves. He/she goes on all their life thinking that if only they tried another woman/man, or went for a more expensive holiday, or whatever it is, then, this time, he/she really would catch the mysterious something we are all after. Most of the bored, disconnected, rich people in the world are of this type. They spend their whole lives trotting from woman to woman, man to man, from continent to continent, from hobby to hobby, always thinking that the latest is ‘the Real Thing’ at last, and always disappointed.

 

  1. The Way of the Disillusioned ‘Sensible Man’He soon decides that the whole thing is moonshine. “Of course”, he says, “one feels like that when one’s young. But by the time you get to my age you’ve given up chasing the rainbow’s end.” And so he settles down and learns not to expect too much and represses the part of himself which used, as he would say, “To cry for the moon”. This is, of course, a much better way than the first, and makes a man much happier, and less of a nuisance to society. It tends to make him a prig (he is apt to be rather superior towards what he calls ‘adolescents’), but, on the whole, he runs along fairly comfortably. It would be the best line we could take if man did not live forever. But supposing infinite happiness really is there, waiting for us? Supposing one really can reach the rainbow’s end? In that case it would be a pity to find out too late (a moment after death) that by our supposed ‘common sense’ we had stifled in ourselves the faculty of enjoying it.

 

  1. The Christian Way – The Christian says, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men/women feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I can find myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.  If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.”

There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of ‘Heaven’ ridiculous by saying they do not want ‘to spend eternity playing harps’. The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them. All the scriptural imagery (harps, crowns, gold, etc.) is, of course, a merely symbolic attempt to express the inexpressible. Musical instruments are mentioned because for many people (not all) music is the thing known in the present life which most strongly suggest ecstasy and infinity. Crowns are mentioned to suggest the fact that those who are united with God in eternity share His splendor and power and joy. Gold is mentioned to suggest the timelessness of Heaven (gold does not rust) and the preciousness of it. People who take these symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs.

Jesus promised, “I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3) Jesus is our hope and our anchor for us both now and forever. Let someone else lay the eggs!

God Bless You All!    Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s 42nd Devotion, April 26

“42”

“But only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”     Luke 10:42

(If you listen/watch my sermon today on our website, this devotion will make a little more sense.)

Since this is devotion day “42”, I want to give a shout out to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Early on a Sunday morning, just like this one, Jesus hit me with a spiritual wave. I was spending devotion time with the Lord at home in our loft when the importance of the number “42” was finally revealed.

“42” had been ringing in my ears for months. I didn’t know what it meant but I even reheated my coffee for 42 seconds in the microwave. That particular Sunday morning, my eyes hit upon Luke 10:42. The light bulb went on and I felt like I was hit by a Mac truck. Luke 10:42 reads, “But only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Most of you are probably familiar with this story. I had read this encounter countless times, but hitting home personally was waiting for this particular morning.

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem with an appointment on a cross. Before reaching Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples stopped at his close friend’s house. Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived in Bethany. They opened their home to the large group. Mary took the opportunity to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to his teaching. Martha was busy preparing the food for their visitors. Martha became frustrated with Mary because she was not helping with all the necessary preparations. Finally, Martha was so upset and heated that she unloaded on her sister. In fact, she even unloaded on Jesus, her special guest. She said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work myself? Tell her to help me!”

Jesus responds, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, (42) but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

While reading this story, the verse number 42 virtually jumped off the page. As I mentioned in earlier devotions, this happened during the same time that God was healing and restoring my heart in the mornings during the week. In a moment, I felt God was giving me a warning and direction for my future. Jesus was clearly showing me that my strength will always be found sitting at his feet – and nothing will take it away from me. If and when I move away from him and get distracted with all other sorts of worries and obligations – church, family, house, community, nation – that is when my spiritual life will be in trouble. If I am to remain strong and healthy spiritually, I must always return to him and find regular, undistracted time with Jesus.

Some people have been amazed that I can write a devotion each day for the past six weeks. The reason I have been able to accomplish this points to the significance of 42. This “stay at home” order has allowed me extended undistracted time to sit at Jesus’ feet. Jesus has provided thoughts, ideas, pictures, dreams, scriptures, analogies, and insights that have emerged from a Spirit saturated soul. I have felt it. By your comments each week, I believe you have also. Jesus has provided every single day. This has confirmed his words to me – It is the one most important thing needed for me – and it will never be taken away.

Since that morning, there have been a number of other situations when number “42” has popped up.

If you watch Major League Baseball, you know that there is one day each year when all the professional players wear number “42” on their jerseys. So also, no individual players have their names printed on their backs. This one day is to honor the name and number of Jackie Robinson. Jackie was the first African American player to break the baseball racial barrier. On April 15, 1947, at age 28, Jackie Robinson broke the racial barrier as he went on the field playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Not only could Jackie hit for average and home runs, he hit the racial barrier out of the park. He faced incredible harassment and bigotry. But he endured all the trials and opened the door for all other African American baseball players to join him in the league. Yes, there were other players before him who knocked on the door. But at the right time, Jackie being the right person, broke down the door and others walked through behind him.

There was another one who broke down a dividing wall. This One knocked down the door of separation and has allowed all of us to walk through behind him. Thank you Jesus, for enduring the trials and opening the door to salvation!

Whether Luke 10:42 or jersey number “42”, God has used that number to break through some hard core divisions and some hard headed individuals.

Finally, did you know that the number “42” is on the perfect number list? According to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, “42” is the quintessential number of the universe.

The first Sunday morning that I shared the importance of “42” with my church folks, Tom Catchpole caught me after the service. He said to me, “Pastor, did you know that “42” is the perfect number in the universe?” I responded to Tom with surprise and said, “No, Tom, I did not know that.” According to The Guide – 42 is, “The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything”. It was calculated by a supercomputer named Deep Thought over a period of 7.5 million years.

Wow! If that is the case, it sounds pretty important and something we should take a closer look at. Over the years, many people have made similar comments about both, Jackie Robinson and The Hitchhiker’s Guide.

I will close with a statement from a longtime friend, Lori Pape. She made a comment one day about her husband, John. I was hit by another spiritual wave. Lori said, “John might not be perfect – but he is perfect for ME!”

I’m not sure if the number “42” is the perfect number of the universe. But I do know that it is the perfect number for ME!

Thank you, Jesus, for a personal number that I can live by and always find my bearings.

I close this devotion the same way I began; “My shout out is to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!!

Day 42. Maybe you will get hit by a wave today. Maybe you’ll take a Peter Plunge today (a reference to my sermon today). In any case, Jesus loves YOU personally! And if the wave does not come today, there is a wave coming out upon the waters of grace, to wash over your heart and consume you with his love.

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark