Pastor Mark’s Devotions, June 4

“A Crisis of Faith”

“If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13

Last week, Jon Steingard, lead singer for the Christian band, Hawk Nelson, confessed on an Instagram post, that he no longer believed in God. Jon said, “After growing up in a Christian home, being a pastor’s kid, playing and singing in a Christian band, and having the word, ‘Christian’ in front of most of the things in my life – I am now finding that I no longer believe in God.” He cites questions about God, the Bible, and his upbringing and said that he can no longer lead songs like, “Drops in the Ocean” in good conscience.

While his confession is troubling, it is important to hear his bandmates response. In their own statement, they declare, “We are called to love one another unconditionally, as God loves us.” And they also said, “Our mission is to inspire and encourage all people with the truth that God is for them and not against them – now this is for one of our own.” What a wonderful expression of love and brotherhood for a friend who is struggling, searching, still seeking to know truth.

As Christians, looking in from the outside, we can easily cast judgments, be angry or share disappoint in Jon’s words. But if we pause and listen closely, there can be a lot we can learn. The reality is that many believers are one crisis away from seemingly throwing in the spiritual towel. If one more unexplainable tragedy occurs, or just one more problem shows up to tip the scale, many feel ready to be done with their belief in God.

So, what is to be done in the midst of a crisis of faith? I would suggest it is very similar to what we are being called to do in the midst of this pandemic and in the face of these peaceful protests. We are called to come along side those who are struggling. We are to remind them that they are not alone. We are to listen and remain open to understand their story. And we are to understand that deeper understanding can emerge in the midst of a crisis.  

Listening more closely to Jon’s words, he makes some significant statements. He expresses the desire to finally be open, honest, vulnerable and transparent. These are important qualities to work through a crisis. Up until now, he has kept his doubts, fears, and questions, hidden in his heart. Nothing good comes from hiding. Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden and nothing good came from it. Jon’s honest confession opens the door to address his crisis of faith and the possibility of discovering a deeper experience with God.

Jon also states, “I want to be transparent with you all – and also open to having my heart changed in the future. He goes on to say, “I am not looking for a debate at all – just a chance to share my story in the hopes some good can come from it. I love you all.”

Wow, Jon makes some amazing comments. Along with transparency, he says that he wants his heart to be open to change. He is saying that he really wants to believe that there is a God, but he just can’t see it right now. He also says that he isn’t looking for someone to fix him or have a question and answer quiz session. His simple hope is that by being honest, something good can happen.

Jon is confessing a lot of different things in his post. One thing is for certain, he is wrestling with spiritual things. Wrestling is a good thing. Wrestling in the wilderness is the place where Jacob, in the Old Testament met God. In that wrestling, Jacob had an experience with God. His name and heart were changed and he became a different person.   

Jon then makes the most revealing statement. He says, “I’m actually open to the idea that God is there.” But he says, “I suspect if he is there, he is very different than what I was taught.”

With those words, Jon just gave a window into the hearts of many people. Most people actually believe that there is a God. But what they have been taught from the Bible has little relevance for their life.  

Hopefully, his bandmates and/or his close Christian friends will allow him to share his story. Hopefully, they will ask questions about the kind of Christianity he was taught. He has already confessed that he is open to God but he needs someone to help guide him in knowing and/or rediscovering the truth about the faith. Someone needs to clarify that everything about Christianity centers itself in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Over the years, I have heard many stories about people growing up in Christian homes that have missed on the centerpiece of our faith – namely, Jesus Christ. Sure, we teach about Jesus being born in Bethlehem, doing some miracles and that he died on a cross. But many people have not been led into a living relationship with Jesus Christ. Christianity can easily become a list of do’s and don’ts and evaluating faith based upon church attendance and activities. If this happens, Christianity simply becomes another legalistic religion, centered upon human good works, that will eventually kill the spirit. It could be that this is where Jon finds himself.  

Most people who have left the church and/or Christianity is because they were taught information about God but not led into a relationship with God. We can gain much wisdom about God, but still be vulnerable to a crisis because we still might not know him. Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” John 10:14. This “knowing” of which Jesus speaks, is about a personal experience with the living God.

In the book of Ephesians, Paul prays that God would give, both wisdom and revelation to the believers in Ephesus. He says, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” (Ephesians 1:17)

Wisdom is not enough. Revelation leaves a mark on the heart in which the Holy Spirit opens up an encounter with the living God. Fully knowing God through wisdom and revelation provides the sturdy foundation from which a life of faith is built. But even in that, be aware that crisis’ of faith can still occur and that is why we need brothers and sisters in the faith to walk with us, and talk with us, and pray for us in our times of need.  

Consider King Solomon. He was the wisest of all the kings of Israel. God gave Solomon all the wisdom the world had to offer. Solomon mesmerized crowds and even the Queen of Sheba with his insights. He spelled out some of his comprehensive wisdom in the book of Proverbs. God chose him to build His Temple in Jerusalem. God gave him peace among the nations. Yet Solomon had a crisis of faith. Solomon lost perspective. In Ecclesiastes Solomon wrote, “God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.” (3:1) Yet somewhere along the line, his wisdom  about God did not sustain him. He began the book of Ecclesiastes with the confession, “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher, “Utter meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” He came to this conclusion that all was vanity after spending his life in pursuit of knowledge, pleasure, splendor and work. Yet in all of it, he lost his pursuit of God and all his efforts left him empty.

Solomon had been given plenty of wisdom. What he needed was revelation. What he needed was relationship. Solomon needed close companions to help guide him back to faith in Yahweh, the living God.

The good news is that Jon Steingard has a band of brothers who are standing with him, praying for him and who are wanting to point him to the truth of Jesus.

As people come to us in the midst of a crisis, may we be a church that is able to guide people to the centerpiece of our faith – that vital relationship with Jesus Christ.

If one of our family members has a crisis of faith, let us not fear. Rather, let us see it as a red flag of opportunity. Doubts that were once hidden are now being exposed. That which is troubling is now able to be healed. That which is questioned has the opportunity to be answered. And that which is unknown – can become an invitation to know the living God on a deeply personal, life transforming level.

May God prepare each of us, in our own crises of faith, to take us deeper with Him.

God Bless You!

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 11

“Broken Praise”

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?                                                                Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:11

 

Right now, we are in the midst of receiving a lot of mixed messages and mixed signals. There is hope in the air, as some of our economy is opening up. But as Covid19 cases continue to increase, and the death toll continues to climb, it is clear that the virus is also still in the air. South Korea has been the champion for clamping down on the virus. Yet, even there, new cases are starting to surface. More symptoms, new child cases and more questions seem to be emerging. The pubic is troubled and frustrated and wants to be given more freedom. There is some good news. The medical field is making strides in more accurate testing and more economical methods. But all this news is confusing and can lead to mixed emotions.  

Receiving a steady stream of uncertain information over time can really play tricks on our emotions. We can be up, one minute, and down the next. One day we might feel hopeful, while the next day we might drop into feelings of despair. Without a consistent, congruent path, we are vulnerable to emotional peaks and valleys, and waves of fear.

During this time of upheaval, consider the idea of, “Broken Praise”. I feel like the Holy Spirit brought these two words to my attention this weekend. Immediately, I knew this would somehow develop into a devotion. During these unsettling times, I believe the concept of, “Broken Praise”, can be an anchor for our soul.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 states, “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” For sure, we are to give thanks, for it is God’s will. But often our emotions cannot catch up with the conditions we face. Sometimes, the idea of giving God thanks and praise feels like a hammer pounding us into the ground. But if we are able to acknowledge our feelings of despair and discouragement; if we can declare our heavy heart and be honest with our broken dreams; something positive can rise from the dust and ashes. Praise becomes a possibility in the midst of pain. It is not a mixed message to acknowledge a broken heart and praise to God. Rather it is taking two parts, pain and praise, and making them one. The joining of these two positions, actually allows a person to stand. This posture and pose correctly positions honesty, authenticity, and raw truth. This paradox is often the way God reveals his power.  

King David modeled a posture of “Broken Praise” in Psalm 42. He was able to stand in complete honesty and walk in the power of God.

(Once again, I discovered that the number 42 was hammered into my consciousness – as this psalm provides much hope and encouragement in my walk of faith.)

David declares, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” He also acknowledges, “By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.”

But David also honestly speaks of his broken heart. He states, “My tears have been my food day and night.” He also speaks of his depression, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?”

Yet with all this mix of raw emotion, David directs himself to join together the two positions. He feels pain, but he turns to praise. He says, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” He even repeats this reminder twice in his psalm. David repeats and finishes his prayer with this final verse, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

Often, out of fear or embarrassment, we feel the need to mask our pain. We are afraid of what others might think. Or we are afraid of where this fear might take us. But the ability to stand stable and secure in uncertain times actually comes when we are able to honestly acknowledge and give voice to the brokenness we feel. When we then point our pain to God and join Him in praise – a force of power is able to arrive – not only allowing us to stand but to walk forward in whatever uncertain our future.   

Whatever day greets you tomorrow; whether you need help or hope; hold on to the unity of “Broken Praise”.  Acknowledge being downcast. Put your hope in God. It’s what your soul thirsts for!

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark



Pastor’s Devotions March 23

 

Milk and Honey -10 weeks away”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ,

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotion 3.22.20

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

“Manna in the Morning”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Pastor Mark’s January Blog

Pastor Mark’s January Newsletter Blog

“Fast & Pray”

In the Old Testament book of Ezra, as the exiled children of Israel are preparing to return to Jerusalem, Ezra says, “Therefore, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possession.”

Ezra goes on to say,

“I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen

to protect us from enemies on the road,

because we had told the king,

‘The gracious hand of God is on everyone who looks to him,

but his great anger is against all who forsake him.’

So we fasted and petitioned our God about this,

and he answered our prayer.” (Ezra 8:21-23)

Have you ever fasted?

And preparing for a colonoscopy doesn’t count….otherwise I would be a veteran “faster”.   I have intentionally fasted a few times in my life, but in general, I think fasting has become a lost discipline. Many times, the Bible records God’s people taking time to fast and to pray as they face a crossroads looking to the future.

In the New Testament book of Acts, in the church at Antioch, we are told,

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said,

‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for the work to which I have called them.’

So, after they had fasted and prayed,

they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” (Acts 13:1-3)

I believe that the year 2020, in the life of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, will be a very important one. In many ways, this past year has been one of preparation. Our facilities are being prepared. Youth ministry is being prepared. Structures are being prepared to support ministries like the Caring Place.   And our hearts are being further prepared to…..

walk in faith,

follow the leading of the Holy Spirit,

and encourage one another in love.

As we enter this new year, what might happen if we all humble ourselves before God, fasting and praying that God would move powerfully through our church?   LCMC is encouraging all its congregations to PRAY for 3 days from January 7-9, 2020. I’d like to include fasting along with prayer. Fasting involves intentionally denying yourself something that you value as a sacrifice in honor to God. This self-denial is an exercise that opens up the senses to further connect with God. Is it a mandate? No. But just as singing in a worship service is not required in worship to God, the act of making a joyful noise further opens up one’s heart to connect with God. So also, fasting can further open one’s heart in prayer and connection to God.

So, I invite you to join me in fasting and prayer during these 3 days in early January. You can choose whatever food or drink you would personally like to include in your fast. Perhaps keep it to yourself.

Jesus says to keep it between you and the Father. (Mt. 6:16-18)

And then pray…. Pray, Pray, Pray, that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit in power will direct our church, our ministry, our personal faith in dynamic ways. Pray…. that we would, as one body, live and share in the joy of Jesus Christ. Pray…. that we grow in boldness, confidence and humility recognizing the move of God in our congregation and in our community. Pray…. that the presence of God will fall upon us and that it will be undeniable. Pray…. protection against the evil one and that nothing interferes with God’s desire for us.

I’m looking forward to an amazing year filled with many challenges and many celebrations!!

 
 
 


Pastor’s November Blog

 

Pastor Mark’s November Newsletter Blog

“Some Things Change, Some Things Stay the Same!”
 
My cat, my cable company, and Blockchain Technology, what do these three have in common? They are indicators that change is in the air.
 
Tigger, my aging cat, snuck out of the house last night. When I go outside to retrieve wood for the fire, she is increasingly more intent on sneaking outside. The consequence was that she spent all night out on the deck, in the dark. I heard a faint meow in the morning and realized she was outside. In the past months, I have had to change from dry food to canned food because of her digestive problems. And joy of all joys, I’m getting more hair balls coughed up on my bed spread through the night. I’m sure as Tiggy continues to age, as do I, more change will unfold.
 
My cable company told me that I needed to change my recording equipment. A month ago, and four appointments later, I’m still waiting for that change to occur. Once again, I will have to learn a new way of working with new equipment; it’s not a big deal, but just one more change that requires attention.
 
 
Blockchain Technology. Have you heard of it? Now, potentially this IS a big deal. According to Don and Alex Tapscott, authors of “Blockchain Revolution”, the blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value. Now that’s a mouthful!  “In simplest of terms”, they say, “It is a time-stamped series of immutable record of data that is managed by clusters of computers not owned by any single entity.” The three game changers about this technology is that it’s 1. Decentralized. 2. Transparent. And 3. Immutable. And amazingly enough, it’s FREE! Transactions as we know it, in all sorts of fields, will be altered and changed. For the good? Yes, transparency and the inability to deceive, cheat and steal is great. But the fall out will potentially include many business closures and many employees losing their careers (look out Charles Schwab, Edward Jones and Merrill Lynch).
 
It’s interesting that there is a new potential technology involving a free transactional system providing the world with greater security, safety, transparency, and human interconnectedness and accountability.
 
Do you realize that there is already a system in place, in God’s technological platform that provides each one of us – security, safety, transparency, human interconnectedness and also accountability? This platform is through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit.
 
And the great news is that it is offered to us FREE of charge. Yet, it is not free to God! He established this platform at great cost, commitment, intentionality, and passion. We are the recipients of this amazing technological transaction – which involved the divine becoming human. A transaction that we will never truly understand but are asked to accept, trust, believe and utilize. And this transactional system is available to us every day, at every moment, for every person.
 
The world’s transactional systems will continue to change and alter and evolve as technology develops. But rest assured that God’s transactional system will never change!

 

Life and salvation through Jesus Christ IS immutable.  

 
The abundant life God promises today, and the eternal life He points us to in the future involves ONE transaction – and Jesus provided that transaction for each one of us on the cross at Calvary 2000 years ago. Everything else of value in this life is to be seen and evaluated through this ONE transaction.
 

All other transactions perhaps can be summed up in the words of St. Paul in Galatians 5:6, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”  

  Therefore, hold on to the immutable truth, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”   Hebrews 13:5   Some things change, and some things will FOREVER stay the same. Praise God!
 
In Christ,
 
Pastor Mark
 
 
 
 
 


Pastor Mark’s October Newsletter Blog

“Happiness:  Making a Few Moves”

 
This past month has brought some new moves. Jeriah has moved into her new life in New York. She has moved away from what was familiar to a brand new set of conditions – academically, socially, spiritually, physically, culturally, and if nothing else, adjusting to life without Costco. Fortunately, Trader Joe’s is only a 15 minute drive away. Simultaneously, I’ve moved back into an old house with new conditions. The loud noise of resounding quiet rings in my ears. No more daily connections around meals or meetings or work schedules. No more shared moments during sunrise or sunsets. No more spontaneous adventures wherever the wind might take us. It’s a new culture for me too. A familiar feeling that reminds me when she left for college, yet this is farther reaching, farther climbing, farther challenging. A father could not be more excited for his daughter’s new found adventure. But as I hear the familiar wind chimes ring in the distance, I also recognize that this move is something new.
 
Perhaps you are experiencing something new, and these words are ringing true for you. How are we to handle these new moving conditions?
 
This morning I read an article about finding greater happiness in life. Some of the recommendations given were to play more video games and take more selfies. This article sent me on my own pondering about…. what truly brings greater happiness in one’s life?
 
As I began to jot down a few notes, the following thoughts quickly emerged and without knowing it, an article of my own was being created. Perhaps this might be helpful to my daughter, I don’t know – but I quickly realized that I need these thoughts for myself and perhaps they might resonate with you.
 
Buried in each thought is a secret treasure that can be found in scripture – but I’ll leave that searching for you if you want to find.
 
This is not necessarily a complete list – maybe it’s a KEY list – and maybe these thoughts will provoke a few ponderings of your own to add, delete, adjust, or expand to personalize it for yourself.
 
    A Few Moves Toward Happiness:  
  1. Move to REST in a peaceful place – enjoy quiet, music, devotion.

  Rest for your inner soul. Time with God. Time with yourself.

  1. Move to ACCOMPLISH something that brings satisfaction – exercise, yard work, house work or homework, perhaps a remodel project or even paying the bills – some tangible tasks that feel good accomplishing.

  A work that is gratifying not a work that is driven by shame or guilt.

  1. Move to CONNECT with someone. Meet for coffee, a walk or a talk. Share a meal, a snack or perhaps happy hour. Personal connection with another human being – resist email or text or even phone call if possible.

  Face to face contact is always most satisfying.

  1. Move to SERVE (or encourage) someone else with an act of kindness. Shift your focus from self to others – help to meet a need.

  Helping to meet another in need will always bring meaningful satisfaction and happiness to your soul.

  1. Move to UNDERSTAND your life in a larger context. You will live more fully in the moment with the knowledge that your life is connected to a bigger picture. If a Christian, your life is lived within God’s grand design.

  From day to day, you might not see movement but understand, God is moving you toward His destiny!

Happiness is found when you are moving toward something of intrinsic value, not in your running away from something nor as you are paralyzed by fear, nor by simply treading water aimlessly.

   So, where are you headed?

   Take time to….. * listen to the birds * smell the flowers * sip the coffee * taste the wine * rest in the quiet * watch the sunrise * stir the sauce on the stove * walk the familiar path * receive from the Spirit * read the Word * return to what you know * share your inner thoughts * help a person in need * thank God for the moments you have right here, right now.

   Remember what has brought you joy in the past.

Happiness is here for us today. It will be waiting for us tomorrow. Can you see it? Can you perceive it? Let us move in these moments and receive it!   As I sip my coffee in this quiet moment, I recognize a familiar move: “Thanks Be to God!”

“And my God will supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”    Phil 4:19

 
 


Pastor’s July Blog

 
Pastor Mark’s July Newsletter Blog
 
“On Our Way Rejoicing”
 
As a boy, I can remember my dad often choosing hymn number 260, “On Our Way Rejoicing”, as our sending song in worship.  This hymn was an upbeat, celebratory song that always put an exclamation point on the service and energized us to move forward.
 
The refrain declares, “On our way rejoicing; As we forward move, Hearken to our praises, O blest God of love!”  
 
On June 9, 2019, Our Saviour’s Lutheran congregation met to discuss and vote upon the proposed plan to remodel our fellowship hall and fireside room. We gathered together for one worship service and the place was packed. You could feel the vibe and excitement in the room (which, to be honest, I wasn’t sure how the whole morning would go. We had done our homework, been on our knees in prayer – yet still we were not sure how the congregation, as a whole felt about the project.)
 
After a great time of worship, the table was set, and we feasted with a great breakfast. Then our President, Ken Christoferson, opened our meeting and gave an overall scope of the project. Marv Hansen, our project manager, then focused on all the details and particulars of the remodel. I followed trying to focus upon the “why” of this effort – to further strengthen our mission and ministry in our church and into our community. Annette Bowden then discussed the funds necessary and a vision for how this could be accomplished.  
 
Then a motion was made and a vote was taken to consider this remodel project.
 
Overwhelmingly the congregation approved the effort with a vote of 118-2. And we went on our way, rejoicing!
 
That day, commitment cards were passed out and on the following day cards were mailed out for those who could not attend. Annette explained that to begin the project, we would need to raise $200,000 in pledges to be given by September 30, 2019. Those pledges were to be made on the “green” commitment cards. The “yellow” commitment card is for a 3-year pledge, that would cover the remainder of the construction costs of $170,000.
 
It is now 7 days after our congregational meeting and to date Sheri, our treasurer, who is the only one who will count these cards, has communicated that we have received pledges on the green cards of $148,844 – that’s 74.4% of our initial fund raising goal of $200,000! 
 
Are you rejoicing? I CAN’T HEAR YOU! How exciting and what a wonderful expression of enthusiasm from our congregation to see this kind of generous giving so quickly. Yes, we still have a way to go – but it is very exciting as we forward move. May God hearken to our praises, O blest God of love!
 
On the day of our vote, I told two stories involving Pastor Tony Campolo, pointing to the power and purpose of why we are here as a church and why we do what we do. Whether remodel or not, we are here to bring the message of reconciliation from Jesus Christ to a lost and broken world. And we have been given the opportunity and privilege to participate in His mission.
 
I close with one final Tony Campolo story:  Tony was giving a major address at a women’s conference. At a point in the program the women were being challenged with a several thousand dollar goal for their mission project, the chairperson for the day turned to Dr. Campolo and asked him if he would pray for God’s blessing on the women as they considered what they might do to achieve their goal.
 
To her astonishment, he went to the podium and graciously declined. He said, “You already have the necessary resources to complete this project right here in this room. The necessary gifts are in your hands. As soon as we take the offering and underwrite this project, then we will thank God for freeing us to be generous, responsible and accountable stewards.”
 
When the offering was taken, the mission goal was overreached. Then Dr. Campolo led them in a joyous prayer and song of thanksgiving. I wonder if the song was, “On Our Way Rejoicing”?
 
Thank you for your partnership and participation. More specifically, thank you for your partnership and participation in the mission of the Gospel.
 
In all that we do, may Jesus Christ be honored, glorified and praised.
 
Join us Sunday, June 30th at 9:45 a.m. in the fellowship hall  – as we eat breakfast together, hear from Sheri the results of our progress and then sing together,  “On our way rejoicing; as we forward move, Hearken to our praises, O blest God of love!”
 
Yours in Christ,
 
Pastor Mark