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, April 1

“April Fool’s Day”

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

April Fool’s Day, April 1st, is the day practical jokes are played on unsuspecting fools. We have a member in our church who loves to catch me by surprise on this foolish day each year. I remain on guard, even on locked down, because I know anything is possible. But April 1, 2002 was no joke. Interestingly enough, I received a phone call from none other than Michael Dennis. Yes, the same Michael Dennis that I wrote about yesterday. He was alive and well on that particular April 1st. He was serving on the Call Committee at Sierra Lutheran, my former congregation in California. My family and I had just moved to Oregon, less than a year earlier, to serve another congregation. He was calling to see if I would consider returning to Sierra as their pastor. “Is this a joke?”, I asked. “No joke”, he said. That opened the door to a period of time that would get worse before it got better.

We heard the sobering news from President Trump yesterday that this Covid19 pandemic is going to get worse before it gets better. I know many of you have faced situations in which your life has become worse before it has gotten better. You have faced cancer and had to endure chemotherapy. You have faced strokes and had to persevere through physical therapy. Some of you have lost your jobs, financial security and retirement and had to fight your way back. Many of you have lost spouses or loved ones, and have had to adjust to life alone. There are many other situations in which people have had to face circumstances that have become worse before they have gotten better.

Hearing the President’s words yesterday and waking up wide eyed this morning at 5:30 a.m., a flood of memories ran through my mind. I thought I might share a snapshot of my own “worst” experience before it got better.

That April Fools phone call from Michael Dennis would end up taking us back to Sierra Lutheran in Central California. Over the next three years it just seemed like things went from bad to worse. When we moved back, we couldn’t afford to buy a house because house prices had increased. We ended up living in 6 different locations over the next 18 months – a guest house, a mountain cabin, an apartment over a garage – finally culminating in living in our 23-foot trailer in the back of our church parking lot. We took showers from a hose at the church with our bathing suits on. No joke! We definitely had to look like fools lathering up for the whole world to see. But actually, the kids and I had quite a bit of fun jumping around on the hot concrete. I know, I’m not arguing that I am a fool and a few other things!

Church life was struggling. Family life was struggling. Snow storms delayed the building of our home. Finally, on my 43rd birthday, during a Bible study, my doctor called and said the results of my colonoscopy showed cancer. I would have surgery the following week and spend the following 8-10 weeks at home. Being locked down at home was probably my “worst” moment. But in the darkness of that moment, GOD RESTORED MY SOUL! Little did I know that the worst was going to become my best!

Why I mentioned earlier about waking wide eyed at 5:30 a.m. is because, after my surgery, God woke me up told me that He needed to spend time with me. I am not, by nature, an early morning person, but for those next weeks of recovery, I woke up with ease and met God in his Word from 5:30 a.m. until 7:00a.m. God opened my eyes to his Word, showed me things I had never seen before, and healed my heart as only he could. Before my surgery, my soul was dry as dust. I was worn out and beaten down from all the battles. But God restored my soul and lifted my spirit as King David wrote, “He put a new song in my mouth”. When I returned to church, hearts began to heal. As we settled into our home, our family continued to heal. Physically, emotionally and spiritually, God was moving and God was healing. New life sprung forth in all kinds of directions.

Not long after unity had settled in, I received another call from a Call Committee member. John Homes, from Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church called me. Because of those 5:30 a.m. meetings with the Lord, my heart was full and I felt I truly had something to offer this new congregation in Washington.

For a period of time at Sierra Lutheran, things got worse before they got better. But God did amazing things during that time. How can the most difficult time of my life also be the best time of my life? I’ll tell you with all the confidence that this one soul can confess – it is because of the love, grace, and power of our Lord Jesus Christ! And the truth is, when we moved to Washington, we would face more moments when things would get worse before they got better. But in all things, God has continued to shine His love, grace and power upon us.

St. Paul points us to the truth, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Paul certainly knew what it was for things to get worse before they got better. He describes his life to his congregation in 2 Corinthians chapter 11. He tells them of having been put in prison, flogged, stoned, shipwrecked, and left out on the open sea among other things. Within a few days of Paul’s conversion, his fellow Jews were already plotting to murder him for preaching about Christ. But those initial difficult days gave rise to a mighty evangelist who finished as one of the best and greatest at his craft!

Yes, in the next few weeks, this pandemic is going to get worse before it gets better. And WE NEED TO PRAY for God to Protect, Provide and Pour out his Power on the sick and those serving on the front lines. As we move forward, let us put our trust in God. It might look like foolishness to the world. But know this, from the worst of times, God can turn our worst into our best. If you have a hard time believing, Mary Magdalene and the disciples have a story to tell about one Easter morning.                      

It will get better!

Your Fellow Fool with Foolishness in his heart,

Pastor Mark