Pastor’s Devotions #118

“One Wind Swept January Day”

“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.”
Psalm 39:4

 

It was all gone. Houses turned to match sticks. Memories and belongings turned to rubble. A surprise January tornado struck an unsuspecting town in Alabama. One life was lost. 30 people injured. A destructive pathway was cut through the heart of the town and left an unbelievable wake of wreckage behind. Lives were shattered, tattered and torn to shreds.

Here I stand, on that same January day, mudding and taping and sanding dry wall in my guest house. I have been working and refining for hours – a nick here, and bubble there, a scar sanded away. Such a different experience. I’m watching the eagles fly, while others watched their homes fly. It seems surreal. But who is to say what tomorrow might bring? In one brief moment, surprising winds could whip up on Camano Island and take down a tree and tear through my home. So many things in this world can be ripped right out from under us, just as it did for the people of the crimson tide.   

Tomorrow, we begin the Season of Lent. Lent is to be a time of deep reflection and clearer perspective regarding one’s faith. Tomorrow night, at our Ash Wednesday Worship service – we will be reading probing Scriptures to help us reflect upon the condition and pace of our walk of faith.

We will read about David, looking deeply into his own life as he wrote Psalm 39. He writes, “Lordremind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered, and that my life is fleeting away.” He continues, “We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends to nothing.” He concludes the psalm with these words, “Hear my prayer, O LORD! Listen to my cries for help! Don’t ignore my tears. For I am your guest – a traveler passing through, as my ancestors were before me. Spare me so I can smile again before I am gone and exist no more.”

Yes, we are travelers passing through. So many things can be taken from us in this uncertain world. But one thing can never be torn away. One thing remains certain. The love of God, shown through his Son, Jesus Christ. Lent concludes with Holy Week. And Holy Week concludes with Easter Sunday. All of our reflections and journeys are to lead us to the clear and certain perspective that life is finally, truly found in Him. And the truth is, nothing can separate us from that love in Christ Jesus. We remain safe and secure when we receive Jesus’ final words from Matthew’s Gospel: “Surely, I am with you ALWAYS, to the end of the age.”

No matter what winds are whipped up, may the wind of the Holy Spirit sweep through this Lenten Season and bring you greater strength and greater ability to stand.

Hope to see you tomorrow – Ash Wednesday Worship – 7 p.m.

God Bless You All,
Pastor Mark 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, July 7

“Hiking a New Trail”

“Stay on the path that the Lord your God has commanded you to follow. Then you will live long and prosperous lives in the land you are about to enter and occupy.” Dt. 5:33

Sunday, I was excited to hike a new trail. I brought a change of clothes to church so that I could hit the road right after the worship service. I had a great day. By the end of the hike, the app on my phone said I had recorded 16,500 steps, climbed 38 floors and traveled just over 8 miles. I hiked through terrain in the Glacier Peak Wilderness that I had never seen before. Upon reflection, this hike made me think of the new trail that the early church blazed in the book of Acts. We have been following their movement for the past weeks in worship since Pentecost. They took many steps in their travels, but there were also many steps in their preparation for their missionary hike. I found it interesting to consider the relationship between the two.

My hike didn’t really begin Sunday afternoon nor even Sunday morning. It really began as I started walking with regularity on the road around my house weeks before. As my body began to get in shape, I felt more ready and excited to explore new ground. So, Saturday night, I put my change of clothes in the truck along with my pack, water and a few snacks. After church, I changed clothes and went to Subway for a sandwich. Then I went to Costco to gas up and had to stop at Walmart to pick up my new Discover pass and fishing license. (Interestingly enough, I ran into Bev Klatt, from church as I waited in line.) I finally got on the road and headed toward the town of Darrington. A few miles passed Arlington, I ran into a construction zone which caused a delay. I drove passed the Oso Memorial on Hwy 530, through Darrington and on to Hwy 23. The trailhead was 23 miles further down that road. The road was paved and I was sailing along on a beautiful sunny afternoon. I thought to myself, “If this is the way the road is all the way back to the trailhead, I’ll be there in no time.” Unfortunately, a few minutes after those thoughts, the pavement came to an abrupt end at mile marker 10. The final 13 miles were marked with potholes and deep divots such that the impact would throw my coffee cup out of the cup holder. It took me over an hour and a half to cover the last 13 miles. After feeling like I had been riding a bucking bronco for over 90 minutes, I finally arrived at the Suiattle Pass Trailhead. As I backed into my spot, a passerby cautioned me that the signs indicated that backing in was illegal. By this time, it was 4:00 p.m. I put on my pack, said hello to a few hikers who were finishing for the day, and set out on the trail. The trail was well worn and well-marked. The path meandered under a canopy of trees and alongside a river with a strong, steady current. Sunlight broke through the trees and cast shadows upon the trail. It was quiet and peaceful. Almost too quiet. My mind drifted to news reports that I had heard of animal attacks and hikers disappearing. I could feel a slight wave of fear began to creep up my neck and wash over me. I wondered if an animal on the prowl would be able to detect this creeping fear. I reached for my canister of bear spray just in case. I realized that if I had a hiking companion, these thoughts and feelings wouldn’t even enter into my mind. Yet with a companion, I also would not experience this solitude. After a couple of miles, I found myself humming some worship songs to myself. Then I realized that I was in the wilderness, completely alone, so I began to sing out loud. The more I sang, the more peace that seemed to follow. I finally came upon another hiker. He looked like he had been on the trail a long time. He was carrying a full load and fatigue registered clearly across his face. We greeting one another and quickly departed going in opposite directions. I set a timer at 75 minutes to mark my turn around. Soon, the timer went off. I walked a bit further, hoping to find a substantial marker or clearing but the trail just continued to wander off into the distance. I took a few pics and enjoyed a peaceful walk back to my truck at the trailhead. I took a bathroom break, rehydrated and bounced and banged my way back along Hwy 23. A new trail. A new adventure. A satisfying day! As I drove home, I hungered for more. Perhaps the next trail will be down Cascade Hwy. I couldn’t wait to get home and search the map.

The early church, as recorded in the book of Acts, was hiking a new trail. They had been clothed in Christ, and fed and fueled by the Holy Spirit, but their travels began long before Easter and Pentecost. The trail began 3 years earlier, when many of them accepted the Call to follow Jesus and become fishers of men. These new followers of Jesus devoted themselves to learning, trusting and training in something new. They were beginning a spiritual strengthening that would result in their wanting more. The road was anything but easy. They were confused. There were delays. There was fear. They argued among themselves and were corrected on many occasions. All seemed to be lost after their master’s death on the cross. But that Easter morning sparked a new beginning. They received some simple directions to the trailhead. They were going to meet in Galilee and then return to Jerusalem. They bounced around, wondering where all this was going to lead them. They were told to wait in Jerusalem for the gift of power that would fuel them on their journey. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit arrived on the day of Pentecost and they were gassed up. Mighty winds, tongues like flames and intelligible languages were being spoken, declaring the greatness of God. Suddenly, they were filled and empowered and ready to hit the trail. As they began their hike, they greeted passersby with the glory of God, and declared that Jesus was truly their long-awaited Messiah. These new believers carried with them a fear of God that resulted in a washing over in awe and reverence for the living God. There was no need for a canister of bear spray, nor their finger to be held on the trigger, for the Word of God was their sword and strength. And in times of trial, when chained and imprisoned, these men let out a song of praise to their God who they knew would provide and protect them. When these men were released, and they had finished marching that particular trail, they gathered together in eager expectation for their next adventure and waited to see which trailhead the Spirit would lead to next.

As God prepares us to lead each of us, and our church on to a new spiritual trailhead, consider the intentional training that has already occurred. Make sure that you have changed your clothes and have dressed yourself in the grace of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Then stop and be filled up and fueled up with the Holy Spirit so that you can travel the long trail. Pick up your discover card. You have rights and privileges as children of God and while the card is costly – in Jesus’ death on the cross – it is available to you free of charge and gives you access to the high country. Don’t worry about the driving delays, potholes and divots in the road. Rest easy, take your time, you will arrive before the day is over. The Son will shine, the river will run, the LORD will be your shade at your right hand – and He will watch over your life. Embrace the moment. Walk the well-worn trail. You will not be alone. You will sing praises to the Lord and see the bountiful goodness of your God. And as you bounce your way home, I pray that you will be eager to search your map and scout out the next possible trail that God will open to you.

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 30

“Antivirus”

Jesus said, “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” John 16:7

 

Lately, every time I turn on my computer, I’m flashed with a reminder that I need to update my Malware Protection. Given our isolation, that update has not been possible. The national news also has been regularly reporting that hackers are on the rise. They are reminding us to take serious action in protecting our personal information and passwords.

Tomorrow we celebrate Pentecost. Pentecost is the event that marks the official beginning of the Christian Church. More than that, it is the moment which makes available the power of God to rest and reside within each individual believer.

This power of the Holy Spirit transformed the disciples’ lives and transported them forward into the world proclaiming the salvation found in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit also provides protection. The Holy Spirit can be seen as one who protects our personal faith against hackers, namely Satan. I came across this article entitled: “Antivirus: Holy Spirit.” It might be helpful in considering the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

ANTIVIRUS: HOLY SPIRIT

Jesus said in verse 7 of John 16, “For if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”

Jesus was God in the flesh, of course. He could have spoken this world out of existence at any given time, but I would like to use an illustration of the Holy Spirit to those who use the computer and realize what a great tool it is for the cause of Christ.

Before you accept Christ as your Savior, you are full of sin without any hope of living the life that Jesus calls more abundant. You have been given a death sentence. While you are here on this Earth, you learn and fill your memory full of things–even good things–that will get you nowhere with God. It’s like a computer with no protection and full of viruses and things that are not useful and headed for self-destruction.

Satan, the extreme virus that invades your mind. (Hard drive) When you accept Jesus as your Savior, there are a few things that happen when you do:

First of all, God sends the Holy Spirit to live inside you. Jesus said He comes: he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. The Greek word for “reprove” is elegchô which means “to convict.”

Number 1. He convicts us of our sin. (He scans us and calls for removal)

Number 2. He was raised from the dead that you and I could not only have our sins subtracted, but so we could have His righteousness added. (Sin is deleted and the antivirus takes over)

Number 3. He convicts of judgment: It’s not the judgment that is to come. This world has already been judged, and it’s guilty of sin. (Romans 3:23) For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. We are guilty, and the Holy Spirit speaks to us and shows us that we are only filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) in the sight of God, but because of Jesus, we are accepted and forgiven by His grace and mercy. (We see the need for an antivirus because we are vulnerable to all)

When you ask Jesus into your heart, it’s as if you download a file in your computer for an antivirus program, except this is a living holy being called the Holy Spirit and the subscription will last forever.

It’s the third of the trinity, Father (God), Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit (indwells the believer) We need the Holy Spirit as our computers need an antivirus. There are many brand names of the program, but there is only one that works. There is only one that never needs updating, always the same yesterday, today and forever. Best of all it’s free for the asking. (Romans 10: 9-10)

Tomorrow, as we celebrate Pentecost, let us acknowledge our need and give thanks to God for his Malware Protection Plan!  Thank you, Holy Spirit. Empower us all to a deeper faith in Jesus Christ!

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 29

“The Water is Running!”

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Bless You All!  

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 27

“God on Display”

“You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.” Psalm 77:14

 

God delivered the people of Israel from Egypt by performing miracles of great power. God delivered 10 plagues that put God’s power on display for all to see. This displayed power led to Israel’s freedom.

In Psalm 77, King David recalls God’s great power. He writes, “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.” (77:11). He goes on to say, “Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.” (77:13)

God’s power can be seen on display in the past. His power can also be seen on display in creation. Paul writes in Romans 1:20, “Since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”

Beyond creation, God’s power can be seen on display through the cross. Even though the world considers the cross foolishness, Paul says that it is the power of God for all who are saved. He says that the Jews seek miraculous signs and the Greek look for wisdom but they are ignorant of God’s ways. Paul states, “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.”

God’s power is even displayed in Paul’s weakness. Paul learns more about God’s power as he prays for healing. He describes pleading with God, 3 times regarding a “thorn in his flesh.” But God wants Paul to understand the perfect display of God’s power. Paul records God’s reply, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Additionally, Jesus tells his disciples that God’s power will be put on display when the promised gift of the Father comes upon them. Jesus states, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Jesus describes that they will put God’s power on display when they have received the Holy Spirit and witness about the truth. This takes place when Peter and John heal a lame man in the temple courts. They are brought before the Sanhedrin and asked by what power this man was healed. Peter responds, “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.” (Acts 4:10)

Peter and John put God on display in front of a powerful group of men, in a mighty way.

But this week, I watched a news story about Monica Salinas. Monica displayed God in a mighty yet very ordinary, unassuming way.

Monica is a delivery driver for Amazon. She was bringing a delivery to the home of Lucas Pearson. Lucas is an 8-month old baby with a critical heart condition. His health makes him extremely vulnerable to Covid19. Because of this vulnerability, Lucas’ parents have only been ordering food and supplies to the house throughout this pandemic. That day, when Monica delivered the supplies to Lucas’ family, something special happened. Something special was recorded; unbeknownst to Monica. When Lucas’ mom looked through the doorbell camera, she realized that Monica was doing something besides delivering the order. In a wonderful, simple, yet mighty way, God was put on display. For Monica paused and prayed to God for little Lucas and his family. This small gesture was caught on camera and has allowed millions of people to see God displayed through a loving, humble believer.   

Thank you, Monica for your humble, quiet, faithful example that has set God on a platter for so many to see.  

Let us Pray:

“Thank you, Father, for being worthy of all our praise! Thank you for being our Provider and Protector! Guide us, that we may put you on display in simple ways, in ordinary ways, in any way that will lift you up. In Jesus’ Name.” Amen.

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark     



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 9

“Isaiah 55”

So is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me void, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11

 

Devotion day 55 has led me to Isaiah 55. The prophet records powerful words that we need to hear today. I’m going to include the entire chapter below so that you can breathe in this Word of God for yourselves.

In Isaiah 55:8, I love the reminder that God’s thoughts are not my thoughts and His ways are not my ways. This word means that I must re-orient my thinking and re-evaluate my actions. Left to my own thoughts and decision making, my conclusions will not align with God’s will. This word demands that I  listen for God’s Word and understand the language of the Spirit in which He speaks. This is not a natural response. It requires a determination of my will to surrender to Him and open my heart to follow his lead. God needs to initiate and we are to obey in order to walk within His will.

Jesus knew this word. In John 8:28, Jesus said, “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” He goes on, “The One who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” Jesus demonstrated his greatest love for his Father as he walked in obedience to his will. Jesus’ human thoughts led him to consider walking away from the cross. But it was his sacrificial love and obedience to his Father’s word that would guide him as a suffering servant and become the Way of salvation for all.

I also love Isaiah 55:11. “So is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return void, but will accomplish what I desire.” If God’s Word is spoken, it will enact change! The one thing that God’s Word will not do is leave conditions status quo. If our church or our personal lives remain status quo, it means we have not received his Word – spoken from his mouth. Sometimes Christians make the mistake believing it is enough to put the words of the Bible in their brains. If the words of Scripture are not combined with the Spirit, the word can easily return empty. It is the power of the Spirit that enacts change. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day, believed that the Law was God. So also, some Christians mistakenly believe the Bible to be God. This belief will quickly turn Christians into Pharisees. Jesus speaks to the Pharisees, “You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent.” (John 5:37-38) He continues, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39)

God spoke His Word into the writers of Scriptures. They recorded his Word for us and the world. But His Word must also be written upon our hearts. The Holy Spirit is the one who brings God’s Word alive to us today. When the Spirit is moving, the Scriptures explode with wisdom, revelation and truth! If we do not have a relationship with Christ, the Gospel truth can quickly be converted into legalism and Law. Without knowing it, we can find ourselves to simply be a new version of a New Testament Pharisee. How do we guard against “Phariseeism”? We check our hearts and determine whether we are living in LOVE or living in JUDGMENT of others. A Pharisee stands in the place of God to judge others. A Follower of Christ stands in the gap to love others and surrenders judgment to God.

Most of Jesus’ words bounced off the hearts of the Pharisees. But the Bible records Jesus speaking many words that exploded with power, revealing Him to be the Son of God. In Matthew 8:1, Jesus spoke to a leper, “Be Clean!”, and he was cleansed. In Mark 4:39, Jesus spoke to the waves, “Quiet, Be Still!” and they died down. In Mark 5:8, Jesus spoke to demons in a possessed man, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!”, and they fled. In Matthew 9:6, Jesus spoke to a paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home!”, and he went home. In Luke 8:54, Jesus spoke to a 12-year old child who had died, “My child, get up!”, and she arose. In Matthew 21:19, Jesus spoke to a fig tree, “May you never bear fruit again!”, and it never did.

In John 11:43, Jesus spoke to Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, “Lazarus, come out!”, and he walked out of the tomb. In John 20:16, Jesus spoke to Mary on the morning of his resurrection. He spoke her name, “Mary!”, and her life would never be the same.

Do you think God’s Word speaks today? Do you think God’s Word speaks TO YOU today?

As Peter confessed the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead and that they were witnesses of that fact. Today, I confess to you today, that I am a witness to the fact that Jesus still speaks! If you have not heard his voice in your heart, something wonderful is awaiting you. It is not an audible voice. But our hearts need to be tuned into his frequency. He is speaking; often we just are not tuned in. Ask him to speak. Invite him to reveal His Word to you. Jesus promised in John 10:2-3, “The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

Jesus speaks in, with, and under the Scriptures. Just as Jesus is in, with, and under the elements of Holy Communion, so too in His Word. More than that, He can speak at any moment. His Word will always confirm the words of Scripture.

Years ago, I remember a young adult standing at the altar of our church. He was waiting to receive communion. He was the son of a member in the congregation. As is typical of young people, he had drifted away from the faith. Little did I know, in that moment, the Spirit of God would speak to Matt and leave him changed. In coming years, he felt the call to overseas missions. He packed up his family, moved to Africa, and has never felt more fulfilled.

God is not going to call all of us to Africa. But the Spirit of God is going to call us in ways that are not our own ways, nor will they be our thoughts. But his Word will leave us changed, knowing that He still speaks today.

Let us surrender our thoughts and ways to the Lord. Let us go forth, listening, learning, receiving, waiting, looking, anticipating God to speak – and then wait for him to speak again.

On this beautiful, 80 degree day – Let the full force of God’s Word wash over you and speak:

Invitation to the Thirsty

55 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
    a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

12 You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
    and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
    for an everlasting sign,
    that will endure forever.”

 

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark

 

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 21

“Inspiration”

Moved by the Spirit, Simeon went into the temple courts.” Luke 2:27

Captain Tom Moore is a veteran of World War II. He served in the British Armed Forces. He is now, 100 years old. A few weeks before his 100th birthday, Capt. Moore recognized the stress and strain the pandemic had placed upon the U.K. Healthcare System. He was inspired with an idea. Perhaps he could help support this war effort of another kind, by raising some additional funds. His inspiration: If he could walk (with the aid of his walker) 100 laps alongside his garden, perhaps people might be willing to donate toward the healing of a nation. His goal was to walk 10 laps for 10 days. He was hoping to raise $1000 pounds (roughly $1,200.00 U.S.). Ten days before his 100th birthday he began the ten-day challenge. The people of England were immediately inspired and the pounds began to pour in. Because of the rush of funds, a few days later his goal of $1000 pounds was pushed to $500,000 pounds. With each passing day, the excitement grew and the money continued to come. Money poured in from all different directions. At the end of the 10th day, after Capt. Moore finished his final lap, more than $16 million dollars had been raised. It’s amazing what a little inspiration can do!

One is never too old and it is never too late to provide some inspiration. The Bible tells us that Simeon, an elderly gentleman, was righteous and devout. We do not know exactly how old he was, but we know he was waiting in Jerusalem for a long while. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that before he died, he would see the Lord’s Christ. We are told that the Holy Spirit was upon him. Finally, one day, he was inspired by the Spirit to go to the temple courts. At just the right time, Simeon crossed paths with Mary and Joseph as they came to present Jesus as was the custom of the Law. Simon recognized the moment, and with excitement raised the boy in his arms and praised God. Simeon’s inspiration: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-30) It’s amazing what a little inspiration can declare!

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Simeon didn’t raise financial support for a cause but he did raise his voice for the cause of salvation. Simeon was not thinking about helping a healthcare system, but his eyes were laid upon the Healer that would bring life and hope to the sin sick world.

Are you increasing in years? It does not mean that your productive days are over. Capt. Moore, as a centenarian is still providing inspiration to a nation. His two copper coins of effort raised the attention of a country in a time of need. Inspiration rises when one heart touches another. Perhaps we should call him a “centurion” of another kind! Certainly, the heart of this soldier touched the heart of the nation.

Likewise, Simeon, waning in years, was moved by the Spirit and inspired to declare hope for a world in need. He was chosen as one in waiting, along with Anna, the 84 year-old prophetess, to witness the coming of the King. They will stand forever as inspiration to us all. Hearts that touched the heart of God.  

A little inspiration can go a long way. Young or old, wait for him. Let the inspiration come. Who knows, you may raise the attention and lift the burden of someone in need.

May God’s heart continue to touch yours with the inspired truth: A Light has truly been revealed.

Yours in Christ, Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 20

“Spillover”

“Jesus gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs.” Mark 5:13

 

An article in a recent National Geographic issue estimates that there are 10 nonillioin (10 to the 31st power) individual viruses on our planet.  Most of these viruses are not poised to hop into humans. Viruses infiltrate every aspect of our natural world but they can only replicate themselves with the help of a host. Sara Sawyer, virologist and disease ecologist at University of Colorado, Boulder, says that these pathogens are extraordinarily picky about the cells they infect. She says that only an infinitesimally small fraction of the viruses that surround us actually pose any threat to humans. But as this Covid19 pandemic clearly demonstrates, outbreaks of a new human virus do happen.

The National Geographic article goes on to state that most new infectious illnesses enter the human population as a zoonosis, or a disease that infects people by way of an animal. In order to make a successful transition from one species to another, the virus must clear a series of biological hurdles. The pathogen has to exist in one animal and come into contact with another. After that, the pathogen has to establish an infection in the second host. This transition is called a “spillover” event. After the virus has set up shop in a new host, it then needs to spread to other members of that species.

The world is focusing its global effort to locate the original “spillover” event. I thought it might be interesting to consider the concept of “spillover” from a spiritual perspective.

The Gospel of Mark describes a pretty incredible “spillover” event. In chapter five, (Mark 5:1-20) Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee to the region of the Garasenes. He met a man who was filled with an evil spirit and who lived among the dead. This man was host to a demon virus. The virus had so infected this man that he was uncontrollable. No one could subdue him. He tore chains apart and broke the irons around his feet. The infection was destroying him and causing him to bleed but the virus still needed its host. The demoniac saw Jesus from a distance and screamed at the top of his lungs, “What do you want with me, Jesus Son of the Most High God?” The demon virus recognized its enemy even when no one else did. The virus appealed to the Son of God to not torture him. Jesus commanded the spiritual infection to be drawn out of the man. Jesus asked the demon its name. The virus said its name was, “Legion – for we are many.” The virus had completely spread through the man’s body. What began as a fingerhold infection grew to a foothold, spread into a stronghold, and finally developed into a full-blown possession of the man. The virus was relentless and wanted to go to war with Jesus but it did not have the power. It begged Jesus over and over again to not eradicate them. The legion of demons saw a herd of pigs on a nearby hillside. They beg Jesus to initiate a “spillover”. They begged Jesus to send them into pigs. The demons who had a home in a human species, wanted to be spilled over into another animal species. Jesus gave them the ok. The new host did not react to the infection in the same way as the human. The 2000 pigs rush down the steep bank and into the lake and drowned. The spillover infection was unsuccessful for the demons. The spillover event for the human healed and set him free.

Tens of thousands of lives have been lost because of a zoonosis that has spilled over from animal to human. The Gospels report a host of miracles that Jesus performed beyond human understanding. It is interesting to consider, once again, the power of the Son of God, who has the power and ability to initiate a spiritual zoonosis between spiritual demons and a human being. Some people may consider this conversation nonsense because they believe there is no such thing as real-life spiritual demons. Yet Jesus consistently acknowledges the presence of Satan. As Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, one primary petition is to “deliver us from evil”. Not only that, but if we want to be most accurate, the translation is, “deliver us from the Evil One.” Jesus also tells Peter that Satan has asked to sift him like wheat during their Last Supper. Jesus tells Peter that he is praying for him. Then St. Paul acknowledges in Ephesians 6:12, that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Paul encourages the believers put on the full armor of God so that they can, “take their stand against the devil’s schemes.”

Virologists tell us that a virus needs an available host, overcome a number of variables and spread among other members of the species. I believe the spread of a spiritual virus can be seen in a variety of contexts in Scripture. One fundamental symptom of spiritual sickness is fear. Is this why the most common command from the messengers of God is, “Do not be afraid”? Could this command be to calm an individual but also to command the spirit of fear to flee? Do you suffer from fear? One treats the symptom of fear with faith – it is a faith which is administered by the Spirit of God. Fear has to flee when faith is confessed in the living God!

The spread of a spiritual virus showing symptoms of fear can be seen with the nation of Israel recorded in Numbers chapter 13. The nation of Israel was preparing to enter the Promised Land. At God’s direction, Moses, commanded a number of spies to explore the land of Canaan. When the explorers returned they gave their report to the nation. They initially might have looked asymptomatic but they were already carriers of the virus. They brought back this infection of fear and spread it to all the others. The virus had spread to all the explorers except Joshua and Caleb. Joshua and Caleb had antibodies that fought off the infection – they had faith in God. The hosts who carried the infection quickly infected the rest of the nation. They reported that the nations in Canaan were filled with giants and large cities that were fortified and powerful. The infection spread like wildfire. The whole community, consumed with fear, wept out loud and threatened to kill their leaders – Moses and Aaron. The consequence of this epidemic was tragic. Thousands of lives were lost. Eventually an entire generation died off. The entire nation was called to turn around and were led into quarantine for 40 years in the wilderness. The older, high risk, generation never made it back. The younger generation would be given another opportunity to combat the virus and enter into the Promised Land. Would this new generation fight off the fear and hold on to the faith? Joshua and Caleb, the ones who had immunity during the first wave, joined the second wave, and made their homes in the land God had promised them. Faith brought them into the land of milk and honey.

That same stubborn virus of fear can be seen among Jesus’ disciples. They battled a storm on the Sea of Galilee. They also battled the fear that made its presence known. Fear infected the disciples and it quickly spread throughout the boat. Peter seemed to be somewhat immune. He had enough faith to call out to Jesus and he begged him to walk on the water. Peter stepped out onto the sea and began to walk on the water. He felt the wind and saw the waves and the virus pulled him down. He began to sink with the illness. Peter cried out to be saved. His Savior immediately caught him and injected him with the antidote. Faith swelled. Jesus called to the storm, “Be Still!”. He turned to his other disciples and calmed their fears. And Just like the demoniac, the virus was drowned.

As believers, over and above the worrying about a virus that might spill over from one species to another, consider the “spill over” of the Spirit. Without God, we are empty vessels. Left to ourselves, all sorts of things can fill our jars of clay. But God has promised his Holy Spirit to be spilled into us. Paul says in Ephesians 5:18, “Be filled with the Spirit”. He also says in 2 Corinthians 4:7 that we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” The vaccine and antibodies that will defend us against the virus and infections of fear and any other demonic virus is found in the person of Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit.

The Spirit of God fills our weakened jars of clay. As his Spirt continues to fill its host, the remaining infection of sin and contamination of fear spills out. The Spirit fills us with love, joy, peace, patience and a host of other wonderful spiritual fruits. And because our vessels contain cracks, it is key that the antidote of the Spirit continues to be spilled into us -not just for a two-week time but for a lifetime.

Yes, there are a nonillioin number of viruses in the world. We only need 1 vaccine that will protect us from every existing spiritual virus – Jesus Christ. He is our vaccine and it is administered to us through the Holy Spirit. Your shot is waiting for you. All you have to do is ask. I guarantee that unlike Covid19 tests at your local hospital – you will not be denied!

I pray that His spillover, may spill over in to all the lives around you!

God Bless You All!    

Pastor Mark

 

 

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 18

“The Dream”

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Ps 73:26

 

I woke up today tired. Tigger, my kitty, was relentlessly chatting at me that it was mealtime. I heated up a cup of leftover coffee and slipped beneath the blanket on the couch. I put on Pandora, exhaled a long sigh and tried to drink in some praise.

I closed my eyes, and asked the Holy Spirit to come. I called on Jesus and the Heavenly Father to meet me. I needed them – all three – in One. I had thoughts about a devotion for the day but they were just rumblings. My head was in a fog and nothing felt quite right. I asked for something more. I asked for something real. “Lord”, I prayed, “I want to write about something deep.”

Immediately, I remembered the dream.

Last night I had a dream. I don’t know the time that the dream played out in my mind, but can tell you it returned to me clear as crystal.

Doors of a café opened. I entered and began to walk across the floor. At a distance I saw one of my longtime friends. He is a soulmate in the Lord. We have journeyed long and far. We have not talked in years but that means nothing. What we have experienced together, the bond is deeper than time and miles.

I saw people sitting at various tables. The tables and the people were gathered comfortably together with generous room between them. Chris rose from one of the tables to meet me. He had that typical smirky smile on his face. He looked down and opened his arms and brought around that huge hug just like old times.

We moved away from the others to a table of our own in the back. We began to catch up. It was as if no time had gone by. We fell right back into comfortable conversation just like we had been together the day before.

To my left, a young girl, around five years old joined us. She was playful and warm. It’s funny, but another word I would use to describe her was “genuine”. She had straight brown hair that hung to her shoulders. She wore a comfortable cotton dress and her face displayed surprising self-assurance. The comfort I felt as she approached was striking. It’s as if she belonged with us but I didn’t know who she was. I looked around wondering who she was with, but it was as if she was alone. She remained with us.

Chris began to tell me about some of the physical challenges he had faced recently. Someone else approached our table and he began to share with him as well. Our meal was served but I did not notice what food was on our plates. We then grabbed hands together to pray. The young girl moved around between us and our hands formed a circle. Holding her hand, I noticed a warmth and comfort. It felt like wearing a well-worn glove. There was no hesitation; it was as if she reached out for our hands first. It was as if we were surrounded by something wonderful and familiar, and sure.  

The thought crossed my mind that maybe we shouldn’t be holding hands. Because of social distancing, maybe we should separate, but that concern immediately faded away.  We bowed our heads and we gave God our thanks.

Wow! What does this dream mean? I’m not completely sure. Why was this dream given now? I don’t know.

I did not awake from sleep this morning aware of a eureka moment. In the moment, I was feeling fatigued. But then, from a place of weakness, God brought to my remembrance something deep. As the cobwebs cleared, I thought, “Could this have been a kind of glimpse of heaven?” What does heaven look like? I’m not sure. John certainly gives us an incredible glimpse of glory in the book of Revelation. What I do know is what I felt – warmth, comfort, friendship, food, love, concern, embrace, hands held in prayer. I felt the love of a child. I felt hands connected in unity. And right now, I can feel the tears run down my cheeks as I recall this moving moment. 

There is so much we do not know. Jesus told his disciples during his final meal with them, “I have so much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:12) Could there be various pictures of heaven that are all woven in unity? People who have died and been given a glimpse of heaven, they recall the endless melodies of music yet they are all harmonious being played in unity. Whatever awaits us in heaven, the one thing we can be assured of – it all centers around Jesus Christ. All love, peace, feasting, prayer, honor and praise will gather around the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. For our God is Alive. He has Risen and He lives forever. AS WILL WE! Hallelujah!!

P.S. – That young girl who brought so much comfort? You might have already guessed. My hunch – Thank you Holy Spirit! Thank you for something deep! Continue to hold our hands!

I praise you, Lord, with all my heart! Indeed, it is another Holy Saturday!

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark  

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy,             your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” Joel 2:28



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 17

“X-Ray Eyes”

Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”     John 3:3

Jesus had a conversation with Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, under the cover of darkness. They talked about spiritual things. Nicodemus could not understand the things of which Jesus spoke. Jesus said that spiritual sight required being born again. He also said that entrance into God’s Kingdom involved being born of water and the Spirit. In both cases, Jesus said that seeing and entry requires the work of the Holy Spirit. Nicodemus knew nothing of the ways of the Holy Spirit. Sadly, the Christian church has often left its people knowing very little about this very important person of God as well.

As a boy, growing up in the 1960’s, one of my favorite television programs was Superman. There have been countless remakes of the superhero story. The one I remember most is the series played by George Reeves. George starred in the series from 1952-1958. Tragically, he died either by suicide, by accident or was a murder victim. A mystery remains surrounding his death. The Superman superhero had great strength and could fly as fast as a speeding bullet. He also had x-ray vision that allowed him to see through buildings and other solid objects. His x-ray vision helped him see people in need and he was able to come to their rescue. Perhaps we can look to the Holy Spirit as one who can truly give us x-ray vision and the ability to see those in need.

A week ago, on Good Friday, we remembered Jesus’ death on the cross. Like George Reeves, Jesus’ death was tragic. But it’s not Jesus’ death that is shrouded in mystery. It is very clear why Jesus died. The religious leaders trumped up charges about Jesus. They raised a riotous crowd. Pontius Pilate couldn’t handle the pressure and finally gave Jesus over to crucifixion. Certainly, those were the physical terms of the account. But shrouded under these physical circumstances, a more mysterious spiritual condition was being dealt with. No one had spiritual eyes to see the moment for what it was. No one had x-ray vision to see the spiritual implications. If someone had x-ray eyes, they would have understood that these conditions were all planned by God–that God orchestrated all these events in order that his Son would pay the spiritual price for the sins of the world. Spiritually speaking, Jesus brought redemption to a broken world held under curse of sin. All this was plainly hidden in full view for people who were not able to see. Yes, the Prophets wrote and spoke about this redemption, but no one truly saw it coming.

Jesus had x-ray eyes. He saw everything clearly as it unfolded. Jesus told Nathaniel he saw him under a fig tree before Philip called him. (John 1:48) Jesus saw the woman at the well near Sychar. Jesus spiritually “saw” this woman who had five husbands and the woman confessed, “He told me everything I ever did.” (John 4:39) Jesus also “saw” the Pharisees’ traps. Knowing their evil intent, he said to them, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me.” (Matthew 22:18)

Last week, I watched an interesting program about the Dead Sea Scrolls. It wasn’t the scrolls that caught my attention but rather a lump of coal from En gedi. Yes, the program discussed the discovery and preservation of ancient manuscripts found in the Qumran caves. But my curiosity was piqued when the conversation shifted to a discussion about lumps of coal discovered in a synagogue in En gedi. The coal was believed to be the charred remains of ancient manuscripts. No one could begin to read them. And virtually no one could believe that there was anything left to read from these small, hard, crumbly black pieces of ash. It would take x-ray eyes to see for sure. Enter two men from Kentucky. These two men created a CAT Scan machine that is 1000 times stronger than any CAT scan in a regular hospital. They took those black clumps of coal and under the x-ray machine, cut through them electronically over 2,000 times. From those 2,000 slices, thy laid out and pieced together what was hidden inside. It seemed like a truly magical, mysterious, miraculous effort. They were able to reconstruct something that was believed to have been completely lost. To the naked eye, there was nothing to see. To x-ray eyes, the two from Kentucky uncovered the oldest section of the Old Testament next to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

What a discovery!

To see God’s Kingdom beyond crumbly random bits of coal, it will require x-ray vision. We need spiritual eyes to see what others can’t. The Holy Spirit has been given to us that we might be able to slice through people’s rough exteriors and hard hearts to see their real hurt and need. The Holy Spirit can give us the power to see things hidden in history and the history we are currently living through that we might have hope.   

Plenty of people have played plenty of superheroes in movies. But there has only been one Superman who has truly had x-ray vision. Jesus Christ could see right through people in order that he might heal, love and redeem them. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit that we also might be able to see those in need and provide hope. Our true superhero, Jesus, told his disciples on the first night of his resurrected rebirth, “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” We are not sent out on our own, nor all alone. Jesus has sent the promised Holy Spirit, the comforter, to be WITH us and live IN us – the one who provides x-ray vision.   

No more mysteries. The secret has been revealed. And God knows everything we need to know.

“And when you pray, do not be like the pagans, for your Father knows what you need even before you ask him.” Matthew 6:8

In Christ,

Pastor Mark