Pastor’s Devotions, #104

“You Will Never Die!”

Jesus said, “Whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:26

 

For the last nine months, on a daily basis, we have watched the media tally up the growing number of people dying due to Covid19. There are questions about the counting and whether the number should be larger or smaller – but in the end, the conversation centers upon death.

As human beings, we all share a similar fate. At some future date, we will breath our last and our life on this earth will be finished. As your pastor, I deal with death on a regular basis. And I would say that it’s pretty safe to say, I THINK about death AND life, every single day. Recently, Bill Williams and Doris Hatlen passed away.  Bill and Doris were wonderful, faithful, loving people that I had the privilege of knowing. Annabelle Birkestol passed away a few weeks ago and I will miss seeing her frail yet strong, faithful presence in the front row of the sanctuary every Sunday as we worshipped together.

Don’t get stuck thinking about death, keep reading!

Growing up in the church, with my dad, as a pastor, incidents of the sick and dying were a regular part of our life. Then, when my mom passed away in 1987, at the age 56, due to breast/liver cancer – death became much more personal. When my dad died in 2016, realizing that he was no longer there to lean on, there came a moment when the pall of death hung like a shroud over my shoulders. I can remember a moment when the magnitude of living this one momentary life hit me squarely between my eyes. The reality is that life on earth is but a breath. There is no going back, no do over’s, no second tries or repeats. When our life is over, it is over, really over – FOREVER. That seeming reality hit me like a sledge hammer and came on like a wave that swept me under, pulling me to a place of emptiness.

Don’t get stuck thinking about death, keep reading!

I wandered and wondered and wrestled in my mind over this experience for quite a while. Upon reflection, perhaps it was a type of Jacob wrestling or Jesus’ workout in the wilderness.

But by the grace of God, I did not get stuck thinking about death. I was given a gift! Keep reading!

I was given the opportunity, in my soul, to experience, what I would describe as “humanity without hope”. Looking at life through purely human eyes, there is a definite start and finish, and a clearly placed period at the end of our days. No more words – no more sentences – no more adjectives or adverbs – only blank white space.

Keep reading!

But Jesus came and sent the Holy Spirit to us, that we would see life and death and our future not through human eyes but with spiritual eyes! Life on this earth has a certain timetable, but life with God is eternal. This eternal life can only be seen and experienced spiritually. Jesus said, “The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” (John 6:63) Paul expresses it this way, “The body that is sown perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44)

Can you see it? Do you believe it? This is the question Jesus posed to Martha upon his arrival at the mourning of her brother, Lazarus who had died.

Jesus said to Martha, “I AM the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Did you hear Jesus’ claim? He made quit an audacious and humanly speaking, unbelievable statement! He said that whoever lives and believes in him, WILL NEVER DIE! Recently, there has been so much talk about death, I think it is easy to lose the reality of life! Looking with human eyes, yes, the reality is that we all die. Yet, looking with spiritual eyes, the reality is, WE WILL NEVER DIE! When we close our eyes and breathe our last on this earth, in the next moment, our next reality will be opening our eyes to Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven that he has prepared for us, standing before us.

According to Jesus, Bill, Doris and Annabelle, as followers who lived and believed in him, never died – they continued to LIVE! Certainly, I watched each of my parents take their final breath here on earth, but it was the beginning of a new life in the Kingdom of God. Jesus guaranteed this inheritance through the presence of his Holy Spirit. Each one left their physical bodies behind and put on their spiritual bodies. In the blink of an eye, they went home, their true home, and all of earth’s experiences faded with importance. They stood before the throne of grace. All their pressing questions needed not to be asked because they were in the presence of eternal Truth. It’s not that their questions would not have value nor their identity on earth any significance, but their true identity has now been defined, clothed and created in Jesus Christ in a new way. Many things, we come to find out, even in this life, do not carry the weight or concern that they once did. (And we hear this confident, convincing confession of this truth from every single individual who has experienced a glimpse of Heaven and returned to tell their regal account.)

Since that time of personally experiencing, what I would call, the fear of human hopelessness, the Spirit of God has filled that void. God has poured more of his Spirit within me. New life and its certainty has emerged more fully. One marker of this outpouring has been the ability to write a continual stream of devotions for weeks on end during this pandemic. Yes, there will be plenty of dry days ahead, and I am sure more times that the Spirit will lead me down another path into the wilderness, but Life has revealed itself. Death has lost its sting!

Are you still reading? One final thought.

We are promised that we will NEVER die. So also, life in the Spirit and eternity exists TODAY! It emerges more and more as we meditate upon the life we have to live in Him here, than the death our flesh will face out there. Life here and life there – this is Jesus’ promise to us.

The promise is genuine, but the words, at times, can seem a bit hollow. Recently, I read a devotion written by Ravi Zacharias that might be helpful. He wrote about a visit to the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, with his wife and son. He commented how his wife would take her time to study and reflect upon each painting. Ravi, took more of a flyby approaching, glancing at each painting and quickly moving on to the next. Some years later, he reported reading about theologian and author, Henri Nouwen. Nouwen was so captured by a simple poster of Rembrandt’s painting, “The Return of the Prodigal Son”, that he traveled to the same museum in Saint Petersburg just so that he could be in front of the actual painting himself. He sat in front of Rembrandt’s painting for four hours – and it changed his life. After Nouwen’s encounter, he knew that he wanted to work with mentally handicapped children and joined a community in Toronto, dedicated to this ministry. Ravi commented on the difference between his glancing encounter with the work of art compared to Nouwen’s immersion of the piece. Then Zacharias followed with a quote from one of his favorite author’s A. W. Tozier. Tozier writes, “I have often wished that there were some way to bring modern Christians into a deeper spiritual life painlessly by short easy lessons; but such wishes are vain. No shortcuts exist…May not the inadequacy of much of our spiritual experience be traced back to our habit of skipping through the corridors of the kingdom like little children through the marketplace, chattering about everything but pausing to learn the true value of nothing?”

Ravi admitted to skipping through the museum, chattering much about nothing and missing the moment. It is easy to skip about and chatter, learning the true value of nothing. But let’s not miss the picture Jesus painted clearly before us.

He prayed and promised, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)

Consider the picture and the time you reflect upon life and death. Ask the Holy Spirit for spiritual sight. Let His Life be your light! I encourage you to imprint this scripture upon your heart and mind – John 11:26 – Jesus said, “Whoever lives and believes in me will NEVER die!”

Yes, it’s true. You will never die.

Now, no more readingIt’s Time to LIVE!

God Bless You All,

Pastor Mark

 

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, July 23

“Hope”

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C.S. Lewis writes;

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

God Bless You All!    Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s 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 Mark’s Devotions, April 11

“Consider Holy Saturday”

“Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.” John 19:42

 

Jesus died on Friday. He arose on Sunday. Have you ever considered what happened on Saturday? Some Christian traditions call it, “Holy Saturday.”  If you are to truly consider Holy Saturday, you must remove thoughts of Easter Sunday because it has not arrived – yet.

Saturday is the time between death and new life. To consider Saturday, your heart is going to be more heavy set because you are going to be wrestling with death more than life. Catholics might want to liken Saturday to purgatory because to them it is the place one rests between death and before heaven.  But since the theme of purgatory cannot be found in the Bible, we do not want to pause on this idea very long. Holy week has been likened to that of a caterpillar going through a metamorphosis. The caterpillar goes through a process and transforms into a butterfly. The demise of the caterpillar happens on Friday. The butterfly beautifully emerges on Sunday. It is the cocoon that remains on Saturday. Have you ever considered what actually occurs in the cocoon? 

What about the time between Winter and Spring? Winter represents death. Spring represents new life. Have you ever considered what happens right at that razor’s edge moment when winter becomes spring? A transformation of buds and flowers will follow, but in that sharpest of moments, Saturday stands.

What about the time between a mother’s heart-breaking miscarriage and the thought of conceiving again? It is on Saturday, when she has to wrestle with the deep loss of life and the longing for new life. The painful question stands, “Should we take another chance?”

For an eight year old boy – Saturday is the time between dropping his ice cream cone on the pavement and wondering whether his father will buy him a new one.

If I were to try to find words that might describe this razor’s edge moment, I would suggest the words, “Painful Hope.” And Saturday would lean toward the pain. The wounds, the memories and the feelings of loss are still so very fresh on Saturday. Yet there is some sense, somewhere in the darkness, that possibly something new might come. Maybe it’s just a faint flicker of light that can easily be quenched – but it still flickers ever so slightly. It’s Saturday. Have you ever considered that “painful hope” is where most metamorphosis takes place? Painful hope is where a change or transformation of attitude, ideas or perspective emerges. Living this painful hope is the preparation and maturation needed to press through into this new life. This path through the cocoon is not easy. The paths through miscarriage and winter and the jumbled miscue of an eight-year-old boy are not either – how could they be. It’s Saturday.

Jesus tells the story of, “The Prodigal Son” – also called, “the Graceful Father.” The Prodigal Son dies on Friday. He dies to himself, when he comes to himself. He sees the death of his soul. Sunday is the day that the prodigal returns home to his Father’s outstretched arms. It’s Sunday that the prodigal is reborn and reinstated as a true heir. But it is Saturday, when the boy is on the road going home. Have you ever considered the conversation the prodigal had with himself on the road? Jesus tells us some of the conversation. There were thoughts of shame, being unworthy, a smell of humility and a taste of brokenness. The son is willing to be his Father’s servant. The prodigal faintly hopes, “If only my Father will allow me to live in the barracks with the other slaves; that would be enough.” But it is Saturday and he is not sure if he has a chance. Perhaps the prodigal gives us a picture of “painful hope.” The pain of looking back at his deathly decisions but somewhere in that darkness, he hopes for a crumb of mercy. Indeed, it’s Saturday.

Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. They would experience Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They have always struggled with God. Sunday would not come until they walked down the road on Saturday. They disobeyed God. That would be the death of the older generation. Friday would arrive. Yet from their death, a new generation would arise – a new birth. Sunday also would arrive. But this new generation would have to suffer on Saturday. It was Saturday that this new generation set up camp on the other side of Jericho. They were leaving the wilderness but they were still a stone’s throw away from the land of milk and honey. Before God would bring them into the Promised Land, a metamorphosis would need to take place. It would be a painful, physical slice, splattered with a bit of hope on its blade. God said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.” (Joshua 5:2). Make note of the word, AGAIN. Once again, need I remind you? It’s Saturday. The razor’s edge was once again felt on Saturday.

So here we are today. It’s still Saturday. We feel the pain of no actual treatment for the coronavirus. Too many lives have been lost on Friday. Hope runs thin. There is a glimmer of hope that antibodies and vaccines are in the works. But that hope still seems like a string dangling in the wind. What do we do with this reality on Saturday? It has been said that if one has faith as much as a mustard seed, they could say to this mountain move from here to there, and it will move. Perhaps on this Saturday, even though there is only a tiny hint of honey resting on that Saturday blade – only a tiny bit of honey is all that is needed. That one droplet of honey will get us over the edge to Sunday. How can this be, you might be tempted to ask? Because, it has also been said, that nothing is impossible with God!

And when Sunday arrives, Saturday will be a mere memory. Yes, some scars will remain. Why? They are the testimony to the transformation that just took place.

The truth seems to taste a little sweet and sour. Oh, it’s sweet – trust me, the sour will fade with time.

He Has Risen! He Has Risen Indeed! Hallelujah!

SEE YOU SUNDAY!!

God Bless you all on this Holy Day.

Pastor Mark 



Pastor’s Blog March 16

“On Eagles Wings”

 

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles…”

                                                                                                                              Isaiah 40:31

 

Yesterday, we all were challenged to find a way to worship away from church.  I chose to listen to a sermon online entitled, “Ruah”, from my sister’s pastor. “Ruah” is the Hebrew word for “Spirit” or “Breath of God”, and refers to the Holy Spirit.

As I listened to the message, I walked to the window, the sun was streaming in. The mountains were crystal clear. It was an incredibly beautiful morning. As I stood gazing at the beauty, with coffee cup in hand, my eye caught an eagle in flight. Then I saw two. They were beautiful birds, wings extended, drifting and hovering high above the trees. It seemed as if they were suspended and were being lifted up higher and higher without any effort of their own.

Then the scripture came to mind, “Those who hope in the Lord, they will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Can you picture those beautiful birds? I’m sure you’ve seen eagles in flight many times before. They are magnificent, strong creatures, but they also know how to use the wind beneath their wings.

In these next weeks of uncertainty, let us be like the eagle – stretching out our lives, our concerns, our worries and allow the “Ruah”, the Holy Spirit to lift us up and hold us steady. The Holy Spirit will lead us, guide us, strengthen us, and give us peace.

Isaiah tells us that those who “hope” in the Lord will renew their strength. That word “hope” refers to “waiting patiently with expectation”. Many circumstances are beyond our control. We are being called upon to be concerned, to take this pandemic very seriously, to plan but not panic. Let us wait patiently with the expectation that God will continue to lift us up, and direct our paths through this difficult time. Let us continue to pray for our leaders, communities, business owners, the sick, our friends and our neighbors – that the Holy Spirit will lift us all up, unite our hearts and allow us to soar high above all fear.

 

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Mark 

 
 


Pastor Mark’s June Newsletter Blog

Pastor Mark’s June Newsletter Blog “Free Stuff” This past weekend, I had a clear goal in mind. Clean out the clutter in the garage so that I could park my truck inside. This was one major goal. After remodeling downstairs, cleaning out the closets, storing the kids extra belongings and accumulating all of my needless treasures, I didn’t know how long this cleaning effort would take. But systematically, bit by bit, I began to see some daylight. I didn’t want to waste time with a garage sale, so I simply put my unwanted junk, I mean treasures, out by the street with a sign that said, “Free”. I even put a broken lawnmower out there as well as retro, antique, old and just plain old cheap trinkets.   It was amazing to watch the items disappear one by one. Usually it happened when I left the house. Each time I would return home, another item would be gone. I’m not sure if they would have disappeared if I would have had a price tag on them. But with their being “free”, people were willing to take them home with them.

It’s interesting to read the final words in the Bible. . . . .

Revelation 22:17 states,

“The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!”

And let them who hear say, “Come!”

Whoever is thirsty, let them come, and whoever wishes,

let them take the free gift of the water of life.”

So why is it that so many people are willing to take my free junk out along the road, but when it comes to the free gift of salvation, so many hesitate to take it home with them?   Is it because they think that there is a price associated with it? Certainly, people need to know that there was a steep price associated with this free gift of eternal life – but that price was paid by Jesus Christ, suffering on the cross, bearing the sins of the world. And yes, there is a price to be paid on our part, that we would surrender our selfish ways and live in step with God. But doesn’t that supposed price become a privilege as we experience a spirit filled life providing us with greater purpose, meaning, love and the reality of eternity?    Or does the basic truth smack us in the face that most people don’t really care and really are not that interested in spiritual things? Barna Research tells us that the opposite is true. That your average Joe, driving down our streets are indeed interested in spiritual things. So what gives?   Perhaps people just do not know about this free gift of God described in the Bible and delivered through Jesus Christ. So, if someone stopped in front of your house and was picking up an old, used water hose with a mashed end that says “free”, and happened to ask you, out of curiosity, about the free gift of Jesus Christ – would you have something to offer him/her?   A few weeks ago, one of our members was with a co-worker, and they had a conversation about Jesus. He texted me after the conversation that night and was so excited as he shared, “He didn’t know anything about Christianity, and I knew what to say.”   This is why we are continuing Connexion into June – so that we can continue to learn simple ways to respond to honest questions when people ask. Perhaps it will not be a stranger by the road, but your son or daughter at the kitchen table or your grandchild at bedtime. The gift that Jesus has freely given us, let us freely give. And may it be our privilege to pass on the truth that indeed, the price has already been paid!   Connexion, Wednesday at 6:00 p.m.

And if interested, I still have some free stuff out by the road! Feel free to stop on by!

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you

to give the reason for the hope that you have.”     1 Peter 3:15

 In Christ, Pastor Mark

 
 


Pastor Mark’s February Newsletter Blog

 
 
 
“A Suitcase packed with Faith, Hope and Love!”  
 
Pastor John Piper tells this story;
Roger Simmons was hitchhiking his way home. He would never forget the date – May 7th. His heavy suitcase was making him tired and he was anxious to take off that army uniform once and for all. Flashing the thumb to the oncoming car, he lost hope when he saw it was a black, sleek new Cadillac. To his surprise the car stopped. The passenger door swung open. He ran toward the car, tossed his suitcase in the back and thanked the handsome, well-dressed man as he slid into the front seat. “Going home for keeps?”  “Sure am.”  “Well, you’re in luck if you’re going to Chicago.” “Not quite that far – do you live in Chicago?” “I have a business there, the driver said. My name is Hamilton.” They chatted for a while, and then Roger, a Christian, felt a compulsion to share his faith with this fiftyish, apparently successful business man. But he kept putting it off, till he realized that he was now just 30 minutes from his home. It was now or never. “Mr. Hamilton, I would like to talk to you about something very important.” Then he simply told Mr. Hamilton about the plan of salvation and ultimately asked him if he would like to receive Jesus as his savior and Lord. The Cadillac pulled over to the side of the road. Roger expected that he was about to get thrown out of the car. Instead, the businessman bowed his head and received Christ, then thanked Roger “This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.” . . .
 
Five years went by. Roger married, had a couple of kids and a business of his own. Packing his suitcase for a trip to Chicago he found a small white business card that had been given to him by Hamilton five years previous. In Chicago, he looked up Hamilton enterprises. The receptionist told him that it was impossible to see Mr. Hamilton, but he could see Mrs. Hamilton. A little confused, he was ushered into a beautiful office where he found himself facing a keen-eyed woman in her fifties. She extended her hand “You knew my husband?” Roger told her about how Hamilton had picked him up while he was hitchhiking home after the war. “Can you tell me what day that was?” “Sure it was May 7th, five years ago, the day I was discharged from the army.” “Anything special about that day,” she asked. He hesitated, not knowing if he should mention how he shared the message of Jesus with her husband. “Mrs. Hamilton, I explained the gospel to your husband that day. He pulled over to the side of the road and wept against the steering wheel. He gave his life to Christ that day.” Explosive sobs shook her body. Finally getting a grip on herself, she sobbed, “I had prayed for my husband’s salvation for years. I believed God would save him.” “Where is your husband, Ruby?” “He’s gone. He was in a car crash after he let you out of the car. He never got home. You see, I thought God had not kept his promise. I stopped living for God five years ago because I thought God had not kept his word!”
 
A suitcase packed with faith, hope and love!  What’s in your wallet? 
In Christ, Pastor Mark