Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 15

“Mulch”

“When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.” Mt. 13:26

Last weekend, I was weeding a flowerbed in the front yard. The ground on the one side of the bed was hard and dry. It was so hard, that I became more and more frustrated, trying to dig them out at their root. I was hot, miserable, upset and irritated at the whole job. Thoughts whisked through my head that maybe I should just go ahead and sell this stupid place. After hours of laboring and toiling in the heat, I finally finished weeding half of that pesky flowerbed and gave up. The following day, I began pulling weeds on the opposite side of the flowerbed. Those weeds were as thick as thieves. But I discovered that the ground on this side of the flowerbed was soft and moist. The weeds pulled out with such ease, that it was crazy. I hate to say it, but I almost felt like I was having fun – ALMOST! I couldn’t believe the difference experience from the day before. What made the difference? MULCH! As I began to work my way around the flowerbed, I remembered what happened the year before. I ran out of mulch half way around that bed. The difference was amazing. One side I could run my fingers through the soil. The other side, hard as rock!

Now, just because I put down the mulch didn’t mean that I would not have weeds in my face. Actually, more grew in that area. But when it came to pulling them out, the work was so easy, and so satisfying.

During this time of isolation, our hearts can become kind of hard. Remember to throw down some mulch. And even when we tend to our hearts and relationships, it doesn’t mean that we won’t face weeds. Those pesky seeds will find a way into our soil one way or another. But the blessing in the preparation and the tending is in the removal. Weeds are able to be removed from a tender heart with ease. But wait until that heart is hard and crusty, good luck –  let the frustration begin! The weed breaks off every time.

Jesus told many parables about the Kingdom of God using the example of weeds. I wonder if he could have used this one? He told a parable about various soil conditions as well. In Luke 8, Jesus tells of hardpan, rocky, thorny and good soil. The good soil, represents the soft heart toward God that 1. Hears God’s Word. 2. Receives God’s Word. And 3. Perseveres in God’s Word.

In my little parable, I would add that not only in good soil does God’s Word flourish. But in good soil, the weeds are also easy to pull out. I would encourage you to give it a try. Tend to your heart. Throw down some mulch and allow your heart to become soft and responsive. Then see when those weeds of irritation and disappointment pop up, how easily they are pulled out.

God’s Spirit is the mulch to cover the barren ground of our heart. When God’s Spirit is worked into our soil, everything is easier.

So, I’ve decided not to sell my house. And yes, I still have more weeds to pull. But I’m not going to worry about that now. I have some other mulch to lay down. A friend invited me to play golf. It’s Friday afternoon. The tee time is in 32 minutes. The weeds can wait. Time to soften up the soil. With masks on of course. Have a great day.

God Bless!  Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 15

The God Who Sees!”

“She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me.” Genesis 16:13

 

Isolation! Some of us have faced more isolation in these last weeks than ever before. Isolation can wreak havoc with our emotions and wellbeing. Even though you might feel isolated today. God sees you! God knows your name and He is with you.

Hagar was an Egyptian maidservant. She was a foreigner and a servant to Sarai, Abram’s wife. Sarai was unable to bear children so Hagar stepped in to be her surrogate. Jealousy arose on both sides. Hagar belittled Sarah. Sarah treated Hagar poorly. Hagar fled. An angel of the LORD appeared to Hagar and told her to return and submit to Sarai. Hagar was told that she would have descendants too numerous to count. Hagar returned to Sarai. She gave a name to the LORD, “Beer Lahai Roi”, for she declared, “You are the God who sees me.”

The Scriptures record this common theme of a foreigner, in isolation, who is seen by God.

Joseph, in the book of Genesis, lived an isolated life. He was emotionally isolated from his family, who as a young boy shared his heavenly dreams. He was isolated again when his brothers threw him into a cistern and had plans to kill him. He was then a foreigner, in isolation as he was thrown into an Egyptian prison being falsely accused of rape. Finally, being exalted to second in command to Pharaoh while being a foreigner and a former slave; welcome isolation!

Yet the Bible tells us that God saw Joseph. God was with Joseph during his turbulent family times. God was with him while being sold into slavery, and while he remained in the Egyptian prison. And God was with him in his exalted position and even brought reconciliation between him and his brothers.

Joseph is one among many, in which God sees an isolated foreigner and draws near.

Moses was a foreigner in the Egyptian Court. He had Hebrew blood but was raised among the Egyptians. After he murdered an Egyptian in defense of a Jew, Moses found himself isolated in the wilderness. He became a foreigner among Jethro’s clan near Mount Horeb. Moses lived a certain isolated existence among Jethro’s people for 40 years. But God saw him. Moses married and became a shepherd but at the right moment, God revealed to him that there would be more. Moses was drawn to a burning bush, in an isolated place and God called Moses to deliver His people. Moses returned and found himself isolated from both the Egyptians and the Hebrew people. He is a foreigner to all involved. Yet God was with him. God saw him and revealed to him his personal name, “Yahweh”. Moses became a friend to God, no longer a foreigner.

Ruth is another example of one found in isolation. Living in a foreign land, she lost everything. Yet God saw Ruth and watched over her. He provided Boaz as her husband and is counted in the generational lineage of Jesus.

Jumping to the New Testament, the boisterous disciple Peter found himself in a foreign place. He was isolated from his brothers. Perhaps he was not isolated physically, but he would have been isolated emotionally. Peter didn’t betray Jesus but he certainly denied him multiple times and the weight of that shame would have generated an uncomfortable social distance more than six feet. Yet on one post-resurrection morning, Scripture tells us that Jesus saw Peter fishing on the water. He calls to him and invites him to breakfast. They share a meal together with the other disciples. Jesus then takes this man in isolation and reinstates him. Jesus re-positions him to lead the fledgling flock. He will be a rock upon which others will receive strength.

God has done some amazing things among men and women in the Bible and in history during a period of isolation.

Martin Luther, the reformer, found himself in isolation. Luther spoke against the abuses of the Catholic Church and quickly found himself a foreigner within his own church. A warrant was finally put out for his arrest and death. Kidnapped by friendlies and held in a castle, he lived under a false name. In isolation and in foreign surroundings, God saw Martin. In the next nine months of isolation, it was there that Martin translated the New Testament Bible into the common German language. It was there that his translation would translate into a change that would affect the entire German landscape. This German Bible would unite a divided people as nothing had ever done in history.

Finally, a contemporary example of our God who sees:

Dallas Jenkins is the current producer for the Biblical video series called, “The Chosen”.  Listening to his testimony, he tells the story of himself isolated in foreign territory as well. His big Hollywood debut was a bomb. A once rising star quickly became a mighty falling star. In a few months, he felt he had lost it all. In this foreign place, feeling isolated from God and himself, God saw Dallas. God met him. And from a mustard seed arose the series, “The Chosen”. He tells the story about how he and his wife, during their devotions, felt drawn to the story of Jesus’ miracle of the loaves and fishes in the Gospels. They did not know why. Late one night – during his fourth watch of the night – he received a text from a man who was barely an acquaintance. His text states, “Remember, you are not responsible for feeding the 5,000. Your job is to provide the loaves and fishes!” When Dallas inquired why this man had sent this text, his response came, “I don’t know. God just told me to send it.” Dallas, who is a self-professed Baptist and does not believe in God speaking to people; God sent another, to speak to Dallas for him. In isolation, God remembered him, God saw him, and it is THE marker moment that has transformed his faith. The vision for “The Chosen” is to cover 8 seasons. It will cover the life of Christ and hopefully cover the globe. I can see that!

“See, I am doing a new thing!” – Sorry, that was yesterday’s message. Today’s message is, “See, I see you!” Can you SEE that these messages are the same? That even though you are isolated and in foreign circumstances, God sees you and he wants to do a new thing inside of you?  

The Scriptures tell us that all of us are foreigners in this strange land. We all will face moments of isolation. But God’s clear word to us is, “I See You!” What might HE want to tell you? Create room to listen. Trust me, our God still speaks today! Don’t get caught up in listening for an audible voice. God wants to speak to us more deeply – into our heart – that is where transformation takes place – just ask Dallas. It’s usually a “Still, Small Voice”. Ask him to speak into your heart today.

By faith, Abraham made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.” Hebrews 11:9

The unbelieving man says to himself, “God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees.” Ps. 10:11

In Christ, Pastor Mark