Pastor Mark’s Devotions, June 2

“What’s the Message?”

“He has committed to us the message of reconciliation” 2 Corinthians 5:19

 

Is the message getting across? Protesters have been walking the streets all across the country for seven days. Most marches have been filled with people peacefully walking. Too many marches have been hijacked by groups seeking to cause chaos and destruction. Because of this intrusion, is the message getting lost?

Police officers are trying to meet with protesters and communicate their message. But many times, pushing and shoving begins, bottles are tossed, tensions increase, and before you know it, tear gas and pepper spray are unloaded on the crowd. Because of this infusion, is their message getting lost?

President Trump walks from the White House, across the street to St. John’s Episcopal Church. He stands in front of the church and raises a Bible in his hands. He doesn’t speak a word. What exactly is his message?”

Parents and children emerge from their homes sweeping up shattered glass, scrubbing graffiti, and removing debris; their message is not lost!

The church has a very clear message, but is it getting through? St. Paul says that Jesus has entrusted the church with the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:19 states that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! And all this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)

In the midst of these trying times, do you think the church’s message is lost? As the church, we peacefully attend worship services and speak about God’s love. But there are people who infiltrate the faith and hijack the truth? Does the country turn a deaf ear to the message because it gets drowned out by violence and destruction in the name of Jesus?

Does the church try to meet people in their protest against religion, but tensions rise and one firecracker explodes the peace talks and good will.

Does the church stand with a Bible in one hand, and the church building as their backdrop, assuming that people will get the message?

Or does the church simply sweep, scrub and clean up the mess that others have left behind?

Paul says in Galatians 5:6, “…The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Perhaps in these painful times, picking up a bucket and a brush is one of the most practical way to pass on the message.

For surely, Jesus picked up our iniquities and washed away our sin. As he expressed his faith through love, perhaps it is enough to hear his words, “Go and do likewise.”

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 24

“70”

The land enjoyed it’s sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah.” 2 Chronicles 36:21

 

The southern tribes of Israel lived in exile for 70 years. Due to Israel’s idolatry, God allowed the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar, and his army to destroy Jerusalem in 586 B.C. The remaining Jews were deported to Babylon. The prophet Jeremiah tried to warn the Jews of their impending doom, but they would not listen. Even though God’s people were unfaithful, God still remained faithful! Even though the Jewish captivity began in 597 B.C., God promised that they would return to the City of Zion in 70 years. God is faithful to his promises. When Cyrus, the King of Persia, conquered the Babylonians, in 538 B.C., he declared an edict allowing the Jews to begin their migration back to their homeland. Ezra 1:1 described this moment, “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom.” King Cyrus would also oversee the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. Ezra records, “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.” (Ezra 1:2)

The final verse of 2 Chronicles 36 mirrors the declaration found in the book of Ezra. King Cyrus says, “The LORD… has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you – may the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.” (2 Chron. 36:23)

This Sabbath day is the 70th day of these devotions. It’s been 10 weeks since Governor Inslee declared the edict to “Stay at Home”. Inslee’s order, was in essence, sending us into exile to our homes. Today, all 50 states are being allowed to return from this captivity on a variety of mitigated levels, to resume a touch of normalcy.

In returning to this account of King Cyrus, 2 Chronicles 36:21 caught my attention. This verse begins, “The land enjoyed its sabbath rests…” For 70 years, the land remained quiet and at peace. Jerusalem remained in rubble for 70 years, but we are told that the land was at rest and found joy.

From all respective reports, it seems that today, this land, our land, has also enjoyed it’s sabbath rests. Not seventy years but in 70 days, global reports regarding air quality, seem to be sending us the message that mother earth has also been enjoying this 10-week respite. In fact, even animals in the wild, have been enjoying greater grazing and are flourishing while the national parks have remained at rest. 

But as human beings, how have we landed after 70 days? It’s definitely a mixed bag. If we have lost a loved one due to this pandemic, this rest has been devastating. If we have lost jobs, our small business, or our financial security, this rest can feel like a nightmare. But if our basic life needs have remained intact, I wonder if there is room to receive more. If not from the land, perhaps we can learn from our LORD. Both of them seem to understand the importance and meaning of rest. Sabbath rest is to be a time of renewal.  Most of the time, it seems that we don’t have time for that. This issue of time and renewal, some would say, is the most significant issue of our time. The pace of life continues to speed up and the temptation to not turn from pushing the pedal to the metal, is too strong.

We are returning from exile. Whether the President or the governor gives the declaration, my question is; what have we learned – as a nation, a community, a church or personally in these 70 days? I’m still trying to reason my way through this mosaic. I’m still trying to remain open to the Spirit of God to teach and remind and reveal to me what I need to know. Moving forward, I don’t like to be cooped up. Yet, looking back, I have found great joy and peace in the last week’s quiet pace. And it very well could be that we will have to move back in order to deal with something that got in front of us. I pray that will not be the case. But I also pray that I take new knowledge and understanding forward in this maze of reorientation. Can you synthesize your emotions, movements and marker moments in these past 70 days? For me, it’s still a work in progress.

If I take a rest and take a look at our LORD, I think I find the nugget I’m looking for. Whether Jesus was running or resting, the piece parts of his life always point back to relationships. Jesus would find himself removed from heaven and having to deal with the rubble in his own hometown. He would face disturbances in the synagogue, at the Temple and in front of the Roman governor on the stone Pavement. Amidst that rubble of rejection and rebuke, Jesus returned to a landing he recognized. He steadied himself and found rest in life renewing relationships. Relationships that centered first and foremost with his Father. But those relationships also extended to others with open hearts and open minds seeking for truth.

Looking ahead, we will continue to wrestle with the stops and starts of returning to life without restrictions. More edicts are sure to come. Let us not be quick to run back to our normal life as it was before. May we return a bit more cautious, ready to remove and uncover more from the rubble. We have much to learn from our Father’s fundamental edict: Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. May we rest and wait and find joy in this one most important declaration.

I’m glad to be piecing this together with all of you!

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, March 30

It’s Monday, Let Us Pray”

“Our Father, Hallowed Be Thy Name…”

During last week’s taping of my sermon, a phone call interrupted my prayer. I forgot to silence my phone ahead of time. I also forgot to go back and re-tape the prayer. The last few weeks, I’ve written out a prayer so that it might be a little more intentional and comprehensive. I thought we might begin Monday with this prayer – and then conclude with Psalm 71 – two ways to turn our hearts to God and acknowledge Him as we begin a new week. God Bless You All! God goes before us!

Let us pray,

Heavenly Father, these are concerning times, these are uncertain times – fear and anxiety can sneak up on us. Let us remember that you are a God of Promise. You have made promises and agreements that we can hold on to in times like these:

-You have promised to ALWAYS BE WITH US!

-You have promised that YOU HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD!

-You have promised to HAVE PREPARED A PLACE FOR US!

-You have promised that IF WE SEEK YOU, WE WILL FIND YOU!

-You have promised that, IF WE ABIDE IN YOU, WHAT WE ASK, WE WILL RECEIVE!

-You have promised that, EVEN WHEN WE ARE UNFAITHFUL, YOU REMAIN FAITHFUL!

Thank you, Father, for your promises. Your Word is trustworthy and true.

We also pray that you make us one, Father even as you and Jesus are One. Even though we are separated by distance, unite us in deep union with you. Unite our country and communities. Guard and guide the people serving our communities and those who are sick. Have mercy upon us.

We pray for healing over those who are infected with this virus. We pray for those who have lost loved ones from this virus. We pray for continual protection over the care givers and health providers. We pray for containment and the quick development of an effective vaccine We pray that all people will practice “safe distancing” and take it seriously. We pray that medical equipment will be distributed in an effective manner to all the states and areas where these resources are needed. Direct our President, our Federal and state governments, governors and local leaders – that decisions will be well thought out and implanted to help our people in need.

We pray for parents, families, couples and individuals. Let us make the most of this pause – that we see opportunities more than obstacles.

And Father, we thank you for all the ways that love, kindness, and compassion is being demonstrated. Neighbor loving neighbor. Strangers helping strangers. Let it continue. Let it abound. In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN. LET IT BE SO!

 

 

Receive the words from Psalm 71:19-24 New Living Translation (NLT)

19 Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the highest heavens.
    You have done such wonderful things.
    Who can compare with you, O God?
20 You have allowed me to suffer much hardship,
    but you will restore me to life again

    and lift me up from the depths of the earth.
21 You will restore me to even greater honor
    and comfort me once again.

22 Then I will praise you with music on the harp,
    because you are faithful to your promises, O my God.
I will sing praises to you with a lyre,
    O Holy One of Israel.
23 I will shout for joy and sing your praises,
    for you have ransomed me.
24 I will tell about your righteous deeds
    all day long,

 

Yes, it is Monday. This is the day the Lord has made, let us claim joy and be glad in it!

P.S. – Share the joy – Sahara Pizza serves us half price pizza for Monday Take Out!!

Always trying to look out for you!

Love and Peace, Pastor Mark



 

“Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the highest heavens. You have done such wonderful things. Who can compare with you, O God? You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth. You will restore me to even greater honor and comfort me once again. Then I will praise you



Pastor Mark’s January Blog

Pastor Mark’s January Newsletter Blog

“Fast & Pray”

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

Ezra goes on to say,

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

to protect us from enemies on the road,

because we had told the king,

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

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

So we fasted and petitioned our God about this,

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

Have you ever fasted?

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

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

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

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

So, after they had fasted and prayed,

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

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

walk in faith,

follow the leading of the Holy Spirit,

and encourage one another in love.

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

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

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

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

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

 
 
 


Pastor’s July Blog

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


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