Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 8

“Moses Masked Up”

“When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face.” Exodus 34:33

Recently, we have been encouraged to wear a mask when out in public. Did you know that Moses masked up? Exodus chapter 34 tells us that Moses received the second set of Tablets containing the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai. He broke the first set after coming down the mountain and seeing the people of Israel bowing down before the golden calf that Aaron had made. When he returned the second time, with the second set, his face was glowing having been with God. The Scripture says, “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.” (Ex. 34:29)

Because of this glory radiating from Moses’ face, Aaron and all of Israel were afraid to come near him. Therefore, Moses masked up. Whenever Moses spoke to the people, he would remove the veil. But when he finished speaking, he would put the veil back over his face.

Today, to wear a mask or not to wear a mask, that seems to be the question. Over the last month, there have been conflicting directives and uncertain reasons why we should wear masks. The first message to the nation directed healthy people not to wear masks and save them for the health workers. One reason for not wearing masks was that it might actually leave the wearer more vulnerable to the virus. A normal person wearing a mask might relax social distancing directives while also increased hand exposure to eyes, nose and mouth.

Now, the message and some scientific evidence seem to point to the value of ALL people wearing masks in public. As the virus can remain airborne for 3 hours or more, and many people are asymptomatic, evidence seems clear that wearing a mask can help prevent the spread and infection to others. So, the message has changed but the evidence points to this positive step; when you are in public – Mask Up!

Interestingly enough, in Moses’ case, the reason, and implications for wearing a mask changed over time as well. In the beginning, Moses wore a mask to quell the fear of the people of Israel. After disobeying God and seeing the glory of God so evident on Moses’ face, they had grave concerns. They did not want to face the thought that the power and wrath of God could explode any minute. So, Moses, representing God, put on a mask to calm their fears.

But after some time, the reason for Moses to mask up changed. The evidence was clear that the glory of God was no longer glowing upon Moses’ face. God’s mighty radiance was fading and now Moses was hiding behind the mask so that no one would know. St. Paul speaks about this shift in masking in 2 Corinthians chapter 3. He says, Moses put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away.” (2 Cor. 3:13)

But Paul uses this issue of wearing a mask to show that we are not to be like Moses. The question is not about whether we should wear a physical mask to protect others – the answer is: we should. Rather, Paul is addressing a deeper, spiritual issue with the Corinthian Christians regarding masks. Paul declares that they are not like Moses. He says that the glory that faded with the Law and the stone tablets, is now much more glorious with the ministry of the Spirit. He unmasks the truth, “If the ministry that condemns men (The Law) is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness (The Spirit)!” Then he says, “Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses who put a veil over his face…” Paul acknowledges in 2 Cor. 3:15, “Even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.” The Jews had trouble seeing beyond the mask of the Law. They could not see Jesus for who he was, that he fulfilled the Law, and the freedom that was available to them in the Spirit.

Most of us are willing to wear a mask today. But the deeper question is; “Are we wearing a mask that keeps us from Christ?” Are you hiding behind a mask? Have you idolized something or someone as a higher priority masking Christ? Paul declares, “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil (mask) is taken away.” Paul then reveals the ultimate truth, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with “unveiled” faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Let’s not haggle about wearing a mask in Costco. Rather, let us rip off the masks that keep us hiding from and keeping us away from Jesus Christ. Let us turn to Him, and with “unmasked” faces reveal the glory of God to the world that desperately needs it. And let us go on to be transformed into Jesus’ likeness with ever-increasing glory!

In two days, on Good Friday, we will hear another expression of the truth being unveiled. While Jesus is crucified, in the Temple in Jerusalem, the veil separating the “Most Holy Place” will be torn in two, from top to bottom. Soon afterward, the world will be confronted with the glory of the resurrection. Let us turn to God. Let us live unmasked in ever-increasing glory. And reveal him to anyone who will listen.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

   

 



Pastor Mark’s Daily Devotion 3/24/2020

“Little by Little”

“The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you little by little.” Deuteronomy 7:22

Israel spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness. Moses passed the baton of leadership to Joshua. The next generation of Israelites followed Joshua into battle. They first destroyed the city of Jericho. More accurately, we need to acknowledge that Yahweh was the One who brought down the fortified walls of Jericho. Yes, Israel was on the move. It was time for them to take the land. God promised to drive and deliver Israel’s enemies into their hands. And the Israelites were to defeat and destroy them. God said, “Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.” These words sound uncharacteristic from the Heavenly Father we know whose nature is love. But not fully understanding the culture, climate and times – God’s words require a step of faith as He explains, “For they will turn your hearts away from following me to serve other gods.” We must trust that God, our Father recognized the existential threat these nations posed toward his people and his plan for salvation. In some similar way, perhaps how the Nazi war machine of World War II posed a physical threat to the lives of the Jews.  Yahweh continues, “Do not look on them with pity and do not serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you.” He goes on, “You may say to yourselves, ‘These nations are stronger than we are. How can we drive them out? But do not be afraid of them: REMEMBER WELL what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt.” The Hebrew word, “zakar”, to remember, also means “to recollect” or “to reflect deeply upon something or someone”, in this case, namely Yahweh Almighty. God is telling his people to “take seriously to heart” the mighty power of God over those pagan nations.

Finally, God says, “The LORD your God will drive out those nations before you little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once.” Why does God say, “Little by little”? He explains, why, in the next verse, but don’t you hate, “little by little”. It would have been so much easier if God would have just cleaned the land of Canaan all at once. The Israelites could have washed their hands of the whole mess and could have moved on with drinking the milk and eating the honey that was promised. But in the end, the children of God were going to have to continue to wash their hands – over and over and over again, trusting in God to deliver.

So often, in our own lives, we wish troubles, fights and challenges could just be washed away all at once. But more times than not, they are overcome, little by little. The truth is, we are called to trust God in the little things and to wash our hands, over and over again until the job is done. Just as we are called to do today in getting rid of that nasty Covid19 virus! So wash! So too, think of the Allies in World War II. They had to advance little by little as they re-captured village after village in France and “Island Hopped” across the Pacifc.

God says to Israel, “You will not be allowed to eliminate all the nations at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you.” God is going to move Israel through Canaan in a step by step process in order to protect them. What kind of protection? He mentioned the multiplication of wild animals but perhaps that also meant protection against sickness and disease. However far reaching, God was going to protect his people through the process.

Today, our wish is that this coronavirus could be wiped and washed away all at once. But more than likely it will be a step by step process. Little by little, day after determined day, researchers, scientists and practitioners will discover how to destroy this invisible enemy, this pagan disease. Perhaps not on our preferred time schedule. But trust that this WILL take place! Why do I say this? Because God continues to be sovereign over all things and his plan of salvation is still being brought to completion. REMEMBER WELL, the Rock of our salvation. He is our Champion. He is our Victor! And He shall surely do this!            

In Christ, Pastor Mark

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotion 3.22.20

Just a note to all of you early-birds who might have listened to Pastor’s Sunday sermon early Sunday – There’s a wonderful intro to the service that was posted later in the morning. If you didn’t catch it, it’s well worth your time to listen now!!

“Manna in the Morning”

“Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you.” Exodus 16:4

The people of Israel had just been set free from 400 years of slavery in Egypt. They had witnessed 10 different plagues that demonstrated Yahweh God’s power over the Egyptian gods. They watched the pillar of cloud and fire lead them and defend them. And then 2.5 million people walked through the parted Red Sea, on DRY ground no less. And as the wall of water consumed the Egyptian chariots, the Israelites cried and wailed in victory.

For three days the people of Israel traveled into the wilderness with an unknown future. And then it began; the grumbling. Exodus 16:2 records, “In the desert, the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.” In 72 hours, God’s chosen people began to show signs of dementia. They said, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted…” Are you kidding? Wait a minute – Were these people not slaves? Were they not crying out to God, for hundreds of years, because of the horrible conditions in which they lived? And did not God miraculously, over and over and over again, show his glory and deliver them from their slave masters?  The answer is; Yes. And the truth is; how quickly we forget!

“Therefore”, the LORD says to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.”

Notice the grace and compassion of Yahweh God as he responds to the grumbling and panicked cries of his children. Why does he respond? Because he loves them. He is their provider and their protector. But also notice that as their heavenly Father, he tells them that they are to go out EACH DAY and gather bread. He tells Moses, “In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.”

If that gathering was anything like the last few weeks, we can get a pretty good idea how that first day went. Can you picture it? I’ll bet you that it was your worst nightmare at Walmart on Black Friday times one thousand. I’ll lay down a $1000 bucks that it was a madhouse a million times over. Some people waiting up all night to be the first ones to see the flakes fall. When the manna begins to arrive, people make a mad dash across the landscape, fighting tooth and nail for their territory. Arguments flaring up over some flakes being larger than others, and some stealing other people’s stash. Some people would have baskets and others would be trying to load as much as they could in their robe sleeves and blankets. Still others would make alliances and have a team guarding the manna back at their tents while other members would return over and over building up their stockpile. With no supply line guarantees, I’m sure mayhem showed up in mighty ways – and many people would need Allstate after the day was over.

Watching the news, it seems pretty easy to imagine, after 3,466 years, I’m not sure a whole lot has changed in human nature. I’m afraid we still don’t take instruction very well. But then again, maybe that’s not totally true. We DO see empty streets in downtown New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. We ARE watching many people who are restricting their movements and staying home. Yet watching Florida beaches, bars and restaurants, it is clear that many people are going to do exactly what they want no matter the consequences.

So, God’s provision was going to provide a test for the people of Israel to see if they would trust him.    Keep in mind, 72 hours earlier – God had just done an unfathomable miracle by bringing his people across the Red Sea. He also had given them a steady diet of dynamic power releasing plagues over Egypt. Besides the test of the daily provision – the test would be to eat the same meal for the next 40 years. What if you had to eat bean burritos for the next 14,600 straight days. That puts a new perspective on this whole ordeal.

Now the bread that they would daily gather was called “manna”. In my mind, manna would have looked something like those round rice crackers that you can stack ten high. They would kind of look like those old communion wafers that stick to the roof of your mouth. So, how many wafers would it take to make a meal out of those styrofoam yummies? One heck of a lot! And then for 40 years? Yeah, I’d say there’s some trust challenges to be found in that. And I don’t think they were those 4 cheese artisan kind at Costco. At least those have some flavor – but we ARE told that they were thin and crispy with a touch of honey – does that help? I’ll bet they came up with some crazy casseroles over the years. I mean just look at what the Norwegians have tried to accomplish with the potato? Somehow, we’ve been convinced they are holiday treats!!

Well, those Israelites that attempted to hoard the bread beyond the day soon found out it wouldn’t last. The next day’s supplies quickly turned moldy and were filled with bugs. But also, the following day, God turned again to his people and supplied another ration of manna, more than enough to meet their daily need. And this went on, and on, and on in the wilderness, for 40 years. God demonstrated to his people that he WAS trustworthy, because he DID provide sustenance in a dead, dry and barren land – think Mars! Eventually, He even brought his people to the Promised Land – the land of milk and honey – and much, much more!

Today, we have been guaranteed that all supply lines are intact, yet look at the mayhem and fear of the last couple of weeks.  Long standing lines. People hoarding any and every perceived essential. Mayhem in the marketplace.

Doesn’t the test still stand today? Can we still trust our Yahweh God to provide for our daily needs?

God gave out a daily dose of bread so that the people would recognize their deep dependence on Him. Does this recognition bring deeper meaning to the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, “Give us this day our DAILY BREAD”? Yes, we pray for God to provide for all our daily needs but do we also recognize that this is so we daily depend upon him and know that his daily provision is a daily exercise?      

Where will the next 72 hours take us. Every evidence points to the reality that this pandemic will get worse before it gets better. Even though we cannot predict the future, we have a God who ALREADY knows our DAILY need. And God WILL provide for us! This time, let us not forget!

One last thought for the day. Let us also be mindful that Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, they must deny themselves, take up their cross DAILY and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Jesus tells his followers that following him whether walking through the wilderness or sitting home watching Netflix – there is a DAILY surrendering to him. What is it today that you need God to provide but also, what do you need to surrender to him? Dear Christian, understand that Jesus comes with daily food and calls us to daily surrender, in order that would live daily life extraordinarily

Manna for the morning. Tomorrow is Monday. Let us begin the week partaking of the daily bread that God provides.             God Bless You All!             Pastor Mark