Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 23

“Hotspots”

“Now, the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians,

for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day

to see if what Paul said was true.

Acts 17:10-11

 

The term “hotspots” has taken on new meaning over the last few weeks. If you hear the term on the news these days, it will relate to a new outbreak of Covid19 in some part of our country. As of five hours ago, Florida and Texas are states that have been identified as having new “hotspots”. Globally, Brazil and Russia are “hotspots” as new cases and more deaths continue to grow in number.

If you talked about “hotspots” in February, everyone would assume you were talking about Wi-Fi connections. This kind of hotspot relates to a physical location serving as an access point to connect various devices to each another using Wi-Fi.

If you talked about “hotspots” last summer, people would assume you are talking about wildfire containment. 

What if I throw out another meaning for the term, “hotspot”? Hotspots were popping up all over the ancient world after the event of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit was poured out upon the disciples at Pentecost. They were filled with new tongues, new power, and a new boldness to testify about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. After that, the spread of believers was growing on a daily basis. Jerusalem was the first “hotspot”, but spots continued to emerge in more and more cities. Even as the religious leaders tried to quarantine Peter and John, and contain the spread of the message, they couldn’t stop it. People were being cut to the heart. Miracles were mighty. Boldness was being prayed for and embraced. The Sanhedrin had a contagion on their hands and they had no idea what to do. They whipped and beat these new believers and continued to throw them into isolation but nothing seemed to stop the spread. Acts 8:1 describes what happened when they tried to exert increasing pressure to shut it down: “On that day, a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” Acts 8:4 states, “Those who had been scattered, preached the word wherever they went.” The apostle Philip went down to Samaria and spread the faith among all the people. Even Simon, the Sorcerer, caught the Spirit and was baptized. Great signs and miracles surfaced wherever the message was shared. (Acts 8:13) An Ethiopian eunuch that was headed home was not only exposed, but became a believer and was baptized. The place was so hot that even the greatest Law enforcement officer, Saul, the Pharisee, was hammered by the Savior. Saul was headed to Damascus, to isolate and contain the new believers and place them in mandatory quarantine. While on the way he was struck by the One leading the Way. He was hit so hard that he was blinded and needed help to get into town. The experience was so profound that his name was changed to Paul, and it reoriented the rest of his life.  

Hotspots continued to pop up in Lydda, Joppa, and Caesarea. It spread to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch.

Acts chapter 17 does describe a people in Thessalonica that displayed an immunity to the message. Brother Paul and Silas had to leave at night and travel to Berea. But the Bereans caught the full brunt of the Word. Acts 17:11 states, “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” The Bereans put Paul through the full measure of testing to make sure he was truly containing the truth. And he tested positive! The conditions were right. Acts 17:12 confirms, “Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.”

Since then, hotspots have continued to pop up in unknown places among unknown people for the last 2,000 years. And the Word has continued to spread. No one has been able to quarantine the Word. Hotspots continue to emerge.

Will hotspots pop up in Stanwood and Camano Island? Will it surface in the “Rain Shadow”? Will a hotspot emerge at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church? With all our hearts. Let us pray, “Please, Yes, Lord Jesus. Let the spread of your Word move in us and through us. Let the truth infect our hearts and the rest of the globe.”

Can you feel it? It’s starting to warm up!

God Bless You All,

Pastor Mark

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 13

“The Path to Reopening”

“The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.” Leviticus 23:1-2

Governor Inslee has appointed four phases as a pathway to reopen our economy and allow people to assemble. Interestingly enough, God appointed four feasts in the Old Testament, as a pathway to acknowledge him and assemble his people together. Not only that, but within these four feasts, Jesus also points to understanding how God is using this pathway to open up his eternal Kingdom and assemble his people forever.

God directed Moses to establish four feasts: (Leviticus 23)

  1. The Feast of Unleavened Bread – Passover
  2. The Feast of Weeks – Pentecost
  3. The Feast Trumpets – Day of Atonement
  4. The Feast of Tabernacles – Ingathering

The first feast: The Feast of Unleavened Bread began with the celebration of Passover. Passover was the celebration to remember God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt. During this Passover meal, the Israelites ate roasted lamb, unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and drank wine to recollect God’s strong arm setting them free. It is during this Passover meal that Jesus celebrated his Last Supper with his disciples. It is at this meal that Jesus brought new meaning to this gathering. He identified himself as the Passover lamb. In the breaking of the bread and drinking of the third cup of wine, Jesus established himself as the one who’s body would be broken and blood would be shed for the redemption of all people.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread was to follow the Passover celebration. For seven days, the people of Israel were to eat bread made without yeast. Bread made without yeast represented both “bread of haste” – for when the Israelites left Egypt – they had to leave in a hurry and did not have time to allow bread to rise. Yeast also represents sin. In preparation for the Feast of Unleavened bread, the Israelites were to remove all items containing yeast from their households, representing the removal of sin from their lives. This first of four feasts was focused upon God’s salvation. Passover was to point to God who opened a pathway for the Israelites to be free from slavery. Jesus followed the pattern of this feast but pointed to himself as the pathway for all people to be free from sin.

The second feast: The Feast of Weeks is also called the Feast of First Fruits. This feast began with the first grain of harvest. After seven weeks, counting off 50 days, Israel presented an offering of new grain to the LORD. This feast was also called “Pentecost”, as the feast was celebrated 50 days after the beginning of harvest. It is during this Jewish festival that God sent the Holy Spirit as a sort of first fruits, beginning the harvest of God’s Kingdom. Pentecost is the day that power was bestowed upon the disciples. The early church formally assembled after this event and they began to spread the Gospel message to the world. Paul points to the evidence of the “first fruits” in the hearts of believers through the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5. He says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Through the Holy Spirit, God opened up phase 2 of his path into his Kingdom. In phase 1, salvation was made secure through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In phase 2, the power to live out that salvation is provided through the empowerment of God’s Spirit. Phase 2 begins the move of God’s message out into the world, and that his salvation is open to both Jews and gentiles. The first fruits of God’s Spirit, lived out among his people, is to be the witness to the world, that they would join in this pathway to God. 

The third feast: The Feast Trumpets was to be a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. This feast would mark the end of one year and the beginning of the next. Postexilic Judaism would celebrate this day as Rosh Hashanah, i.e. New Year’s Day. The Feast of Trumpets was to prepare for the most holy month of the year. During this month, the nation was to celebrate the Day of Atonement. This was the one day of the year in which atonement for the sins of the nation would be made. The High Priest would make sacrifice for the sins of the nation. It is on this day of Atonement, that Jesus was crucified upon the cross at Calvary. This was the final sacrifice and atonement made for all nations, for all sin, once and for all.

When Jesus returns at his Second Coming, his appearance will be preceded by a trumpet blast. Jesus said, “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Many coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Matthew 24:30-31)

The fourth feast: The Feast of Tabernacles is the final assembly at the end of the harvest. The nation of Israel was to gather together, and live in tents (booths) for seven days as a reminder of their being brought out of Egypt. This end of the harvest was to celebrate God’s faithfulness and provision for his people. This feast is also called the “Feast of Ingathering”. It was to be a feast after all the crops had been gathered in from the fields. Within this fourth feast, it is believed that God will gather in his people on earth and open the ultimate pathway home. No one knows the exact time or date of the opening of phase 4. But as God has opened up each of the previous feasts as pathways to draw the people closer to him, and as Jesus has used these feasts as a template for the pathway he’s opened up to the world, it would seem consistent that Jesus’ Second Coming would arrive during the timing of the fourth feast and gather in his people to return home.

Our state governor is trying to work four phases to open up our economy. God has been working since the Fall to sin, to fully reopen his path into his Kingdom. He has given us four feasts to track his movement. We are closer today, to this reopening, than yesterday. Let us keep our lamps burning. Let us stay alert, awake, and watchful.

He has come. He will come again!

God is certainly working His path toward reopening!

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark    



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 16

“Stay In”

Stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:49

As the weeks roll on, the mandate by Governor Inslee to “Stay In” becomes more and more difficult. The sun is shining and warmer temperatures are greeting us each day. The grass is growing, the weeds are flourishing and there are projects that need to be taken care of. You might not even have any grass to mow. But you have a growing itch to do something. It’s time to get outside and do anything!

After Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples faced a similar challenging mandate. Right before Jesus’ ascension to heaven, he directed his disciples to “stay in”. He tells them to stay in Jerusalem. Jesus states, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but STAY IN the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Looking at this mandate through a lens 2,000 years old, we might not think anything of it. We know the end of the story. We might tell the disciples, “Relax and let it come to you!” Pentecost was coming. The power of the Holy Spirit was going to be unleashed upon the people. People would speak in other languages declaring the glory of God. There would be tongues that looked like fire resting upon people’s heads. A mighty roaring wind would blow through the city. Pentecost would be an explosive moment. Peter would explain the situation to the crowds of people. Thousands of people would be baptized and come to Jesus. Over 3,000 people, in one single day, would accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. All this was going to take place, and all the disciples had to do was stay in – Jerusalem – and wait for 50 days. 50 DAYS!! Can you imagine having to wait 50 days? How difficult would it be not knowing the “Rest of the Story”? Weeks go by and you would be trying to recall some fairly vague instructions from Jesus? That wait could not have been easy for them.

We’ve been “staying in” for about 28 days.  We are told in Matthew’s Gospel, that when the disciples met the resurrected Lord in Galilee, even then, some of them doubted. You can imagine 28 days after Jesus left, some of them had to have doubted his directive to stay in. Some would have doubted that they heard Jesus’ instruction correctly. Some probably doubted that he even gave that directive at all. And some probably doubted that it would make any difference whether they stay in or not. Some of them were probably saying, “Let’s go, Let’s go, we’ve got to get on the move.”  I could envision Peter being tempted to say, “Fellas, it’s time to kick some _ _ _, and take some names, in the name of Jesus, of course.” The only problem was, Jesus told them to “stay”.  

Thank goodness the disciples were willing to wait. At times they must have felt like a dog on too short of a leash. But in the end, the disciples remained obedient to Jesus, and experienced a power unleashed that no one could imagine. They witnessed a second moment from heaven unlike any other in history. The power of God, that was prophesied by the prophet Joel, was unleashed on the people of Jerusalem. And that power propelled the early church to move with great energy and intention. And then they started taking names for the Kingdom.

Now, I’m not equating Governor Inslee’s mandate to be comparable to Jesus. There has been no promise that great power is waiting on the other of his order. But often, good things come to those who wait. Perhaps our waiting can fend off a further outbreak of the virus. Perhaps our waiting will allow our healthcare system to catch up. Perhaps our waiting will propel us further to trust God for our food, finances and our future. Perhaps this waiting will give us further opportunities to witness to others with the faith and hope we have in Christ Jesus. Perhaps this waiting will help us lay down our worries and anxieties and pick up, more fully, greater joy, hope and love found in Him.

I’m not sure about you but I really don’t like to wait. But I can clearly remember pivotal moments when I have waited, and I have seen God’s hand played out in mighty ways. There also have been times when I have rushed ahead and quickly crashed and burned. We have 18 days left to wait until our mandate is over. The reality is, we might be called upon to wait some more. Let’s wait and see. In the meantime, let us wait and watch for God to show his hand. He might have an ace in the hole. My hand? I think I’ll stay!

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” Psalm 37:7

God Bless You!

Pastor Mark