Pastor Mark’s Devotions #114

“Inauguration”

“The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Jesus. Unrolling it, he found the place where it was written…”
(Luke 4:17)

Tomorrow, our nation formally announces Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States. Arguably, not since the inauguration of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, has this transition of power, and our country been in a more contentious condition. Tomorrow’s inauguration will be the ceremony that will formally begin Biden’s Presidency. During this official observance, President Biden is prepared to declare his intentions for the next ten days, next 100 days, and, in general, the next four years.

His speech will include working for greater unity and efforts to heal a divided nation. The White House has released a memo stating that his agenda will include facing four overlapping and compounding crises. He will highlight the pandemic, the economy, the environment, and racial equity.

On the eve of this inauguration, as followers of Jesus Christ, it is timely to consider Jesus’ inauguration. For the past two weeks, during Sunday sermons, I have spoken about the “transfer of power” that Jesus experienced. Jesus initiated this with his parents, Mary and Joseph, at the Temple in Jerusalem. A transfer of power also took place with John the Baptist (earthly power), and from God the Father along with the Holy Spirit (divine power). This transfer formally took place, in what can be considered his “inauguration” at the Jordan River. Jesus’ baptism was the formal ceremony that set forth his public ministry, and officially declared that the Kingdom of God was at hand.

Jesus did not give a speech at this inauguration. The Spirit anointed him. The Father blessed him. Jesus’ agenda and his direction in ministry for the next 3 years, would come at a later date. And it would come with quite contentious reactions. Be it noted that Jesus entered his reign at a most contentious time in general. The conflict between Romans and Jews was palpable. Let alone hateful feelings toward Samaritans, foreigners, outsiders, outcasts, and “sinners”.

But shortly after Jesus receives the baton and blessing during his baptism, it is followed by his triumph over Satan in the wilderness. Finally, the time has come, for Jesus to officially walk upon the public stage. Luke’s Gospel tells us that Jesus returned to Galilee and went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. On the Sabbath day, we are told, he entered the synagogue, which was his custom. His coming out party was about to be personally and publicly declared. Among friends and neighbors, Jesus highlighted his agenda through the prophet Isaiah. Can you picture the setting? All are gathered at the synagogue. Jesus stands up. He walks to center stage. He is handed the scroll from the prophet Isaiah. He stands before the table and podium. He is in position at the center of the room as religious teachers do. All eyes are glued upon him. He unrolls the sacred scroll. There are no numbers marking the scroll with chapter and verse. But he knows the Word. His finger finds the place. He knows what’s at stake. He knows the plan and his purpose. He is to redeem a divided people. He is to unite God and man. It will not come without a contentious fight. From the prophetic words of Isaiah, inspired 700 years before this moment, Jesus declares his agenda:

    The Spirit or the LORD is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of our LORD’s favor.” (Isaiah 61:1-2)

Through Isaiah, Jesus clearly lays out his five-point agenda. His plan is to reach the poor, the prisoner, the blind, the oppressed – both physically and spiritually – and finally, proclaim God’s grace for all! Jesus then goes silent. He does not speak another word. Quiet takes over the room. Jesus quietly rolls up the scroll and returns it to the attendant. Jesus returns to his seat. All eyes are fastened upon him. Thoughts are racing. Questions hang in the air. Finally, Jesus rips through and shreds the silence and declares, “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing!” Luke records the reaction from the crowd, “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.” They asked, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22)

But how quickly the emotional tides can turn. Gracious words quickly turn to furious reactions. Emotions runs high. People do not want to be confronted with the truth. Jesus continues his comments to the crowd. He states, “Surely, you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.” Jesus knows the hearts of his people. He knows the hearts of humanity. He knows that his hometown will want to witness magic tricks just like others, yet their hearts are far from God and far from wanting to know the truth.

Jesus continues, “I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zaraphath, in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed – only Naaman the Syrian.”

Hearing these confrontational words from their home boy, the hometown crowd now turns into a mob. They are enraged and incensed. They demand, “Who is this common carpenter’s son that has the gall to condemn us with his words?” The mob drives him out of the synagogue and out of his own hometown. It would not be the last time. They took him to the brow of the hill, in order to throw him down off the cliff. What was it that sparked such rage? What did he say?

Jesus called the crowd, his friends and neighbors, to examine their hearts. He wanted them to consider their inner motives. But they would have none of it. They returned his call regarding truth with defensiveness, resistance, and violence. Their hearts led them to the desire to kill the messenger.

Then Luke records, “But Jesus walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” (Luke 4:30)

Jesus did not flinch when the mob raged. Jesus was focused upon his obedience to his Father and the purpose for his arrival. Jesus would face many other crowds throughout his 3 years of ministry. Some would embrace him and some would blaspheme him and one would even betray him. But he knew his purpose. He knew his Father’s plan, and he would walk in accordance to the will of his Father.

I don’t know whether you will celebrate tomorrow’s inauguration or you will have great concern regarding the ceremony for our 46th President. I would expect that, either way, you had the opposite emotions, and felt differently four years ago. And four years from now, where do you think your feelings will find you?  

As Christians, let our eyes be fastened upon the person and agenda of our Lord and Savior. He is still standing at the table and at the podium, announcing the same five-point agenda. As he has fulfilled his redemptive purpose, now he calls you and I forward to declare the same. Some will embrace us, others will be enraged. Jesus has already warned us of this. He challenges us to look within and examine our own hearts, examine our motives. And he has called us to carry out his agenda – those needing to hear His Good News. He has come for those who are poor, and in prison, and have lost their reason for living and are suffering from oppression. We are here to announce, as St. Paul states, “Christ has come to set us all free.” (Galatians 5:1)   

For now, may we continue to put our trust in God’s Inspired Word. Titus 3:1 tells us, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all people.”

Let us pray for those who are stepping into governmental authority tomorrow: President Biden, Vice President Harris, their Cabinet, Congress and other government leaders. May we be a people who mightily pick up the baton of prayer. May we engage this worthy weapon of God, and call upon the Holy Spirit to work revival across our divided nation.

The way of revival? Remember: Love Wins! Love ALWAYS Wins!

And with God’s help, may we walk through angry crowds, as our Savior did, because our ultimate allegiance is to Jesus Christ, and our obedience is to Him alone!

God Bless You All! 
Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions #111

“Rhythms and Routines”

“You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”

Matthew 24:44

I could not have planned for this–I just had to be ready. 

  • A question about death and heaven, that led to writing a devotion.
  • A plea about a lost loved one, missing from a mountain mudslide that led to prayer.
  • A call about a car emergency that led to a financial crunch.
  • A notification about cancelled reservations and travel plans that led to a disappointing conversation.
  • A report about a medical concern that led to a follow up. (everything is fine.)

I could not have planned for any of these–I just had to be ready.

Jesus directs us to be ready at all times. He tells us this because we do not know when He will return, nor does He. His words can also give us direction on a day to day basis, because, truly, we have no idea what tomorrow will bring. So how do we stay ready? How are you staying ready? We are all suffering from Covid fatigue and just want all of this to be over. But even with a number of vaccines ready to be mass distributed, we are still in this for the long haul. Do you still have some fuel in the tank or are you running on fumes? Countless people are just done with this whole ordeal – and to Dr. Fauci, Governor Inslee, or any other person in position of power, the answer is – “To hell with it, I’m going to see my family on Christmas!” This is truly what we all want to say and do – but yet we also want this all to be over – truly over and problem solved. So, most of us take a step back and take another look at our options.

Whatever your decisions, Christmas is going to be different this year. We will be more vulnerable than ever to the variety of emotions and feelings that can swing us in one direction or another. That being said, how do we prepare ourselves and get ready – and also be ready for the post-holiday blues and aftermath of an unrelenting pandemic?

I would like to suggest a few things to consider as we are in the midst of Advent and trying to get ready for Christmas.

If I asked you about your routines and rhythms, what would you say? Are you aware of any routines and rhythms in your daily life that help to bring a stable course or renewal for your heart? Perhaps, your routine, first thing in the morning, is to go to the bathroom, brush your teeth, wash your face, take your vitamins and look for that first cup of coffee. Does the day just happen, or can you recognize or put yourself in a place to feel a certain rhythm to your day? Many people make a check list – a “to do” list and their routine is to check off as many items on the list as possible. That can be helpful. I have become more of a list maker myself – but when you have 20 items on your list and you only accomplish 2, that can be rather disappointing.

Some people target one simple objective to focus on in the morning – to kind of jump start their day. This can be a helpful step in putting your heart in a good place, and energizing yourself for more. Choosing one doable task can protect your heart from getting overwhelmed with a long list of chores and discourage you from even beginning. This one small step can begin a move from routine to rhythm.

 Another small step in finding a helpful rhythm to your day is to consider starting something new. Some couples have discovered a new joy in being together as they have ventured out in a new way – by walking together, hiking together, cooking together – and being involved in an activity that allows for deeper conversation. As couples have stepped beyond their normal routines, they have found greater peace, energy and ebb and flow as they walk, talk and cook. Time has a chance to breathe and loved ones or friends can feel a new found freedom with each other.  

Also, consider your devotion time with the Lord. Does your relationship with God tend to be structured and formal and routed out? Routine can be a good thing. If you are going to read through the Bible in one year – it will require a commitment to a regular routine of daily Bible reading. But in the end, your reading scripture could possibly become another check mark on your “to do” list. In the routine you might have missed the deeper opportunity to spend time in rhythm with God, allowing Jesus to lead and the Holy Spirit to speak.

My regular routine, upon waking up, includes feeding Tigger, brushing my teeth, drinking a glass of water along with my glucosamine pills, reheat my day-old coffee, start a fresh pot, start a fire in the fireplace, turn on Pandora Christian worship music, settle down on the couch and then allow the next hour or more to free-flow with the Lord. Each day is different, but it all centers around drawing near to God – giving time and space to breathe, listen, hear, speak, sing, pray, write and worship him. This rhythm is what has helped my heart stay full to preach, write, respond to unexpected circumstances and not run dry. Rhythms are different for each person. But the more time becomes a crunch – rhythms are crushed in the process. You will know when you have found some helpful rhythms when your heart remains full and your response to the unexpected surprises you.  

If you want to fight off the fatigue from this pandemic – ask the Lord to help you find a helpful rhythm. It might include watching “The Nativity” Christmas film and then go on a walk – or zoom with your friends to talk about it. So too, the series, “The Chosen”. The second season is being completed this week. This series treats Jesus and his disciples as real human beings, while maintaining a faithfulness to Scripture. This could be a new rhythm that allows the Holy Spirit to breathe over you. What about reading a book out loud together with your partner, child or grandchild? Perhaps painting, planting or woodworking if it has been something you have thought of pursuing sometime down the road. You are down the road far enough – it’s time to give it a try.

Perhaps taking your old photos and putting together a picture book of family history or adventure – that gives you a chance to re-live and re-connect with people who are important to you – and make multiple copies for everyone to have one.

Consider this picture of rhythm.

Our music director, Erik Ronning, loves to surfboard. I’m sure he has routines getting his gear, loading up his vehicle, driving down to his favorite beach, finding his spot, putting on his wet suit. Then he splashes in the surf, paddles with his board over the oncoming waves. He finally reaches his spot. He sits on his board and waits. He watches. He’s prepared to catch a wave. Water laps over the board. He feels the cold water on his toes. The swells lift him up and settle him down. He is in his element. The wind blows, the sun shines, the seagulls squawk – Rhythm. He’s not in control of what wave comes next – but he’s ready – he’s waiting – his heart is full and he’s excited to be in the moment. When the moment finally arrives, he catches the wave, twists and turns and feels the energy and rides the wave until it exhausts itself. As the wave wears out, in the blink of an eye, Erik makes the turn, feels the rush, and is ready to paddle out and wait for another wave.

Can you feel it? Have you felt it? Rhythm, it is a wonderful thing. It allows us to breathe again. It allows us to begin again. It allows us to look at the long journey of a pandemic again and be ready for whatever comes again – and live again.

Go, grab your surfboard, go to the water, wait, ride and feel the wave – whatever it is, whatever it takes – you will breathe again – and you will find the rhythm of your soul again.

God Bless You All.

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