Pastor’s Devotions #124

“A Sleeping Giant”

“For whoever is not against us is for us.” Mark 9:40

 

In the Gospel of Mark, chapter nine, the disciple, John, tells Jesus, “We saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” Jesus replied, “Do not stop him.” He went on to say, “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.”

John was upset that a man was doing mighty miracles, IN JESUS’ NAME, because he was not in Jesus’ inner circle. Jesus quickly pointed out to John that anyone speaking the name of Jesus is on his same team.

After 11:13 a.m. this morning, thoughts were bouncing around in my head. All of a sudden, my phone binged with a special news report. The report said that reddit retail investors have now increased the stock value of AMC theatres over 3,000 percent for the year. A similar move has been reported over the past months with GameStop stock as well as certain cannabis stocks. Retail investors have been making Wall Street uneasy with their united efforts in increasing certain stock values.

When people unite around a common cause, there is power to effect change. We have seen this played out concerning a number of different societal issues. Who would have believed 50 years ago, that today, everyone stepping into an automobile would buckle up with a seat belt – and not give it a second thought? Who could have envisioned the right to smoke in public places virtually prohibited? Who could have conceived two years ago, that an entire nation would mask up and completely change the way they lived?

These changes occurred because enough people believed a change was necessary. They united behind a common cause that they believed would provide protection, safety, and save lives.

Do you know how many Christians there are in the United States? Google says 205 million. There are 205 million Protestant and Catholic Christians in this country. Yet, it seems like the church is virtually a growing non-player in its societal presence – and I’m not speaking politically. (The problem today is that the church is often only seen, and/or heard in political terms.) But, in all truth – the church of Jesus Christ (and I’m not talking about the Mormon church) is a sleeping giant. Hearing that term might take you back to WW2 – and Japan’s General Yamamoto’s reference to the United States as a “sleeping giant”. He was correct. When the U.S. entered WW2 – no other nation in the world had the power and potential to change the direction of the war.

205 million people stand united under the banner of Jesus Christ. Yet, respectfully, very little power is unleashed. Is it because we are all looking at one another and declaring that each – denomination and congregation – “They are not one of us”? We watch the nightly news, as more and more violence erupts in our communities and across our nation and we are greatly disturbed, yet we feel powerless.

In my musings, I wondered, “What if all 205 million Christians untied under the simple truth of three powerful words. The truth is: Jesus Is Lord! It is perhaps the first and most ancient creed of the Christian church. Romans 10:9 states, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Does our witness and testimony really need to be more than this? What if 205 million believers, ALL Christian churches, untied behind these three fundamental words in common cause? What if we sought to live out Jesus’ lordship in our own lives and shared the love of our Savior with others – all the Christian churches as one? What if we all moved beyond the scrutiny and judgment that each one is not one of us? Rather, we followed Jesus’ words, that if they are not against us, they are for us?

One Christian Church – united in Jesus Christ – is that what our nation is waiting for? Is that what the world is waiting for? Is this what Jesus is waiting for? Jesus prayed as he waited for his crucifixion, “My prayer is not for them alone (the disciples). I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)

No, we are not removing “Lutheran” from our sign. This is about a heart condition. My heart condition!

So, I pray, “Come, Holy Spirit!”

And I await 11:13 a.m. tomorrow.

Grace and Peace to you all,

Pastor Mark

 

 



Pastor’s Devotions #123

 

Pastor Mark’s Devotion – Day 123

May 25, 2021

“11:13”

“If you then, who are sinful, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” Luke 11:13

 

What’s in a number? It’s all in what you do with it!

Set the alarm on your phone for 11:13 a.m. – For those of you who missed Sunday, I’ll explain.

Last Sunday, we celebrated the event of Pentecost. On that Jewish day of Pentecost, 2,000 years ago, our heavenly Father poured out the Holy Spirit upon those first believers “in POWER”. Fear was transformed into life changing faith. Jesus’ followers were moved in such a way that a spiritual fire was ignited and spread across continents.

Where are the spiritual fires today? We are well aware of the mega-fires in CA that have burned across millions of acres of forest land. Counties and states are already hurriedly preparing for another season of massive fire burns amidst devastating drought conditions.

Where are the spiritual burns taking place? What about Stanwood and Camano Island, Washington. Can you conceive of a spiritual burn of the Holy Spirit spreading across the lines of Snohomish and Island Counties? Fears transformed to faith; discouragement turned to hope; lethargy turned to empathy; and apathy turned to love? This transformation would require a move of God. This transubstantiation would require the power of the Spirit.

One day, Jesus taught his disciples, “If you then, who are sinful, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” Those words are recorded in Luke 11:13.

My proposition to the congregation on Pentecost Sunday, was to proposition God to send us his Holy Spirit – In Power! When have you asked for God to empower you through his Spirit? When have WE, as a congregation, united in faith, asked God to send His Holy Spirit to us in power?  

So, I decided to suggest that each of us – set our phone alarms for 11:13 a.m. And when that alarm sounds, we would simply pray. “Come, Holy Spirit.” You can pray more than that. I suggested four areas that the Holy Spirit would be poured out – 1. In Our Personal lives, 2. Our Family’s lives. 3. Our Saviour’s life, and 4. Our Community’s life.

Jesus has told us what is the Father’s desire. The only question that remains is, “What is our desire? And “What does that reveal about our hearts?” 11:13 is not to be a duty or obligation to fulfill – but rather a heart- felt desire to know more of God through the outpouring of His Holy Spirit.

I set the challenge for 42 days – six weeks. Similar to our Lenten or Advent Seasons in which we sometimes give up coffee or chocolate or adhere to a spiritual discipline – The 42nd day of this challenge will find us celebrating the Fourth of July – our nation’s Independence Day; our Nation’s Freedom Day. So too, it is the Holy Spirit, sent to us, that allows us to live freely in our faith.

As I sat behind my desk this morning, suddenly my alarm on my phone rang out. I looked at my phone. It was 11:13 a.m. I stopped what I was doing for a few moments. I prayed, “Come, Holy Spirit!”. I prayed for the Spirit to be poured into my heart, my family’s hearts, Our Saviour’s heart and our Stanwood/Camano Island’s heart. It was a really cool moment, knowing that I was uniting with others in our congregation, where ever they might be, who have committed to join in this prayer.

Will you join with us? What do you think might happen as God sees the hearts of his people humble themselves and call out, even cry out, for the Father to send us his Spirit? I can guarantee you this – It’s ALL GOOD!

Will you join in?  I hope so.

This morning – I realized – “Hey, 1+ 1+ 1 = 3. Father + Son + Spirit = Trinity – the fullness of God!                                

What’s in a number? It’s all in what you recognize in it!

Can’t wait for 11:13 a.m. tomorrow.

Your Prayer Partner for the next 42 days!

Pastor Mark



Pastor’s Devotions #120

“Salt”

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6
 

In the morning, after brushing my teeth, feeding Tigger and starting the coffee, I then go to my pantry. I reach for the container of “mixed nuts” from Costco, grab a handful, and munch them down to kickstart my digestion. I always buy the “unsalted” nuts because it’s been drummed into me that too much salt is not good for you. Not too long ago, I was given a similar container of nuts from a friend who knows my love of nuts – I know, I’m kind of a nutty guy! The morning that I grabbed a handful from the new container, I couldn’t believe how delicious they tasted. My mouth exploded with flavor. As I looked at the container, then I discovered the difference. These mixed nuts were the “salted” variety.

In St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he calls his fellow believers to, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Salt, in the right dose, brings out wonderful flavors in our food. It is interesting that Paul would use this word picture related to our words and conversations.

Words have great power. Words have power to hurt. And words have power to heal. James 3:9 states, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse humankind, who have been made in God’s likeness.” Regularly, we hear, read and listen to words that have been spoken as a soothing balm yet also spoken as a toxic poison.

Paul says that the things he wants to do, he’s not able to do, and the things he doesn’t want to do, that’s what he ends up doing. As human beings, we all are sitting in the same boat. We all want to speak gracious, loving words but many times something happens between desire and delivery.

What if we started each morning with God’s gracious Word to us? What if we grabbed a handful of God’s promises, seasoned with the right amount of salt, to kickstart our direction. God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet, a light for our path, and a much-needed explosion of flavor for our soul.

Consider this gracious Word of God to you: “IN LOVE, he predestined us to be adopted as his sons and daughters through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. IN HIM we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And HE MADE KNOWN TO YOU the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ Jesus, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:5-10)

May God’s seasoned Word, flavor your conversations with others.

God Bless You All!
Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 27

“God on Display”

“You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.” Psalm 77:14

 

God delivered the people of Israel from Egypt by performing miracles of great power. God delivered 10 plagues that put God’s power on display for all to see. This displayed power led to Israel’s freedom.

In Psalm 77, King David recalls God’s great power. He writes, “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.” (77:11). He goes on to say, “Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.” (77:13)

God’s power can be seen on display in the past. His power can also be seen on display in creation. Paul writes in Romans 1:20, “Since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”

Beyond creation, God’s power can be seen on display through the cross. Even though the world considers the cross foolishness, Paul says that it is the power of God for all who are saved. He says that the Jews seek miraculous signs and the Greek look for wisdom but they are ignorant of God’s ways. Paul states, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.”

God’s power is even displayed in Paul’s weakness. Paul learns more about God’s power as he prays for healing. He describes pleading with God, 3 times regarding a “thorn in his flesh.” But God wants Paul to understand the perfect display of God’s power. Paul records God’s reply, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Additionally, Jesus tells his disciples that God’s power will be put on display when the promised gift of the Father comes upon them. Jesus states, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Jesus describes that they will put God’s power on display when they have received the Holy Spirit and witness about the truth. This takes place when Peter and John heal a lame man in the temple courts. They are brought before the Sanhedrin and asked by what power this man was healed. Peter responds, “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.” (Acts 4:10)

Peter and John put God on display in front of a powerful group of men, in a mighty way.

But this week, I watched a news story about Monica Salinas. Monica displayed God in a mighty yet very ordinary, unassuming way.

Monica is a delivery driver for Amazon. She was bringing a delivery to the home of Lucas Pearson. Lucas is an 8-month old baby with a critical heart condition. His health makes him extremely vulnerable to Covid19. Because of this vulnerability, Lucas’ parents have only been ordering food and supplies to the house throughout this pandemic. That day, when Monica delivered the supplies to Lucas’ family, something special happened. Something special was recorded; unbeknownst to Monica. When Lucas’ mom looked through the doorbell camera, she realized that Monica was doing something besides delivering the order. In a wonderful, simple, yet mighty way, God was put on display. For Monica paused and prayed to God for little Lucas and his family. This small gesture was caught on camera and has allowed millions of people to see God displayed through a loving, humble believer.   

Thank you, Monica for your humble, quiet, faithful example that has set God on a platter for so many to see.  

Let us Pray:

“Thank you, Father, for being worthy of all our praise! Thank you for being our Provider and Protector! Guide us, that we may put you on display in simple ways, in ordinary ways, in any way that will lift you up. In Jesus’ Name.” Amen.

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark     



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 1

“April Fool’s Day”

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

April Fool’s Day, April 1st, is the day practical jokes are played on unsuspecting fools. We have a member in our church who loves to catch me by surprise on this foolish day each year. I remain on guard, even on locked down, because I know anything is possible. But April 1, 2002 was no joke. Interestingly enough, I received a phone call from none other than Michael Dennis. Yes, the same Michael Dennis that I wrote about yesterday. He was alive and well on that particular April 1st. He was serving on the Call Committee at Sierra Lutheran, my former congregation in California. My family and I had just moved to Oregon, less than a year earlier, to serve another congregation. He was calling to see if I would consider returning to Sierra as their pastor. “Is this a joke?”, I asked. “No joke”, he said. That opened the door to a period of time that would get worse before it got better.

We heard the sobering news from President Trump yesterday that this Covid19 pandemic is going to get worse before it gets better. I know many of you have faced situations in which your life has become worse before it has gotten better. You have faced cancer and had to endure chemotherapy. You have faced strokes and had to persevere through physical therapy. Some of you have lost your jobs, financial security and retirement and had to fight your way back. Many of you have lost spouses or loved ones, and have had to adjust to life alone. There are many other situations in which people have had to face circumstances that have become worse before they have gotten better.

Hearing the President’s words yesterday and waking up wide eyed this morning at 5:30 a.m., a flood of memories ran through my mind. I thought I might share a snapshot of my own “worst” experience before it got better.

That April Fools phone call from Michael Dennis would end up taking us back to Sierra Lutheran in Central California. Over the next three years it just seemed like things went from bad to worse. When we moved back, we couldn’t afford to buy a house because house prices had increased. We ended up living in 6 different locations over the next 18 months – a guest house, a mountain cabin, an apartment over a garage – finally culminating in living in our 23-foot trailer in the back of our church parking lot. We took showers from a hose at the church with our bathing suits on. No joke! We definitely had to look like fools lathering up for the whole world to see. But actually, the kids and I had quite a bit of fun jumping around on the hot concrete. I know, I’m not arguing that I am a fool and a few other things!

Church life was struggling. Family life was struggling. Snow storms delayed the building of our home. Finally, on my 43rd birthday, during a Bible study, my doctor called and said the results of my colonoscopy showed cancer. I would have surgery the following week and spend the following 8-10 weeks at home. Being locked down at home was probably my “worst” moment. But in the darkness of that moment, GOD RESTORED MY SOUL! Little did I know that the worst was going to become my best!

Why I mentioned earlier about waking wide eyed at 5:30 a.m. is because, after my surgery, God woke me up told me that He needed to spend time with me. I am not, by nature, an early morning person, but for those next weeks of recovery, I woke up with ease and met God in his Word from 5:30 a.m. until 7:00a.m. God opened my eyes to his Word, showed me things I had never seen before, and healed my heart as only he could. Before my surgery, my soul was dry as dust. I was worn out and beaten down from all the battles. But God restored my soul and lifted my spirit as King David wrote, “He put a new song in my mouth”. When I returned to church, hearts began to heal. As we settled into our home, our family continued to heal. Physically, emotionally and spiritually, God was moving and God was healing. New life sprung forth in all kinds of directions.

Not long after unity had settled in, I received another call from a Call Committee member. John Homes, from Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church called me. Because of those 5:30 a.m. meetings with the Lord, my heart was full and I felt I truly had something to offer this new congregation in Washington.

For a period of time at Sierra Lutheran, things got worse before they got better. But God did amazing things during that time. How can the most difficult time of my life also be the best time of my life? I’ll tell you with all the confidence that this one soul can confess – it is because of the love, grace, and power of our Lord Jesus Christ! And the truth is, when we moved to Washington, we would face more moments when things would get worse before they got better. But in all things, God has continued to shine His love, grace and power upon us.

St. Paul points us to the truth, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Paul certainly knew what it was for things to get worse before they got better. He describes his life to his congregation in 2 Corinthians chapter 11. He tells them of having been put in prison, flogged, stoned, shipwrecked, and left out on the open sea among other things. Within a few days of Paul’s conversion, his fellow Jews were already plotting to murder him for preaching about Christ. But those initial difficult days gave rise to a mighty evangelist who finished as one of the best and greatest at his craft!

Yes, in the next few weeks, this pandemic is going to get worse before it gets better. And WE NEED TO PRAY for God to Protect, Provide and Pour out his Power on the sick and those serving on the front lines. As we move forward, let us put our trust in God. It might look like foolishness to the world. But know this, from the worst of times, God can turn our worst into our best. If you have a hard time believing, Mary Magdalene and the disciples have a story to tell about one Easter morning.                      

It will get better!

Your Fellow Fool with Foolishness in his heart,

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Daily Devotion, 3/18/2020

 

The Power of Praise”

“Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth…” Psalm 100:1

King David was a warrior. King David was a worshipper. David fought enemies, won battles and witnessed the glory of God. David also poured out his heart to God in song. He ministered to King Saul with his music. In good times and bad, David worshipped – and it gave him strength.

My favorite psalm is Psalm 100. Perhaps it is because my second grade Sunday School teacher, Nancy Ficken, motivated me to memorize this piece of scripture. Perhaps it is because it emphasizes worship and song. Growing up in a musical family – music has always been one of my key paths of entry into God’s presence.

Can you “shout joyfully” today as the Psalmist encourages? Perhaps you find this a rather difficult request facing so many future uncertainties. But think on this – there is great power in praise!!

David faced incredible adversity throughout his lifetime. He lost battles. He lost his kingdom. He lost his sons. He lost his health. He lost his reputation. Yet through all the uncertainty, he never lost his faith nor his heart for God. And without question, because we hold the entire Psalter of David’s sacred songs in our hands, we know he was rooted in worship and praise to God.

David directs us, even commands us in Psalm 100 to “Shout joyfully” to the lord. As that young boy, I memorized the opening words to the psalm, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord…” Perhaps a small nuance in translation, but one could argue it softens the impact of David’s directive and could be quite significant, and quite important given today’s challenges. The Hebrew word for “shout” is “Rua”. If you read my first daily devotional, you might recognize this word. I mentioned the Hebrew word, “Ruah”, which means spirit or breath and refers to the Holy Spirit. “Rua” is the kind of breath or spirit we express – an energetic, enthusiastic expression – and emerges as a “shout”. And it is important to understand the key relationship between “Ruah” – the Holy Spirit and “Rua” – Shout.

  David hopes to create a picture in the mind of his readers using this word “Rua”. What picture comes to your mind when you hear the word “shout”? A shouting match with your kids? Shouts of the crowds at Seahawk games? Shouts across the political aisles? The picture for the people of Israel and appropriately for David, is one of a warrior standing over his enemy with a triumphant yell. I think of the young boy, David, standing over his defeated foe, mighty Goliath of the Philistines. As a contemporary picture, think of the final touchdown scored by the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl in which the running back, Damien Williams, after scoring, leans back and exerts a rebel yell from the depths of his soul, to the crowd acknowledging final victory over their enemy, the San Francisco 49ers.

Is that what we do on Sunday morning, when we sing songs in praise to God? Is that what you do in the shower when you wake up in the morning? Do we reach back, and find from deep within, a cry for all the world to hear? I assume we all tend to approach God with a bit more passivity and apprehension than where this psalm wants to take us. But what if we taped into this power of praise? What if we let it out and encouraged ourselves to let it go.  Know this for sure – this is a kind of spiritual exercise – taping into the power of the Holy Spirit.  One hint: If you begin to work up a sweat – relax – it’s holy sweat!!

Can you see Jesus? Give a shout. He is our warrior king, standing over our enemy. He has given us victory over sin, death and the devil. The cross is the stake in the ground reminding us of his triumph.

Let out a rebel yell today. In your car, in your closet. Give God your greatest ransomed, redeemed and resounding yell because of what Jesus has done and cry out, “Let’s GOOOOOO!”  Let the tension and stress out to God in praise. And let us put our stake in the ground against all fear. Lift your hands high in victory, looking heavenward and shout for joy.

Yes, in this world we will face crises, but we know where true power lies.

Let us worship the Lord with gladness and come into his presence with joyful songs!

In Christ, Pastor Mark

 

P.S. If you want to follow this reading with some other people shouting to God in worship, I am attaching a few links to some music that might be uplifting.  

Praise Music:

Worship the Lord with gladness, come into his presence with joyful songs.” Psalm 100:1-2

 

Attachments area

Preview YouTube video Hillsong Worship Best Praise Songs Collection 2019 – Gospel Christian Songs Of Hillsong Worship

Hillsong Worship Best Praise Songs Collection 2019 – Gospel Christian Songs Of Hillsong Worship

Preview YouTube video Amazing Grace – Best Version By Far!

Amazing Grace – 

Preview YouTube video BE THOU MY VISION — My Favorite Irish Hymn! 🙂

BE THOU MY VISION —