Pastor Mark’s Devotions, July 16

“Finding Your Voice”

“Listen as Wisdom calls out! Hear as understanding raises her voice!” Proverbs 8:1

Have you found your voice? What does that even really mean? I’ve heard that language used 3 different times, in three different contexts over the past week. Certainly, we talk and we have listened to our own voice for our entire life. Each week, contestants appear on the TV program, The Voice, because they have heard their voice and can belt out beautiful musical notes. But there is a deeper question. A spiritual question. Have you found your voice?

This past week, while watching a news report about Simone Biles, the greatest gymnast on planet earth, it was reported that through all her trials and successes, among other things, she has “found her voice,”  Tuesday evening, I drove to Renton to purchase a one-person backpacking tent.  As the seller and I talked about adventures and new stages in life, he commented that some people never take time to get to know themselves or “find their voice.” This all began when I received a comment from someone outside our congregation who said they liked “my voice” regarding one of my devotions. Interesting!  I must admit that over these past four months, the challenge of these devotions has allowed me the time to wrestle with how to express my heart, thoughts, feelings, faith, and perspectives. At times, I have struggled with my literary style. But I have come to the conclusion that this has been an important part in helping me to find “my voice” in the midst of all the minefields we are facing today.

This topic has triggered memories which date back to 1992. You might find this ridiculous, but it takes me back to the movie, Sister Act. Whoopi Goldberg, a lounge singer in the witness protection program takes on the character of a nun, teaching at a Catholic high school. At a pivotal moment in the movie, Goldberg states to one of her students who thinks a singing career is an impossible dream, “If you wake up each morning and you have a song on your heart – then you are a singer, girl!” That statement from this classic comedy, struck a chord. This Catholic Nun was helping a rebellious student “find her voice.” Whether she would become a professional singer or not – her inner voice was waiting to be explored.

Another memory triggered, relating to the country singer, Garth Brooks. I remember hearing about a pivotal story from his early singing days—a conversation that changed the trajectory of his career. Brooks  was writing songs and looking for his breakthrough opportunity. He told a producer that his goal was to be like his idol, George Strait. The producer looked straight at him and said that he needed to let go of George Strait. He told Brooks that he simply needed to discover the true Garth Brooks. He was encouraging Brooks to find his own voice. Garth Brooks took that advice, set himself free to be himself and has arguably become one of the greatest country singers of all time. And, at the peak of his career, I don’t think that it was a coincidence that he walked away from it all to spend time with his family and raise his children. He knew his voice. Now that his kids are grown, he has stepped back into the music industry and is once again re-discovering his voice – and the crowds are loving it.

Has anyone helped you to find your voice? Perhaps a parent, grandparent, teacher or coach lifted your sights to look deeper within to discover more of who you are. Tragically, many people have suffered abuse, whether physically, emotionally or spiritually, that has shut down any soul searching and true discovery. So also, some voices have gone untamed and uncontrolled such that they become hard and loud and destructive. Perhaps the sweet spot in finding one’s voice lies in the place in which one’s heart is stirred, people are blessed and honor is brought to God. Each voice is unique. Each voice is special. Each voice is a gift. Your voice has been given from God and to be spoken like none other.

Consider the voice of the Apostles. As disciples, while following Jesus on earth, their voices ware yet undiscovered. But when Jesus left his friends, ascended to his Father, and the Holy Spirit appeared, it was then that they found their voice.

Listen to each unique voice as they begin their letters to fellow believers:

Peter states, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you.” (1 Peter 1:3-4)

John writes, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.” (1 John 1:1-2)

James declares, “Considerate pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

Paul says, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:3-6)

There is no evidence that Jesus ever personally took time to put his thoughts down on parchment, but he certainly had a voice. Interestingly enough, he used his voice most commonly in teaching the crowds about God’s Kingdom through parables. Matthew 13:34 explains, “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable.” Jesus used his voice referencing common, ordinary examples in explaining God’s Kingdom. And as he pointed to these tangible objects, he declared that some would be privy to understanding while others would remain in the dark. Whether people understood or not, agreed or not, they all recognized One who knew his voice.

So, what is the sound of your voice? What stirs your soul? What speaks to you? What depth of meaning have you come to understand through your life’s journey? What quickens your heart that might bring a blessing to others? And what ultimately might bring honor to God? Only you can know this voice. Only you can speak this voice. Only you can live this voice.

Knowing your voice does not mean that you will be a professional writer of prose, novels or non-fiction. Knowing your voice leads to contentment, peace, confidence, energy, life, hope, dreams, satisfaction, joy, faith, and love. Knowing your voice is experiencing when spoken, it connects you to God!

If, by grace, you wake up in the morning and have that something that still stirs your soul, that you realize will bless others and ultimately bring honor to God – Lift your voice in praise to God – For He has shared his voice with you! If unsure, lift up your voice in prayer to God, ask Him, listen, and let Him lead you. Pay attention because as with Elijah, it could arrive as a “still, small voice.” But then again, listen to the voice of David from Psalm 29.

Psalm 29:3-11

The voice of the Lord echoes above the sea.
    The God of glory thunders.
    The Lord thunders over the mighty sea.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord splits the mighty cedars;
    the Lord shatters the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon’s mountains skip like a calf;
    he makes Mount Hermon[b] leap like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord strikes
    with bolts of lightning.
The voice of the Lord makes the barren wilderness quake;
    the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord twists mighty oaks[c]
    and strips the forests bare.
In his Temple everyone shouts, “Glory!”

10 The Lord rules over the floodwaters.
    The Lord reigns as king forever.
11 The Lord gives his people strength.
    The Lord blesses them with peace.

 

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark

 

 

 

 

 

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 11

“Broken Praise”

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?                                                                Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:11

 

Right now, we are in the midst of receiving a lot of mixed messages and mixed signals. There is hope in the air, as some of our economy is opening up. But as Covid19 cases continue to increase, and the death toll continues to climb, it is clear that the virus is also still in the air. South Korea has been the champion for clamping down on the virus. Yet, even there, new cases are starting to surface. More symptoms, new child cases and more questions seem to be emerging. The pubic is troubled and frustrated and wants to be given more freedom. There is some good news. The medical field is making strides in more accurate testing and more economical methods. But all this news is confusing and can lead to mixed emotions.  

Receiving a steady stream of uncertain information over time can really play tricks on our emotions. We can be up, one minute, and down the next. One day we might feel hopeful, while the next day we might drop into feelings of despair. Without a consistent, congruent path, we are vulnerable to emotional peaks and valleys, and waves of fear.

During this time of upheaval, consider the idea of, “Broken Praise”. I feel like the Holy Spirit brought these two words to my attention this weekend. Immediately, I knew this would somehow develop into a devotion. During these unsettling times, I believe the concept of, “Broken Praise”, can be an anchor for our soul.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 states, “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” For sure, we are to give thanks, for it is God’s will. But often our emotions cannot catch up with the conditions we face. Sometimes, the idea of giving God thanks and praise feels like a hammer pounding us into the ground. But if we are able to acknowledge our feelings of despair and discouragement; if we can declare our heavy heart and be honest with our broken dreams; something positive can rise from the dust and ashes. Praise becomes a possibility in the midst of pain. It is not a mixed message to acknowledge a broken heart and praise to God. Rather it is taking two parts, pain and praise, and making them one. The joining of these two positions, actually allows a person to stand. This posture and pose correctly positions honesty, authenticity, and raw truth. This paradox is often the way God reveals his power.  

King David modeled a posture of “Broken Praise” in Psalm 42. He was able to stand in complete honesty and walk in the power of God.

(Once again, I discovered that the number 42 was hammered into my consciousness – as this psalm provides much hope and encouragement in my walk of faith.)

David declares, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” He also acknowledges, “By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.”

But David also honestly speaks of his broken heart. He states, “My tears have been my food day and night.” He also speaks of his depression, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?”

Yet with all this mix of raw emotion, David directs himself to join together the two positions. He feels pain, but he turns to praise. He says, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” He even repeats this reminder twice in his psalm. David repeats and finishes his prayer with this final verse, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

Often, out of fear or embarrassment, we feel the need to mask our pain. We are afraid of what others might think. Or we are afraid of where this fear might take us. But the ability to stand stable and secure in uncertain times actually comes when we are able to honestly acknowledge and give voice to the brokenness we feel. When we then point our pain to God and join Him in praise – a force of power is able to arrive – not only allowing us to stand but to walk forward in whatever uncertain our future.   

Whatever day greets you tomorrow; whether you need help or hope; hold on to the unity of “Broken Praise”.  Acknowledge being downcast. Put your hope in God. It’s what your soul thirsts for!

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 2

“Praying the Psalms”

Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress.” Psalm 4:1

 

Have you ever considered praying the psalms? Sometime we get in a place where we just don’t know what to pray. The longer we are told to “stay at home” and restrict our activity, it can play havoc with our emotional wellbeing. When you find yourself in a place in which prayer seems fruitless, I encourage you to turn to the book of Psalms.

King David not only had a heart for God, he poured out his heart to God. The Psalter is considered the hymnbook for the nation of Israel. But originally, most of them were like a diary or devotional book recording David’s private, personal prayers. David wrote about his victories and successes. He also wrote about his failures and troubles. He describes times of deep fear and depression. He also describes a heart full of praise and thanksgiving to God, his deliverer.

When you don’t know what to pray, consider turning to the Psalms. You might find something in David’s words that you can turn and personally offer to God for yourself. Sometimes just the first verse of a Psalm can tap an emotion that you are feeling and can trigger a prayer to God.

Psalm 4 describes David needing help from God. Perhaps this is how most small business owners feel right now. David prays, “Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.”

Psalm 5 describes David asking for help in the morning. David prays, “Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”

Psalm 10 describes David feeling alone. Perhaps people living in isolation feel this way. David prays, “Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”

Psalm 8 describes David in awe of the majesty of God. Perhaps people at NASA or people gazing into the night sky feel this way. David prays, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.”

Psalm 9 describes David declaring his praise to God. Perhaps people who have recovered from Covid19 feel this way. David prays, I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Psalm 12 describes David declaring his need for help. Perhaps business owners are feeling this way about government leaders. David prays, “Help, O LORD, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men. Everyone lies to his neighbor; their flattering lips speak with deception.”

Psalm 16 describes David declaring his need for refuge. Perhaps state governors are feeling this way among the protestors. David prays, “Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.”

Psalm 18 describes David declaring his love for God. Perhaps, even in trying times, many believers are feeling this way. David prays, “I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.”

David’s prayers, written over 3,000 years ago, still speak. They can speak to you in your time of need. They can remind you that you are not alone. Others have felt and are feeling the way you feel. This awareness alone can provide much hope. We are blessed to have 150 psalms in our Bible to choose from. God has included all of them in his Word that we might tap into them depending upon our situation.

When in doubt, turn to the Psalms. Let David’s pray become your prayer, that you may find rest for your soul.

Today, this is my prayer:

               “I waited patiently for you LORD;

               You turned to me and heard my cry.

               You lifted me out of the slimy pit,

               Out of the mud and mire;

               You have set my feet upon a rock

               And gave me a firm place to stand.

               You have put a new song in my mouth,

               A hymn of praise to our God. “        From Psalm 40:1-3

               Thank you, Lord Jesus!

God Bless You All,

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 —