Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 19

“Royalty”

“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood…” 1 Peter 2:9

Royalty is not for the faint of heart! We are watching the drama of Prince Harry unfold from a distance. If we were allowed an up-close picture, I’m sure we would see a lot of pain. Like I said, royalty is not for the faint of heart. Just ask Prince Harry’s new wife, Meghan. She felt the full force of royalty and fought for her family to walk away. The reality is that there are no easy paths. Whatever road we travel, it will be fraught with challenges. Prince Harry and Meghan are feeling a certain freedom even while being in quarantine. They are in the middle of purchasing a $15 million dollar home in Malibu. But along with this freedom comes the reality of re-establishing one’s identity. Harry is walking away from the only identity he has ever known. While he might not like the conditions and restraints and lack of privacy he has had to endure, this new road will be rocky. Re-discovering a new identity is never easy. He will smile for the cameras, but beneath the surface, internal struggle will be his daily food.

Still royal and sitting on her throne, young prince Harry would do well to learn from his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II. Her reign began in 1952. She has ruled the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth for over 68 years. She publicly voiced her commitment to serve the British people for the rest of her life at the young age of 24. At that time, with her father in poor health, Princess Elizabeth spoke publicly and declared her allegiance to the people. She was not wearing rose colored glasses. She had grown up in the palace. She had endured the fiercest world war the world had ever known. She stood resolved, committed and eager to serve her people. Life would not be easy. Her family, country and commonwealth would face innumerable challenges, yet she still stands. What has steadied her throughout almost 7 decades of reign has been her understanding of service. Her reign, rule and life exist in order to serve for the betterment of her countrymen and women. While there have been times of great suffering personally and publicly, she will be remembered as the greatest royal to serve the English people.

Some of us, in the cheap seats, look at royalty and wish for the day. We wish that we could ride in the carriage and wave the royal wave to cheering fans. But after the pomp and circumstance, the life of the royals is simply hard work. Their every day is planned and scheduled. Every step and word is recorded. Scrutiny and criticism are around every corner. And false claims are on every weekly tabloid. Yet with all the challenges, there remains great satisfaction in being royal. Prince Harry will soon begin to realize all that he has left. And he will begin the long, difficult road to discover within himself what he has never needed to know. The world will watch and record how he stands.

Did you know YOU are royalty? St. Peter states, “(Believers) You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood.” Some Christians live their whole lives believing that they are simple commoners. Many believers simply wait for the scraps to fall from their master’s table. Yet the Scriptures declare something different. We are royal. We are heirs to a Kingdom. We’ve been given keys to that kingdom, and authority to rule in a righteous robe which Christ has placed upon us. Some believers remain living in the cheap seats, wearing their rose-colored glasses. These believers envision all glory laud and honor  will simply be bestowed upon them. Jesus clearly declared, before he left his disciples, that being royal in God’s Kingdom was to be something different. Jesus would say in no uncertain terms that, indeed, the royal life would not be for the faint of heart. Rather than being Kings who seek to be served and rule over others, his Kingdom was going to be filled with royals who seek to serve. God’s royalty would serve God first and follow with their neighbor. They would wash feet, carry their cross, love one another, forgive each other’s sin, serve the poor and announce the future coming of the King. It would be hard work. There would be suffering both privately and publicly. But the meaning and satisfaction of being part of this Kingdom reign would bring no greater joy.

Jesus did not soft sell this royal journey. Royalty is only an easy path if one only read’s selected verses from Scripture that do not speak of sacrifice. One must gut all the vital organs out of scripture if we are to overlook the Kingdom’s call. Jesus knows that the only path, on the narrow road that not many will find, exists where personal sacrifice and God’s power intersect. At this crossing of personal death and spiritual life, new life is discovered in him and a new identity emerges. An identity that is saved for royalty. An identity that is more glorious and good than anyone could imagine.

You might not have known but there is a path for royalty laid out in Scripture. This path is not hard and fast with rigid edges. The royal path is followed in trust to God. He leads the way. He determines each step.

There is a path outlined for royals both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Two people who were raised to royalty can give us a clear understanding of that path.

Joseph, the son Jacob, was raised to royalty. Recorded in Genesis, Joseph’s rise can be traced back to his beginning battles with his family, through his enslavement in Egypt and his ultimate rise to the throne -second in command of all Egypt. His life lifts up themes which are consistently found in the royal family.

Jesus, son of Joseph, began as royalty. Jesus reigned in glory, but did not believe royalty was something to be held on to. Thus, Jesus humbled himself in obedience to his Father, took on human flesh and took the lowest place. Born in the backroads of Nazareth, Jesus path eventually took him to the right hand of God. His name is now lifted up above all other names. It is crucial for us as clueless royals to watch, learn and remember their road.     

When the Lord spiritually restored my heart while I was in recovery from cancer surgery in 2006, he revealed the following path. I felt a surge of excitement each morning as he seemed to make more and more connections in Scripture. My heart was strengthened as I began to see the path that both Joseph and Jesus followed – this helped to heal my brokenness.

I will briefly share the 7 moves of God in the path of royalty:

  1.   Chosen
  2.   Challenged
  3.   Suffering
  4.   Exaltation
  5.   Fruit
  6.   Reconciliation
  7.   Rest – Shalom

The first step is never ours. God calls, claims, chooses and draws his royal people to him. St. Peter declares that we are first “Chosen” before we are a “royal priesthood”. Paul in Ephesians chapter 1, states, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he has chosen us in him before the creation of the world…” Eph. 1:3-4.

Joseph was chosen. He was given God driven dreams and ultimately would save God’s chosen people – Israel -from famine. Jesus was chosen. His Father gave him a God driven mission. He was given the responsibility to reveal that the Kingdom of God was at hand and ultimately to save God’s chosen people – the world – from sin. As believers, we also have been chosen by God to carry Jesus’ work and message forward. We are here to help establish God’s royal Kingdom on earth until he returns. We have been crowned with the power of the Holy Spirit to carry out and continue this God driven mission.

Being chosen does not come without challenges. Every royal one will be challenged. Normally, the initial challenge to a royal’s mission originates close to home. Joseph was challenged by his family. His father and brothers were put off by this “young dreamer”. Joseph’s family incredulously challenged God’s chosen, “Are we to bow down to you?” Eventually Joseph’s brothers threw him in a cistern, faked his death and sold him as a slave. So also, Jesus was challenged by his family as he began his ministry. Mark 3:21 records, “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of Jesus for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.”

Spiritual challenges can also come to crush the initial calling. Jesus was sent into the wilderness before his ministry began. God the Father was going to use the wilderness experience to empower his Son into ministry. Satan was waiting for the “opportune time” to crush the “Chosen One”. Many calls to royals are crushed at the beginning before a Godly foothold can be established. Many people, when they are given the gift of tongues are challenged. Immediately after the Spirit moves, there is a spiritual challenge with the hopes to invalidate the experience and crush it. Satan will challenge each of us at different points in our lives with an attempt to steal, kill or destroy anything of God. He typically will wait for an “opportune time” – as he did with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, when we are in a weakened, vulnerable place. Luke states, “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” (Luke 4:13)

Seven is a special number. Seven is a royal number. Seven is a complete number. Seven is a sign of wholeness and unity. One could argue that 7 is the number for “shalom” – peace, completeness. From beginning to end, the number 7 is significant in the work of God. As bookends, there are Seven days of creation recorded in the first book of the Bible, Genesis. There are also seven churches to whom Jesus speaks, in the last book of the Bible, Revelation. In the book of Joshua, Israel is told to march around the city of Jericho with seven priests, carrying seven trumpets. On the seventh day, they are to march seven times around the city and on the seventh time, God will bring the walls tumbling down. Joshua’s, (it’s not an accident that Jesus’ name means Joshua in Hebrew) leading of the Israelites, represents a victory  that will take place in the future as Jesus steps into his royal position. Throughout scripture, the number 7 has something special to point to spiritually as well as literally.  

Within the seven royal steps, it is also important to recognize “couplings” that grouped within the seven. One step is linked to another. As we are “chosen”, soon will come a “challenge”. When “suffering” comes, “exaltation” is what awaits on the other side. As we begin to “bear fruit”, “reconciliation” is connected to this season of fruitfulness. Finally, “Rest” seems to stand alone. But the reality is that our circular path of royalty is not one and done. We continue to circle in this path as God directs. So, our period of “Rest” or “Shalom” will lead us back into being “Called” and “Chosen” once again for a new mission. And keep in mind that this pattern probably continues into the Kingdom Triumphant as we are “Called” home and we continue to serve at the will of our King.

As one who is royal steps through the challenges of family and spiritual turbulence, a period of “suffering” will follow. Suffering usually comes at the hand of outsiders. Joseph was thrown in a cistern by his brothers but he suffered slavery under the Egyptians. He was a slave under Potiphar. He was falsely accused of rape by Potiphar’s wife. He was thrown in prison. He was left and forgotten in prison for two years. He was left wondering about his future. But we are also told that God was with him!

Jesus suffered at the hands of the religious leaders and the Romans. He was falsely accused. The Jews tried to entrap him. The Romans whipped, beat and scourged him. Finally, he suffered death on a cross.

Royals with eyes completely open understand that this “suffering’ is temporary. They also know that beyond the temporal pain is “exaltation”. Paul points to this in his second letter to the Corinthians. Knowing all the suffering that Paul endured: His whippings, beatings, imprisonments, ship wrecks and more – he states, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Cor. 4:17)

 It is this place of suffering that many royals back down and walk away. Prince Harry and Meghan could not take the suffering any longer. Feeling unfair treatment, they also projected similar suffering would be laid upon their son. They were unwilling to pay the price. But truth be told – there is price to be paid moving in either direction on the path. Avoidance of current suffering today might simply mean that it is being pushed down the road to surface at a different time. Perhaps it will show up at an “opportune time”. Or they might discover that they had suffered enough and this path opens up to a new exalted position for them. In whatever way their future plays out, the royal position they are looking for will be down the road of service. As they serve others, the path will be made clear, just like their grandmother who has gone before them.  

As God’s royalty, we are looking more deeply down the road. Our eye on the prize is not simply serving others but first it is service to God. A close second is our service to others, but the difference must be made clear. So, we fix our eyes upon Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Hebrews 2:10 states, “In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author (Jesus) of their salvation perfect through suffering.” We must understand that Joseph, Jesus and Paul, all three endured suffering and it prepared them for the next position. Suffering paved the way to “exaltation”. They have paved the way for our understanding and placing in context the conditions of suffering.

We never know the length of time for our suffering. It is here that our faith is painfully refined, honed and strengthened in preparation for exaltation. The foundational and fundamental key to achieving the exalted position is humility. If humility does not exist, if pride prevails, the fall will be swift and quick. Philippians 2:8 tells us that Jesus humbled himself and became obedient unto death.” Paul states in 2 Corinthians, “To keep me from becoming prideful because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” In Paul’s case, whether his suffering was failed eye sight or epilepsy, God did not heal his sickness. Rather, God gave him the promise that God’s grace would be sufficient for him. One more position of faith for Paul in his path of being royal.

Exaltation is on the other side of suffering. Joseph was lifted up into royalty when he who was chosen used his God given gifts to interpret dreams. Joseph was exalted to second in command of all Egypt. He was given authority to rule and entrusted to feed all of the Egyptian people. So also, Jesus, after his suffering and death on the cross, was lifted up and exalted to the right hand of God. Paul states, “Therefore, God has exalted Jesus to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.” (Phil. 2:9)

From this place of exaltation, Joseph then moved on the road to the next coupled steps. The steps of “Bearing fruit” and “Reconciliation” are closely held together. Joseph entered into a season of bearing fruit and feeding the people in the midst of a great famine. He also bore fruit in the reconciliation of his relationship with his brothers.  Forgiveness, freedom and love fed the souls of Joseph and his brothers. Jacob’s families followed this feeding and healing and moved to Egypt. For a season, Jacob, now named Israel, found rest for their souls. In time, Israel would be put in bondage. But in more time, Moses, a man that God had CHOSEN, would come and deliver Israel from Egypt.

Jesus, in his “exalted” position, sends the Holy Spirit to his disciples. They are filled and empowered by the Spirit and the fruits of the Spirit, described in Galatians 5:22-25, emerge. Reconciliation spreads among the brothers. Jesus reinstates Peter after the resurrection.  And the message of reconciliation takes on new life among the new believers. Unfortunately, Judas stepped off the path and fell off the rails. He was not able to experience the reconciliation that Jesus offered. Judas’ journey ended tragically!

A royal will not be able to move into fruitful abundance if unreconciled relationships exist. Jesus leads his disciples to pray and ask God’s forgiveness even as they would forgive their brothers and sisters. Fruitfulness will flourish as reconciliation is abundant. Unforgiveness of the heart will lead to a drying up of the Spirit and a barren harvest. Prince Harry and Prince William will need to walk down this road of reconciliation if they are to see their families grow in full fruitfulness – so too the rest of their families.

Paul speaks of the step of reconciliation in 2 Corinthians chapter 5. He states, “God who has reconciled us to himself through Christ, gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We therefore are ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Cor. 5:18-20).

As Fruit grows and reconciliation spreads, the natural consequence is shalom – peace – REST.

As royals we rest in the Lord. We rest in his grace. We rest in his love. And we wait for the rest of the story. Will God come calling again? Yes, Indeed, God will call again. His rest is not laziness. His rest is creativity. He will call us again and again into His service while we live here on earth. When His opportune time has arrived, His Kairos time, we will be called back into the world. And then finally, when the time is right, our Father will call us to our eternal home, to our home of glory.

For we are CHOSEN! We are HEIRS of His Kingdom! We are ROYALTY!   

Rest in this Truth!

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark    



Pastor’s July Blog

 
Pastor Mark’s July Newsletter Blog
 
“On Our Way Rejoicing”
 
As a boy, I can remember my dad often choosing hymn number 260, “On Our Way Rejoicing”, as our sending song in worship.  This hymn was an upbeat, celebratory song that always put an exclamation point on the service and energized us to move forward.
 
The refrain declares, “On our way rejoicing; As we forward move, Hearken to our praises, O blest God of love!”  
 
On June 9, 2019, Our Saviour’s Lutheran congregation met to discuss and vote upon the proposed plan to remodel our fellowship hall and fireside room. We gathered together for one worship service and the place was packed. You could feel the vibe and excitement in the room (which, to be honest, I wasn’t sure how the whole morning would go. We had done our homework, been on our knees in prayer – yet still we were not sure how the congregation, as a whole felt about the project.)
 
After a great time of worship, the table was set, and we feasted with a great breakfast. Then our President, Ken Christoferson, opened our meeting and gave an overall scope of the project. Marv Hansen, our project manager, then focused on all the details and particulars of the remodel. I followed trying to focus upon the “why” of this effort – to further strengthen our mission and ministry in our church and into our community. Annette Bowden then discussed the funds necessary and a vision for how this could be accomplished.  
 
Then a motion was made and a vote was taken to consider this remodel project.
 
Overwhelmingly the congregation approved the effort with a vote of 118-2. And we went on our way, rejoicing!
 
That day, commitment cards were passed out and on the following day cards were mailed out for those who could not attend. Annette explained that to begin the project, we would need to raise $200,000 in pledges to be given by September 30, 2019. Those pledges were to be made on the “green” commitment cards. The “yellow” commitment card is for a 3-year pledge, that would cover the remainder of the construction costs of $170,000.
 
It is now 7 days after our congregational meeting and to date Sheri, our treasurer, who is the only one who will count these cards, has communicated that we have received pledges on the green cards of $148,844 – that’s 74.4% of our initial fund raising goal of $200,000! 
 
Are you rejoicing? I CAN’T HEAR YOU! How exciting and what a wonderful expression of enthusiasm from our congregation to see this kind of generous giving so quickly. Yes, we still have a way to go – but it is very exciting as we forward move. May God hearken to our praises, O blest God of love!
 
On the day of our vote, I told two stories involving Pastor Tony Campolo, pointing to the power and purpose of why we are here as a church and why we do what we do. Whether remodel or not, we are here to bring the message of reconciliation from Jesus Christ to a lost and broken world. And we have been given the opportunity and privilege to participate in His mission.
 
I close with one final Tony Campolo story:  Tony was giving a major address at a women’s conference. At a point in the program the women were being challenged with a several thousand dollar goal for their mission project, the chairperson for the day turned to Dr. Campolo and asked him if he would pray for God’s blessing on the women as they considered what they might do to achieve their goal.
 
To her astonishment, he went to the podium and graciously declined. He said, “You already have the necessary resources to complete this project right here in this room. The necessary gifts are in your hands. As soon as we take the offering and underwrite this project, then we will thank God for freeing us to be generous, responsible and accountable stewards.”
 
When the offering was taken, the mission goal was overreached. Then Dr. Campolo led them in a joyous prayer and song of thanksgiving. I wonder if the song was, “On Our Way Rejoicing”?
 
Thank you for your partnership and participation. More specifically, thank you for your partnership and participation in the mission of the Gospel.
 
In all that we do, may Jesus Christ be honored, glorified and praised.
 
Join us Sunday, June 30th at 9:45 a.m. in the fellowship hall  – as we eat breakfast together, hear from Sheri the results of our progress and then sing together,  “On our way rejoicing; as we forward move, Hearken to our praises, O blest God of love!”
 
Yours in Christ,
 
Pastor Mark