Pastor Mark’s Easter Devotion

“Three Times”

Remember how he told you…” Luke 24:6

Early, that first Easter morning, Luke records women, who were followers of Jesus, rose in the dark and made their way to the tomb. The women stumbled upon a stone that had been rolled away and a body that had mysteriously disappeared. Suddenly, two angels, gleaming like lightning, appeared and declared the unbelievable news that Jesus was alive. Then God’s messengers said, “Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.” Then we are told, “The women remembered his words”.

As I wrote on Friday, Jesus had been prepared for his death. But it is comforting to know that Jesus also tried to prepare his disciples for his death and resurrection. Three times, at various locations and hours, Jesus forewarned his disciples that He would be arrested, suffer and die – but on the third day be raised to life. On this Easter day, let us remember that Jesus also wants us to be prepared, whether tragedy or triumph. Today, as we center ourselves in Christ, and in his resurrection, no matter what comes, there will be ultimate victory.

It’s interesting that Jesus would speak of his death and resurrection three times. It is also interesting that three times in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus warns his 3 sleeping disciples. He tells them to pray and watch out for temptation. Jesus’ friends were never able to stay awake but it reveals the heart of Jesus. He wanted to prepare his friends for the events of the very near future.  

Even more personally, Jesus forewarns Simon individually. During the Last Supper, after a third discourse about washing feet, Jesus warns Simon that Satan has asked to sift him like wheat. What does “sifting” even mean? Perhaps we can replace the word, “sift” with the verbs, “pulverize” or “crush”. Understanding that Satan has the desire to “crush” Simon is a scary thought. Yet to know that Jesus wanted to prepare Simon, brings great comfort.

It should be noted that while Jesus was wanting to protect Simon, Jesus was preparing for his own “crushing”. You might think of the Garden of Gethsemane primarily as a place where Jesus prayed 3 final prayers to his Father- and that his sweat was like drops of blood. But going even further into the garden, reveals something even greater.  

Jesus gathered in the garden and prayed beneath the olive trees. Olive trees produce olives that when pressed and crushed, produce olive oil. Olive oil was used in anointing. Olive oil was used in anointing kings, anointing for healing, and other special purposes. Olive oil also represented light. Jesus was going to be the anointed King – and it would require a crushing on a cross. He would eventually be anointed King of Kings but it was going to take a mighty crushing in the process. When olives are crushed to produce oil, what process is involved? To extract all the oil from the olives, it requires the olives to be crushed 3 times. There would be three “crushings” required of our Savior – body, mind and spirit – a complete sacrifice to pay the price for sin.

Today is Easter day! May this knowledge of Jesus’ complete crushing and resulting resurrection protect and prepare us for whatever future we might face. May we remember that through his crushing and through his rising, he shines LIGHT upon this world.

So, let us shout three times. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Our anointed King LIVES! And He has CRUSHED DEATH FOREVER!!

Thanks Be to God!

Pastor Mark

 

    



Pastor Mark’s Daily Devotion 3/24/2020

“Little by Little”

“The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you little by little.” Deuteronomy 7:22

Israel spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness. Moses passed the baton of leadership to Joshua. The next generation of Israelites followed Joshua into battle. They first destroyed the city of Jericho. More accurately, we need to acknowledge that Yahweh was the One who brought down the fortified walls of Jericho. Yes, Israel was on the move. It was time for them to take the land. God promised to drive and deliver Israel’s enemies into their hands. And the Israelites were to defeat and destroy them. God said, “Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.” These words sound uncharacteristic from the Heavenly Father we know whose nature is love. But not fully understanding the culture, climate and times – God’s words require a step of faith as He explains, “For they will turn your hearts away from following me to serve other gods.” We must trust that God, our Father recognized the existential threat these nations posed toward his people and his plan for salvation. In some similar way, perhaps how the Nazi war machine of World War II posed a physical threat to the lives of the Jews.  Yahweh continues, “Do not look on them with pity and do not serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you.” He goes on, “You may say to yourselves, ‘These nations are stronger than we are. How can we drive them out? But do not be afraid of them: REMEMBER WELL what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt.” The Hebrew word, “zakar”, to remember, also means “to recollect” or “to reflect deeply upon something or someone”, in this case, namely Yahweh Almighty. God is telling his people to “take seriously to heart” the mighty power of God over those pagan nations.

Finally, God says, “The LORD your God will drive out those nations before you little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once.” Why does God say, “Little by little”? He explains, why, in the next verse, but don’t you hate, “little by little”. It would have been so much easier if God would have just cleaned the land of Canaan all at once. The Israelites could have washed their hands of the whole mess and could have moved on with drinking the milk and eating the honey that was promised. But in the end, the children of God were going to have to continue to wash their hands – over and over and over again, trusting in God to deliver.

So often, in our own lives, we wish troubles, fights and challenges could just be washed away all at once. But more times than not, they are overcome, little by little. The truth is, we are called to trust God in the little things and to wash our hands, over and over again until the job is done. Just as we are called to do today in getting rid of that nasty Covid19 virus! So wash! So too, think of the Allies in World War II. They had to advance little by little as they re-captured village after village in France and “Island Hopped” across the Pacifc.

God says to Israel, “You will not be allowed to eliminate all the nations at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you.” God is going to move Israel through Canaan in a step by step process in order to protect them. What kind of protection? He mentioned the multiplication of wild animals but perhaps that also meant protection against sickness and disease. However far reaching, God was going to protect his people through the process.

Today, our wish is that this coronavirus could be wiped and washed away all at once. But more than likely it will be a step by step process. Little by little, day after determined day, researchers, scientists and practitioners will discover how to destroy this invisible enemy, this pagan disease. Perhaps not on our preferred time schedule. But trust that this WILL take place! Why do I say this? Because God continues to be sovereign over all things and his plan of salvation is still being brought to completion. REMEMBER WELL, the Rock of our salvation. He is our Champion. He is our Victor! And He shall surely do this!            

In Christ, Pastor Mark

 



Pastor Mark’s October Newsletter Blog

“Happiness:  Making a Few Moves”

 
This past month has brought some new moves. Jeriah has moved into her new life in New York. She has moved away from what was familiar to a brand new set of conditions – academically, socially, spiritually, physically, culturally, and if nothing else, adjusting to life without Costco. Fortunately, Trader Joe’s is only a 15 minute drive away. Simultaneously, I’ve moved back into an old house with new conditions. The loud noise of resounding quiet rings in my ears. No more daily connections around meals or meetings or work schedules. No more shared moments during sunrise or sunsets. No more spontaneous adventures wherever the wind might take us. It’s a new culture for me too. A familiar feeling that reminds me when she left for college, yet this is farther reaching, farther climbing, farther challenging. A father could not be more excited for his daughter’s new found adventure. But as I hear the familiar wind chimes ring in the distance, I also recognize that this move is something new.
 
Perhaps you are experiencing something new, and these words are ringing true for you. How are we to handle these new moving conditions?
 
This morning I read an article about finding greater happiness in life. Some of the recommendations given were to play more video games and take more selfies. This article sent me on my own pondering about…. what truly brings greater happiness in one’s life?
 
As I began to jot down a few notes, the following thoughts quickly emerged and without knowing it, an article of my own was being created. Perhaps this might be helpful to my daughter, I don’t know – but I quickly realized that I need these thoughts for myself and perhaps they might resonate with you.
 
Buried in each thought is a secret treasure that can be found in scripture – but I’ll leave that searching for you if you want to find.
 
This is not necessarily a complete list – maybe it’s a KEY list – and maybe these thoughts will provoke a few ponderings of your own to add, delete, adjust, or expand to personalize it for yourself.
 
    A Few Moves Toward Happiness:  
  1. Move to REST in a peaceful place – enjoy quiet, music, devotion.

  Rest for your inner soul. Time with God. Time with yourself.

  1. Move to ACCOMPLISH something that brings satisfaction – exercise, yard work, house work or homework, perhaps a remodel project or even paying the bills – some tangible tasks that feel good accomplishing.

  A work that is gratifying not a work that is driven by shame or guilt.

  1. Move to CONNECT with someone. Meet for coffee, a walk or a talk. Share a meal, a snack or perhaps happy hour. Personal connection with another human being – resist email or text or even phone call if possible.

  Face to face contact is always most satisfying.

  1. Move to SERVE (or encourage) someone else with an act of kindness. Shift your focus from self to others – help to meet a need.

  Helping to meet another in need will always bring meaningful satisfaction and happiness to your soul.

  1. Move to UNDERSTAND your life in a larger context. You will live more fully in the moment with the knowledge that your life is connected to a bigger picture. If a Christian, your life is lived within God’s grand design.

  From day to day, you might not see movement but understand, God is moving you toward His destiny!

Happiness is found when you are moving toward something of intrinsic value, not in your running away from something nor as you are paralyzed by fear, nor by simply treading water aimlessly.

   So, where are you headed?

   Take time to….. * listen to the birds * smell the flowers * sip the coffee * taste the wine * rest in the quiet * watch the sunrise * stir the sauce on the stove * walk the familiar path * receive from the Spirit * read the Word * return to what you know * share your inner thoughts * help a person in need * thank God for the moments you have right here, right now.

   Remember what has brought you joy in the past.

Happiness is here for us today. It will be waiting for us tomorrow. Can you see it? Can you perceive it? Let us move in these moments and receive it!   As I sip my coffee in this quiet moment, I recognize a familiar move: “Thanks Be to God!”

“And my God will supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”    Phil 4:19