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 Mark’s Devotions, May 28

“Ride On”

“Sing to God, sing praises to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds –                                                   his name is the LORD, Yahweh – and rejoice before him.” Psalm 68:4

This morning I went on a ride with James and Jon. Two other disciples of Jesus rode along as well.       

No, I was not dreaming, my gluteus maximus is clearly telling me that this ride was real. James reached out to me earlier in the week and invited me on a motorcycle ride. Three others heard about the call. No, it was not Peter, Andrew, and Bartholomew. Rather, they were, brother Bruce, Dave and Jon. So, we 5 disciples met on Thursday at 8 a.m., and rode off from the church.

As we rode away, Jon took the lead. He knew the way. We were going to ride the backroads to Bellingham. We had been on these roads before but not since last summer. It was a beautiful morning. This was my first ride of the season. We rode up Chuckanut Drive (State Route 11) and it was as if we owned the road. Not another car was seen on that entire stretch of pavement. The quiet twists and turns under the canopy of trees was awesome. A cool breeze accompanied us the entire way. We had been this way before, so it was fun to relive the familiar view. We stopped at Starbucks in Fairhaven for coffee. After the break, we talked about the route for our return trip. If I had led, I would have simply returned the way we came. But as we left the parking lot, James took the lead. He took a left at the light.

We went under the freeway and suddenly, for me, we were riding in unfamiliar territory. I had not been on this road before. At the top of the hill, we rode past Lake Padden. The road opened up and twisted around a hill and down into open country. James led us along the south end of Lake Sammish, through Alger, passed Avalon and brought us back into Sedro Wooley. I’ve lived in this area for over 12 years, but this was the first time down this small stretch of road. As we entered back into familiar territory, brother Dave rode up alongside me and declared, “THAT WAS FUN!!” To which I couldn’t have agreed more.

The familiar roads are enjoyable. But today, I was reminded how enjoyable the unfamiliar road can be a well. The key is appreciating the ride for the sake of the ride – and sharing that ride with the people you care about.

Back in the day, Jesus went on a ride with his 12 disciples. He rode into Jerusalem for the sake of the ride. And yes, he cared about his disciples. The crowds were singing and shouting, “Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord.” This was a familiar road. Jesus had entered Jerusalem many times before. He knew the pavement. He also had entered towns and villages to excited and exuberant crowds. But after a rest stop on Thursday in an upper room; after food and fellowship, and drink, and much more, Jesus was about to ride down an unfamiliar road. For the moment, Judas would take the lead. He would leave the parking lot and take a left at the light. For Judas, this left would lead him to destruction. For Jesus, it was an unfamiliar road that would lead him to the cross yet lead us to salvation. He had been destined, forever, to ride down this road. For a few days, this road would test Jesus to his limits. But through this most difficult pain and ride of suffering, the road would open up for others who would come behind him. These followers would experience the ride of their lifetime! Jesus’ disciples would continue to ride down unfamiliar roads. Some stretches filled with enormous joy. Other stretches fill with great challenges and suffering. But they all knew the meaning behind the ride. They also knew that they did not ride alone. They rode with the love of their Savior, and the power of the Holy Spirit. They rode together. They also were willing to share that road with whoever wanted to ride along.

Soon, we will be allowed to get back on the roads. We all will not be riding motorcycles, but we will be returning to familiar experiences and memories. We will ride these roads, taking deep breaths and appreciating more fully what we all once had. We will realize that we have taken much too much for granted, and recognize that our days can be fleeting. But, let us not just ride down the familiar roads. If Jesus leads, He will inevitably take us down unfamiliar paths as well. He will take us places that we have not been before. He will lead us through twists and turns so that we can more fully appreciate the ride. He will show us beauty that we have never experienced before. And yes, at times, he will reveal some sacrifices that will have to be made, and that are necessary to travel that road.

Once you experience the glory of the open road, it continues to call you back. And that beckoning will include both the familiar and unfamiliar.

I look forward to continuing our ride together – perhaps it is a road less traveled!

Hey, James and Jon – thanks for taking the lead on our bikes! I’ll follow you guys any day.

God Bless You All,

Pastor Mark

P.S. – As this devotion was forming in my head during our ride. This familiar hymn continued to ring in my ears. I want to share it with you today.

Ride on! Ride on in Majesty!

  1. Ride on, ride on in majesty! Hark! All the tribes hosanna cry.

O Savior meek, pursue your road. With palms and scattered garments strowed.

  1. Ride on, ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die;

O Christ, your triumphs now begin. O’er captive death and conquered sin.

  1. Ride on, ride on in majesty! The winged squadrons of the sky.

Look down with sad and wond’ring eyes, to see th’approaching sacrifice.

  1. Ride on, ride on in majesty! Your last and fiercest strife is night;

The Father on his sapphire throne, expects his own anointed Son.

  1. Ride on, ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die;

bow your meek head to mortal pain, then take, O God, your pow’r and reign.



Pastor Mark’s Devotional March 20

 

“Grace and Space”

“…All of you share in God’s grace with me.” Philippians 1:7

St. Paul begins his letter to the church in Philippi by sharing his heart with his people. He expresses thanksgiving, gratitude and love for the joyful opportunity of their partnership in the gospel.

Listen to his words, “I thank my God every time I think of 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.    It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.” Phil. 1:3-7

Like Paul, my heart is full of love and gratitude for all of you as well. I thank God for our partnership in the gospel. And whether we feel chained in our homes or not, I give thanks. I am convinced that when this pandemic subsides, we will quickly return together and share the joy that will carry us forth in power and love.

We have a crucial message to share. The world needs to hear it. For you and I share in the grace of God.

Watching Channel 13 News this morning, I heard about grace from an unexpected source. It reminded me about extending undeserved favor. We all need to be reminded about grace in this time and space – for ourselves, for others.

The story was reported in the New York Times. The article was entitled, “I Am Not Turning My Home into a Coronavirus Home School.” A woman explained that she was unprepared and overwhelmed trying to set up a school schedule and routine so that her children would learn.  Lesson plans, packets and snack time was just not going to happen. So, in these unprecedented times, she was going to bake cookies with the kids, watch movies, play video games and allow generous access to the refrigerator.

The News 13 reporter went on to explain that he felt compelled to do a google search on this woman.  Turns out that she has been trained at Harvard University. She has a Phd. In Education. She is a woman who teaches teachers!  She is an educator, but the reality is, she is also a human being. She is trying to manage life’s stresses and because of this she is giving herself and her children some grace.

Is she a terrible mom? Will the kids grow up illiterate, uneducated and living in poverty? Probably not. What I heard is that she is taking a deep breath and extending love and favor to herself and to her children. Will the projects need to be completed? Probably. But right now, she is giving herself and her family some grace and space.

Today, let us acknowledge that we live under a canopy of grace. God’s grace! God has recklessly thrown out the lesson plans with all its deadlines and expectations and has lavishly loved us through his Son, Jesus Christ. WE ALL SHARE IN THIS GRACE TOGETHER! Whatever expectations you might have of yourself and/or of others, take a deep breath. Jesus arrives wanting to give us a breath of fresh air. And then for us to breathe that grace filled air upon others – just stay 6 feet away from them or I’ll have to throw you in jail – just kidding – are you smiling.

Let us smile. Let us laugh. Let us enjoy this beautiful sunny day God has given us. Let us eat that chocolate cake for breakfast. Do you need to take a break from your exercise routine? Do it. Do you really need to vacuum the house again? Don’t do it. Let us take a break from reading, writing, doing whatever it might be. Maybe we just need to “be” today. Receive the grace. It is granted. Let us receive it. Let us share it. Heck, even the government is giving us until July 15 to file our taxes. Can you feel it? GRACE ABOUNDS!

We are in the midst of serious times that require serious action. Let us temper this intensity and allow for some of the grace and space we all share.

It is right for me to feel this way. As you have given me a thick slab of chocolate cake, and extended much grace and favor to my family and I. So, I hope to share that same grace with you, and make it alamode. Thanks be to God that we all share in God’s grace together. So, go ahead. Have a second piece!

Grace and Space through our Savior, Jesus Christ,

Pastor Mark