Pastor Mark’s 100th Devotion, Aug 6

“No Greater Love”

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13


It was a casual Sunday afternoon. Daniel was in deep conversation with his mom, while they worked in the basement of their home. Daniel turned to his mom, with a tear in his eye and said, “Mom, let’s keep talking. I love talking to you.” Suddenly, the doorbell rang. Daniel turned his head and asked, “Who is that?” Little did he know that Evil was standing at their front door. Within seconds, Daniel ran upstairs, the sound of bullets rang out, and a voice screamed, “NO!” In one demonic moment, Evil claimed another victim. Daniel lay on the floor dead, having taken a gun shot directly to his chest, while protecting his dad from the armed assailant.

Two weeks ago, we heard of this tragic encounter in New Jersey, aimed at U.S District Judge Esther Salas and her family. The parents losing their one and only son, Daniel, is virtually unfathomable. That they lost him while he was defending and protecting their very lives is nearly overwhelming. They are in shock, numb and emotionally inconsolable in their grief.   

Judge Salas and her husband went to church that Sunday morning. I wonder what the Gospel reading was for that day? Is it possible that it could have been from John 15? Perhaps John 15:13. Did they hear Jesus say, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” What about laying down one’s life for their family? If so, how sharp the sting. What could it all mean?

No Greater Love…that is why we are here! We hear stories and accounts of great sacrifice, great commitment, great surrender. People sacrifice themselves for the love of another. And when looking directly into the face of evil, a son sacrificed for the sake of his father, and his mother – is there any greater love?

The sacrifice of Salas’ son, painfully points us to the sacrifice of God’s One and Only Son. There is no greater love!  Jesus, looked into the eyes of evil upon the cross, protected and defended his family on earth, and took a shot from sin that cost him is life. The Evil one took his best shot. His mother’s heart ripped with emotions unresolved. His followers lost to its meaning, in despair. A centurion, in chaos, cried out the unexamined truth, “Surely, he was the Son of God!” But the truth would soon come clear and appear.

Can you imagine if on Tuesday morning, Daniel, the One, three days slain, busted through the door of their family home and with all the energy of new life, questioned, “What’s for Breakfast?” Then he breezed into the kitchen, embraced his mother and father, and taking in a deep breath, looked straight into their eyes and declared, “Oh, How I Love You!!”

Can you imagine the raw emotion, the unresolved thoughts, the euphoria that would explode in seeing their son, who was once dead, but who is now alive? The celebration! The exhilaration would be unimaginable. The transformation would be unbelievable. But this would never happen, because we know that people do not come back from the dead. Or do they?

We are together as the body of Christ, because of the audacious claim that the One who was killed on the cross, came back to life after three days dead. What you would imagine is all that is recorded. Celebration, euphoria, disbelief and questions all suddenly arose in chaotic fashion. Jesus was alive, it was too good to be true – could they dare believe something that was far and away beyond their feeble faith? One follower was honest enough to say that unless he physically saw this One and tangibly touched him, he would never believe. A week later, the One who had died, graciously reappeared and genuinely resuscitated faith as never before.  Life would never be the same. This moment of revelation would change them forever. The world would begin to be turned upside down.

Jesus Christ, he is why we are here! Jesus laid down his life and conquered sin. Jesus was raised to new life and conquered death!

Over the last 100 devotions we have traveled far. We have covered a variety of topics, shared a variety of stories and focused upon a variety of Scriptures. For this 100th devotion, dare I miss the point for all this writing? His name is Jesus. He is our resurrected Lord, Messiah and Christ. There is no greater love than in this One who gave his life as a ransom for many.

Now, may all that we say; may all that we do; may all that we are; let it all rest upon our One Redeemer. And because of Jesus, Daniel Salas’ parents, who will forever carry a scar here on earth, will one day be forever carried into eternity – and they will never be the same. Because Jesus lives, Daniel, his mother, Esther, and his father, Mark, will forever live and love. For there is a Savior that awaits them beyond the pain, beyond the grave. His name is Jesus. And in Him, there is No Greater Love!    

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark


P.S. – I will be taking a break from writing devotions until after Labor Day. Thank you for all your support, encouragement and feedback over these last four+ months. To God Be the Glory!


Pastor Mark’s Devotions, July 2

“Begin with God!”

“In the beginning, God…” Genesis 1:1

Today, I pulled a book off my shelf written by John Stott. As I read the opening pages of his book entitled, Basic Christianity, I thought it might be good to return to the basics. Stott begins with four important words. ‘In the beginning God.’ He explains,

“The first four words of the Bible are more than an introduction to the creation story or to the                                                      book of Genesis. They supply the key which opens our understanding to the Bible as a whole. They tell us that the religion of the Bible is a religion of the initiative of God.

You can never take God by surprise. You can never anticipate him. He always makes the first move. He is always there ‘in the beginning’. Before human beings existed, God acted. Before human beings stir themselves to seek God, God has sought them. In the Bible, we do not see humans groping after God; we see God reaching after humans.

               Many people visualize a God who sits comfortably on a distant throne, remote, aloof, uninterested, and indifferent to the needs of mortals, until, it may be, they can badger him into taking action on their behalf. Such a view is wholly false. The Bible reveals a God who, long before it even occurs to man to turn to him, while man is still lost in darkness and sunk in sin, takes the initiative, rises from his throne, lays aside his glory, and stoops to seek until he finds him.

               This sovereign, anticipating activity of God is seen in many ways. He has taken the initiative in creation, bringing the universe and its contents into existence: ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’. He has taken the initiative in revelation, making known to mankind both his nature and his will: ‘In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son…’ He has taken the initiative in salvation, coming in Jesus Christ to set men and women free from their sins: ‘God…has visited and redeemed his people…

               God has created. God has spoken. God has acted. These statements of God’s initiative in three different spheres form a summary of the religion of the Bible.”  (Stott – pages 1-2)

John Stott accurately articulates in the opening pages of his book that all begins with God. God initiates and human beings are called to respond to his initiation. Why is this important? Because this order establishes of first importance, the dynamics of the relationship between Creator and creation. 

What brings order from chaos, understanding from ignorance, meaning from apathy and morality from evil? It is knowing a Creator remains at the center of all that exists. What is more, the clearest expression of this Creator’s existence is found in the person of Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:15-16 states, “The Son is the image of the invisible God…For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…all things have been created through him and for him.”

Therefore, all of life revolves not around the sun, but rather The Son! When individual lives understand this rotation, and know the One who is at the center, then it is clear – each one waits with expectation to respond to the One who initiates -the One who has always been from the beginning – and the One who will act when He deems the time is right!

It is a new day. God has begun. Watch for Him!                                                           In Christ, Pastor Mark

Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 25

“Even the Dandelions Know!”

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8


Why do the weeds know more than the flowers? This morning I was looking forward to mowing down the flowering herbaceous perennial plant of the family Asteraceae. In other words, I was ready to destroy all of those bright yellow dandelion plants peppering my yard. But as I looked out my kitchen window, there were no yellow flowers to be seen. Those pesky weeds were hunkering down due to the strong winds and pelting rain. Why would the weeds know to protect themselves more than my flowers? The few tulips I have in the yard, stand up through whatever weather comes. In the process, those beautiful flowers get painted and battered beyond belief?

The sun is supposed to shine this afternoon. You know, as well as I, that once a few rays of sunshine fall, those perennial weeds will rise up and bloom in all their glory. To make matters worse, their blooms are a precursor to the seeds that will rise and spread throughout the yard. The flowers, on the other hand, have been so beaten down by the weather, that they are left in shreds. It doesn’t matter how much sun shines down on them, they are toast and ready for the burn pile.  

Yesterday, I watched reports of people who hunkered down in their basements while the raging tornado tore apart their houses. Entire neighborhoods, a day earlier, that were once beautiful, now were left in shreds. Yet from the rubble, as the sun returned, reports shot out about neighbors reaching out to help fellow neighbors. People all over town were experiencing beauty rise from the ashes.

Sometimes, it seems like weeds know more than we. Somehow, they can inherently read the signs. When a storm is coming, they stay put. When the sun is shining, the weeds send forth their flowers. Sometimes, when storms blow into our lives, we try to face them head on, taking on the full torrential force. And when we do face the rage on our own, we are often left in shreds. We must be careful to protect the Spirit within. Some people have been so beaten down that it has wiped out their faith – beyond belief.

Proverbs 4:23 states, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the well spring of life.”

Solomon reminds us in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

We must know to read the signs. We must know when to guard our heart from outside threats. We must also know when it is time to come out from hiding and share our heart with those around us. The key is the SON!

We have been facing an unprecedented storm. When you feel the winds blowing and the sting of pelting rain on your face, guard your heart. There are times that we simply need to hunker down and protect our soul. Then when the storms blow over, and we begin to feel the Son on our face, that is the time to come out from hiding. The Son is always with us! The Son will be the indicator when we rise and spread our flowering herbaceous in love to all the world.

I could take this analogy a bit further and discuss Jesus’ parable about wheat and weeds. I could write about how the wheat is stored in barns and the weeds are burned and destroyed. But I think I’d rather stop right here. I’d rather just wait for the sun to appear and then mow those suckers down!

Enjoy a wonderful Saturday. Let the feel of the Son indicate when you guard yourself and when you spread the seed and let them fly!

Remember you are not a weed. You are more precious to God than the lilies of the field!

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark