Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 15

The God Who Sees!”

“She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me.” Genesis 16:13

 

Isolation! Some of us have faced more isolation in these last weeks than ever before. Isolation can wreak havoc with our emotions and wellbeing. Even though you might feel isolated today. God sees you! God knows your name and He is with you.

Hagar was an Egyptian maidservant. She was a foreigner and a servant to Sarai, Abram’s wife. Sarai was unable to bear children so Hagar stepped in to be her surrogate. Jealousy arose on both sides. Hagar belittled Sarah. Sarah treated Hagar poorly. Hagar fled. An angel of the LORD appeared to Hagar and told her to return and submit to Sarai. Hagar was told that she would have descendants too numerous to count. Hagar returned to Sarai. She gave a name to the LORD, “Beer Lahai Roi”, for she declared, “You are the God who sees me.”

The Scriptures record this common theme of a foreigner, in isolation, who is seen by God.

Joseph, in the book of Genesis, lived an isolated life. He was emotionally isolated from his family, who as a young boy shared his heavenly dreams. He was isolated again when his brothers threw him into a cistern and had plans to kill him. He was then a foreigner, in isolation as he was thrown into an Egyptian prison being falsely accused of rape. Finally, being exalted to second in command to Pharaoh while being a foreigner and a former slave; welcome isolation!

Yet the Bible tells us that God saw Joseph. God was with Joseph during his turbulent family times. God was with him while being sold into slavery, and while he remained in the Egyptian prison. And God was with him in his exalted position and even brought reconciliation between him and his brothers.

Joseph is one among many, in which God sees an isolated foreigner and draws near.

Moses was a foreigner in the Egyptian Court. He had Hebrew blood but was raised among the Egyptians. After he murdered an Egyptian in defense of a Jew, Moses found himself isolated in the wilderness. He became a foreigner among Jethro’s clan near Mount Horeb. Moses lived a certain isolated existence among Jethro’s people for 40 years. But God saw him. Moses married and became a shepherd but at the right moment, God revealed to him that there would be more. Moses was drawn to a burning bush, in an isolated place and God called Moses to deliver His people. Moses returned and found himself isolated from both the Egyptians and the Hebrew people. He is a foreigner to all involved. Yet God was with him. God saw him and revealed to him his personal name, “Yahweh”. Moses became a friend to God, no longer a foreigner.

Ruth is another example of one found in isolation. Living in a foreign land, she lost everything. Yet God saw Ruth and watched over her. He provided Boaz as her husband and is counted in the generational lineage of Jesus.

Jumping to the New Testament, the boisterous disciple Peter found himself in a foreign place. He was isolated from his brothers. Perhaps he was not isolated physically, but he would have been isolated emotionally. Peter didn’t betray Jesus but he certainly denied him multiple times and the weight of that shame would have generated an uncomfortable social distance more than six feet. Yet on one post-resurrection morning, Scripture tells us that Jesus saw Peter fishing on the water. He calls to him and invites him to breakfast. They share a meal together with the other disciples. Jesus then takes this man in isolation and reinstates him. Jesus re-positions him to lead the fledgling flock. He will be a rock upon which others will receive strength.

God has done some amazing things among men and women in the Bible and in history during a period of isolation.

Martin Luther, the reformer, found himself in isolation. Luther spoke against the abuses of the Catholic Church and quickly found himself a foreigner within his own church. A warrant was finally put out for his arrest and death. Kidnapped by friendlies and held in a castle, he lived under a false name. In isolation and in foreign surroundings, God saw Martin. In the next nine months of isolation, it was there that Martin translated the New Testament Bible into the common German language. It was there that his translation would translate into a change that would affect the entire German landscape. This German Bible would unite a divided people as nothing had ever done in history.

Finally, a contemporary example of our God who sees:

Dallas Jenkins is the current producer for the Biblical video series called, “The Chosen”.  Listening to his testimony, he tells the story of himself isolated in foreign territory as well. His big Hollywood debut was a bomb. A once rising star quickly became a mighty falling star. In a few months, he felt he had lost it all. In this foreign place, feeling isolated from God and himself, God saw Dallas. God met him. And from a mustard seed arose the series, “The Chosen”. He tells the story about how he and his wife, during their devotions, felt drawn to the story of Jesus’ miracle of the loaves and fishes in the Gospels. They did not know why. Late one night – during his fourth watch of the night – he received a text from a man who was barely an acquaintance. His text states, “Remember, you are not responsible for feeding the 5,000. Your job is to provide the loaves and fishes!” When Dallas inquired why this man had sent this text, his response came, “I don’t know. God just told me to send it.” Dallas, who is a self-professed Baptist and does not believe in God speaking to people; God sent another, to speak to Dallas for him. In isolation, God remembered him, God saw him, and it is THE marker moment that has transformed his faith. The vision for “The Chosen” is to cover 8 seasons. It will cover the life of Christ and hopefully cover the globe. I can see that!

“See, I am doing a new thing!” – Sorry, that was yesterday’s message. Today’s message is, “See, I see you!” Can you SEE that these messages are the same? That even though you are isolated and in foreign circumstances, God sees you and he wants to do a new thing inside of you?  

The Scriptures tell us that all of us are foreigners in this strange land. We all will face moments of isolation. But God’s clear word to us is, “I See You!” What might HE want to tell you? Create room to listen. Trust me, our God still speaks today! Don’t get caught up in listening for an audible voice. God wants to speak to us more deeply – into our heart – that is where transformation takes place – just ask Dallas. It’s usually a “Still, Small Voice”. Ask him to speak into your heart today.

By faith, Abraham made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.” Hebrews 11:9

The unbelieving man says to himself, “God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees.” Ps. 10:11

In Christ, Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotion 3.22.20

Just a note to all of you early-birds who might have listened to Pastor’s Sunday sermon early Sunday – There’s a wonderful intro to the service that was posted later in the morning. If you didn’t catch it, it’s well worth your time to listen now!!

“Manna in the Morning”

“Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you.” Exodus 16:4

The people of Israel had just been set free from 400 years of slavery in Egypt. They had witnessed 10 different plagues that demonstrated Yahweh God’s power over the Egyptian gods. They watched the pillar of cloud and fire lead them and defend them. And then 2.5 million people walked through the parted Red Sea, on DRY ground no less. And as the wall of water consumed the Egyptian chariots, the Israelites cried and wailed in victory.

For three days the people of Israel traveled into the wilderness with an unknown future. And then it began; the grumbling. Exodus 16:2 records, “In the desert, the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.” In 72 hours, God’s chosen people began to show signs of dementia. They said, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted…” Are you kidding? Wait a minute – Were these people not slaves? Were they not crying out to God, for hundreds of years, because of the horrible conditions in which they lived? And did not God miraculously, over and over and over again, show his glory and deliver them from their slave masters?  The answer is; Yes. And the truth is; how quickly we forget!

“Therefore”, the LORD says to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.”

Notice the grace and compassion of Yahweh God as he responds to the grumbling and panicked cries of his children. Why does he respond? Because he loves them. He is their provider and their protector. But also notice that as their heavenly Father, he tells them that they are to go out EACH DAY and gather bread. He tells Moses, “In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.”

If that gathering was anything like the last few weeks, we can get a pretty good idea how that first day went. Can you picture it? I’ll bet you that it was your worst nightmare at Walmart on Black Friday times one thousand. I’ll lay down a $1000 bucks that it was a madhouse a million times over. Some people waiting up all night to be the first ones to see the flakes fall. When the manna begins to arrive, people make a mad dash across the landscape, fighting tooth and nail for their territory. Arguments flaring up over some flakes being larger than others, and some stealing other people’s stash. Some people would have baskets and others would be trying to load as much as they could in their robe sleeves and blankets. Still others would make alliances and have a team guarding the manna back at their tents while other members would return over and over building up their stockpile. With no supply line guarantees, I’m sure mayhem showed up in mighty ways – and many people would need Allstate after the day was over.

Watching the news, it seems pretty easy to imagine, after 3,466 years, I’m not sure a whole lot has changed in human nature. I’m afraid we still don’t take instruction very well. But then again, maybe that’s not totally true. We DO see empty streets in downtown New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. We ARE watching many people who are restricting their movements and staying home. Yet watching Florida beaches, bars and restaurants, it is clear that many people are going to do exactly what they want no matter the consequences.

So, God’s provision was going to provide a test for the people of Israel to see if they would trust him.    Keep in mind, 72 hours earlier – God had just done an unfathomable miracle by bringing his people across the Red Sea. He also had given them a steady diet of dynamic power releasing plagues over Egypt. Besides the test of the daily provision – the test would be to eat the same meal for the next 40 years. What if you had to eat bean burritos for the next 14,600 straight days. That puts a new perspective on this whole ordeal.

Now the bread that they would daily gather was called “manna”. In my mind, manna would have looked something like those round rice crackers that you can stack ten high. They would kind of look like those old communion wafers that stick to the roof of your mouth. So, how many wafers would it take to make a meal out of those styrofoam yummies? One heck of a lot! And then for 40 years? Yeah, I’d say there’s some trust challenges to be found in that. And I don’t think they were those 4 cheese artisan kind at Costco. At least those have some flavor – but we ARE told that they were thin and crispy with a touch of honey – does that help? I’ll bet they came up with some crazy casseroles over the years. I mean just look at what the Norwegians have tried to accomplish with the potato? Somehow, we’ve been convinced they are holiday treats!!

Well, those Israelites that attempted to hoard the bread beyond the day soon found out it wouldn’t last. The next day’s supplies quickly turned moldy and were filled with bugs. But also, the following day, God turned again to his people and supplied another ration of manna, more than enough to meet their daily need. And this went on, and on, and on in the wilderness, for 40 years. God demonstrated to his people that he WAS trustworthy, because he DID provide sustenance in a dead, dry and barren land – think Mars! Eventually, He even brought his people to the Promised Land – the land of milk and honey – and much, much more!

Today, we have been guaranteed that all supply lines are intact, yet look at the mayhem and fear of the last couple of weeks.  Long standing lines. People hoarding any and every perceived essential. Mayhem in the marketplace.

Doesn’t the test still stand today? Can we still trust our Yahweh God to provide for our daily needs?

God gave out a daily dose of bread so that the people would recognize their deep dependence on Him. Does this recognition bring deeper meaning to the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, “Give us this day our DAILY BREAD”? Yes, we pray for God to provide for all our daily needs but do we also recognize that this is so we daily depend upon him and know that his daily provision is a daily exercise?      

Where will the next 72 hours take us. Every evidence points to the reality that this pandemic will get worse before it gets better. Even though we cannot predict the future, we have a God who ALREADY knows our DAILY need. And God WILL provide for us! This time, let us not forget!

One last thought for the day. Let us also be mindful that Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, they must deny themselves, take up their cross DAILY and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Jesus tells his followers that following him whether walking through the wilderness or sitting home watching Netflix – there is a DAILY surrendering to him. What is it today that you need God to provide but also, what do you need to surrender to him? Dear Christian, understand that Jesus comes with daily food and calls us to daily surrender, in order that would live daily life extraordinarily

Manna for the morning. Tomorrow is Monday. Let us begin the week partaking of the daily bread that God provides.             God Bless You All!             Pastor Mark

 


Pastor Mark’s February Blog

Pastor Mark’s February 2020 Blog . . . 

“So. . . Who’s Telling the Truth?”

 “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said,

If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”   John 8:31

 

Did you watch the Democratic debate on January 14? If so, you might have noticed something interesting on the hand of candidate Tom Steyer. There was a symbol crudely drawn in pen on his left hand. A closer look revealed a large cross with four smaller crosses drawn in each quadrant. So, what did this mean? Was the symbol a secret code or some subliminal message sent to our subconscious?

Come to find out, since 2017, Steyer has drawn, what is known as a “Jerusalem Cross” on his left hand each morning. (Yes, he is a Christian, but no, he did not know it was a “Jerusalem” cross when he drew it). When the media asked him what it meant he said, “It means to tell the truth no matter what the cost. For a while now, I have drawn it on my hand every day to remind myself to always tell the truth.”

Does Tom Steyer tell the truth? I don’t know. But the idea of telling the truth, what a novel idea.

Who do you trust to tell you the truth?

Do you trust the President, Congress, foreign governments, financial institutions, media outlets, Facebook or twitter? Perhaps you look to lawyers, doctors, educators, religious leaders, counselors. Will your plumber, electrician, auto mechanic, or financial advisor tell the truth?  It’s easy to become cynical when lies seem to roll off tongues as water rolls over the falls.

Do you think this growing distrust in humanity carries over into our trust in the one who declares,

I AM Truth”? Jesus declared, “I AM the way, the TRUTH and the life.”

Jesus declared that he embodied truth

and that if one would hold to his teachings,

they would come to know the truth and that truth would set them free.

Can this be true?     I absolutely believe this to be true!

But like any truth claims, they need to be vetted. As Christians, we need to test, try and press into these claims of Christ to see for ourselves whether they prove to be true. It should be crystal clear that we cannot simply trust our culture and the morals of the common man to lead us to truth. We must ask, seek and knock for deeper truth and come to know this truth for ourselves with a confidence that comes from personal investigation, experience, study and revelation.

Over the past few days, snow and icy roads have made travel difficult. But during this time, I have felt the truth of God’s Word spill over me in a refreshing way. I’ve been reading from my One Year Bible, in the midst of Matthew’s Gospel.

I want to share some of the truth that renewed my soul…

“Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he said, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor -sick people do.

Then he added,

“Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture,

I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.

For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous,

but those who know they are sinners.”    Mathew 9:10-13

“Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd….

He said to his disciples,

‘The harvest is great, but the workers are few.

So, pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest;

ask him to send more workers into his fields.”   Matthew 9:35-38

“What do I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, ‘We play wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t mourn.’ For John (the Baptist) didn’t spend his time eating and drinking and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners?’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.”

Then Jesus began to denounce the towns where he had done so many of his miracles,

because they had not repented of their sins and turned to God.    Matthew 11:16-20

At that time Jesus prayed this prayer:

“O Father, Lord of heaven and earth,

thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever,

and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!”   Matthew 11:25-26

Then Jesus said,

Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens,

and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you,

because I am humble and gentle at heart,

and you will find rest for your souls.

For my yoke is easy to bear and the burden I give you is light.”    Matthew 11:28-30

So what truth can be found in these words of Christ? I will let King David clarify the truth from Psalm 14…

“Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’

They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!

The Lord looks down from heaven on the entire human race;

he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God.

But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt.

No one does good, not a single one.”    Psalm 14:1-3

The truth is, we are all sinners! We are all sick and who by nature do not seek after God. We need a Savior!

We are called to repent of our sin before God and turn to Him and live! We are to be “childlike” and out of our physical weariness and emotional fatigue, come to Jesus and He will give us spiritual rest. We are to walk in His ways. We are to know that Jesus is humble and gentle and will lift us up and will carry us when we are weak.

As we grow in His grace, God who is in charge of the harvest,

will send us into his harvest field to share this grace with others.

The world embraces a lie. The world believes that we are by nature good and out of our own goodness, we will seek to help others and improve the world around us. Because we are good, we need not God and/or to turn to one that does not exist. We are to be wise and clever in our own minds, and have the capacity to find all the answers to our problems on our own. We are to find rest within ourselves and discover our path for self. If there is a God, he is controlling, manipulative and angry. We need to be strong in and of ourselves and relying upon someone else shows weakness.

But, let not your hearts be troubled. Truth remains! And we are called to know Truth! Where is it found?

Not in a man with a cross drawn on his hand, seeking the power of the presidency. Rather, from the man whose hands were placed on a cross, seeking to give his life for all the broken sinners of the world, and in his human weakness and sacrifice, he empowers us to live an abundant life.  

If the faith you cling to seems heavy and burdensome or irrelevant and insignificant, perhaps you need a dose of deeper Truth….

Repent in prayer.

Turn to Jesus, come to Him and ask him to teach and reveal to you more of his Truth. Expose yourself to the teachings in his Word, and have him expose where you are holding on to legalistic religious tradition.

He is humble and gentle, a compassionate shepherd,

who in great power has a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light.

 

 
 
 
 
 


Pastor Mark’s March Newsletter Blog

 
 

Pastor Mark’s March Newsletter Blog The Lenten Journey – “Our Path in the Wilderness” A few weeks ago, Travis Kauffman was running in the wilderness. He was running alone in the foothills of the Horsetooth Mountain Park in northern Colorado. He reported that he heard something behind him on the trail. As he turned to investigate, an 80 lb. mountain lion lunged at him. Travis said that he was bitten on the face and wrist, but he was able to fight back. He was able to fight off the mountain lion and eventually suffocate and kill him. Exactly how Travis did so was not immediately clear, but the cat is dead, and the man is recovering in a local hospital. 

1 Peter 5:8 states, “Be self-controlled and alert.
Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring (mountain?) lion looking for someone to devour.

Resist him (fight him off), standing firm in the faith…”

News traveled around the globe, retelling Travis’ courageous effort to fight off an attacking lion. St. Peter warns us of another lion that prowls around looking to destroy our hopes and crush our dreams. Jesus faced that lion, the devil, in the wilderness for 40 days before he began his public ministry. He had to stand up to this enemy before he marched to the cross and achieve his ultimate victory over death. As we begin the Lenten Season, March 6 (Ash Wednesday), this 40-day march to Easter is a recognition of the real fight Jesus faced for the faith.

Jesus journeyed through the wilderness,

enduring Satan’s temptations,
and returned to Galilee IN THE POWER of the SPIRIT!
 
Jesus models a journey of faith we all must take into the wilderness as his followers. At some point, we will find ourselves, as Jesus did, in a wilderness, in unfamiliar territory, to face a formidable enemy. The wilderness is not meant to destroy us but rather that we might learn to reject Satan’s lies, resist his temptations, remain in the Truth, and return home – walking in greater power and life in the Holy Spirit. 
 
Daniel, in the Old Testament, faced his own wilderness journey. Staying faithful to God, on his knees in prayer, it led to betrayal, arrest and a sentencing by King Darius. Daniel would be thrown into the den of lions. Daniel faced a formidable enemy in both animal and accusation, yet he rejected the lies, resisted the temptations, remained in the truth and returned home – walking in greater power than he had ever known.
 
If we are to walk through our own wilderness successfully and stand firm in the faith, Jesus and Daniel model for us a standard that will always carry us through. In order for us to reject the lies, resist temptation and remain in the Truth – Jesus relied upon the Word of God.
 
“Jesus said, ‘It is written: Man does not live on bread alone.’‘
It is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’

‘It says: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’   (Luke 4:4,8,12)

Jesus stood his ground and wrestled the animal to the ground and took him out in the strength of God’s living Word. And Daniel, in his deepest time of torment, trusted in the power of his God.

“Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him,because he had trusted in his God.”  (Daniel 6:23)
 

God heard Daniel’s prayers. God sent an angel to shut the lion’s mouths and preserve his life. On what trail are you running? We are about to run into the Lenten Season – a time and a path that perhaps will lead us into temptation. Be self-controlled and on alert. We have One who will deliver us from evil. The God of our salvation will watch over us as the Good Shepherd watches over his sheep. Take up the tools, seize the weapons that have been given to us – the Word of God: his living, written and spoken Word, the prayer of praise and petition, and child-like trust that will never forsake us. Whatever trail, whether Horsetooth Mountain or into the valley of the shadow of death – fear no evil, the Lion of Judah, runs by our side. He is our protector, He is our provider, He is our salvation! Can you hear Him roar? Thanks be to God!! Pastor Mark