Pastor Mark’s Devotions, July 7

“Hiking a New Trail”

“Stay on the path that the Lord your God has commanded you to follow. Then you will live long and prosperous lives in the land you are about to enter and occupy.” Dt. 5:33

Sunday, I was excited to hike a new trail. I brought a change of clothes to church so that I could hit the road right after the worship service. I had a great day. By the end of the hike, the app on my phone said I had recorded 16,500 steps, climbed 38 floors and traveled just over 8 miles. I hiked through terrain in the Glacier Peak Wilderness that I had never seen before. Upon reflection, this hike made me think of the new trail that the early church blazed in the book of Acts. We have been following their movement for the past weeks in worship since Pentecost. They took many steps in their travels, but there were also many steps in their preparation for their missionary hike. I found it interesting to consider the relationship between the two.

My hike didn’t really begin Sunday afternoon nor even Sunday morning. It really began as I started walking with regularity on the road around my house weeks before. As my body began to get in shape, I felt more ready and excited to explore new ground. So, Saturday night, I put my change of clothes in the truck along with my pack, water and a few snacks. After church, I changed clothes and went to Subway for a sandwich. Then I went to Costco to gas up and had to stop at Walmart to pick up my new Discover pass and fishing license. (Interestingly enough, I ran into Bev Klatt, from church as I waited in line.) I finally got on the road and headed toward the town of Darrington. A few miles passed Arlington, I ran into a construction zone which caused a delay. I drove passed the Oso Memorial on Hwy 530, through Darrington and on to Hwy 23. The trailhead was 23 miles further down that road. The road was paved and I was sailing along on a beautiful sunny afternoon. I thought to myself, “If this is the way the road is all the way back to the trailhead, I’ll be there in no time.” Unfortunately, a few minutes after those thoughts, the pavement came to an abrupt end at mile marker 10. The final 13 miles were marked with potholes and deep divots such that the impact would throw my coffee cup out of the cup holder. It took me over an hour and a half to cover the last 13 miles. After feeling like I had been riding a bucking bronco for over 90 minutes, I finally arrived at the Suiattle Pass Trailhead. As I backed into my spot, a passerby cautioned me that the signs indicated that backing in was illegal. By this time, it was 4:00 p.m. I put on my pack, said hello to a few hikers who were finishing for the day, and set out on the trail. The trail was well worn and well-marked. The path meandered under a canopy of trees and alongside a river with a strong, steady current. Sunlight broke through the trees and cast shadows upon the trail. It was quiet and peaceful. Almost too quiet. My mind drifted to news reports that I had heard of animal attacks and hikers disappearing. I could feel a slight wave of fear began to creep up my neck and wash over me. I wondered if an animal on the prowl would be able to detect this creeping fear. I reached for my canister of bear spray just in case. I realized that if I had a hiking companion, these thoughts and feelings wouldn’t even enter into my mind. Yet with a companion, I also would not experience this solitude. After a couple of miles, I found myself humming some worship songs to myself. Then I realized that I was in the wilderness, completely alone, so I began to sing out loud. The more I sang, the more peace that seemed to follow. I finally came upon another hiker. He looked like he had been on the trail a long time. He was carrying a full load and fatigue registered clearly across his face. We greeting one another and quickly departed going in opposite directions. I set a timer at 75 minutes to mark my turn around. Soon, the timer went off. I walked a bit further, hoping to find a substantial marker or clearing but the trail just continued to wander off into the distance. I took a few pics and enjoyed a peaceful walk back to my truck at the trailhead. I took a bathroom break, rehydrated and bounced and banged my way back along Hwy 23. A new trail. A new adventure. A satisfying day! As I drove home, I hungered for more. Perhaps the next trail will be down Cascade Hwy. I couldn’t wait to get home and search the map.

The early church, as recorded in the book of Acts, was hiking a new trail. They had been clothed in Christ, and fed and fueled by the Holy Spirit, but their travels began long before Easter and Pentecost. The trail began 3 years earlier, when many of them accepted the Call to follow Jesus and become fishers of men. These new followers of Jesus devoted themselves to learning, trusting and training in something new. They were beginning a spiritual strengthening that would result in their wanting more. The road was anything but easy. They were confused. There were delays. There was fear. They argued among themselves and were corrected on many occasions. All seemed to be lost after their master’s death on the cross. But that Easter morning sparked a new beginning. They received some simple directions to the trailhead. They were going to meet in Galilee and then return to Jerusalem. They bounced around, wondering where all this was going to lead them. They were told to wait in Jerusalem for the gift of power that would fuel them on their journey. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit arrived on the day of Pentecost and they were gassed up. Mighty winds, tongues like flames and intelligible languages were being spoken, declaring the greatness of God. Suddenly, they were filled and empowered and ready to hit the trail. As they began their hike, they greeted passersby with the glory of God, and declared that Jesus was truly their long-awaited Messiah. These new believers carried with them a fear of God that resulted in a washing over in awe and reverence for the living God. There was no need for a canister of bear spray, nor their finger to be held on the trigger, for the Word of God was their sword and strength. And in times of trial, when chained and imprisoned, these men let out a song of praise to their God who they knew would provide and protect them. When these men were released, and they had finished marching that particular trail, they gathered together in eager expectation for their next adventure and waited to see which trailhead the Spirit would lead to next.

As God prepares us to lead each of us, and our church on to a new spiritual trailhead, consider the intentional training that has already occurred. Make sure that you have changed your clothes and have dressed yourself in the grace of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Then stop and be filled up and fueled up with the Holy Spirit so that you can travel the long trail. Pick up your discover card. You have rights and privileges as children of God and while the card is costly – in Jesus’ death on the cross – it is available to you free of charge and gives you access to the high country. Don’t worry about the driving delays, potholes and divots in the road. Rest easy, take your time, you will arrive before the day is over. The Son will shine, the river will run, the LORD will be your shade at your right hand – and He will watch over your life. Embrace the moment. Walk the well-worn trail. You will not be alone. You will sing praises to the Lord and see the bountiful goodness of your God. And as you bounce your way home, I pray that you will be eager to search your map and scout out the next possible trail that God will open to you.

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 17

“A Sign of Life”

“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.” Isaiah 35:1-2

Where were you exactly 40 years ago? Today, at 8:32 a.m., 40 years ago, Mt. St. Helens exploded sending ash 80,000 feet into the air. A magnitude 5.1 earthquake was accompanied by a rapid series of events. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the volcano’s northern bulge and summit became the largest debris avalanche on earth in recorded history. Ash spewed into the air at over 300 mph. Within a few moments, 1300 feet of the summit had disappeared.

I was a junior in high school when this event occurred. I remember attending church at Kent Lutheran that morning. I did not know that the mountain exploded until I went to work later in the day. I worked at the Woodland Estate Apartment complex. My job involved maintenance and yard work. People kept coming out of their apartments, talking about the explosion. They all said how lucky we were that the ash blew to the east. I’m sure that the people to the east did not feel that way. The ash settled inches thick over most of eastern part of the state. Eventually, no matter where a person lived, that massive blast of ash would touch everyone on the planet.

This ash would touch my dad in an interesting way. During this time, my dad had left parish ministry and worked for an insurance company. He traveled every week throughout the states in the Northwest. A few weeks after the blast, he drove across eastern Washington on I-90. He said the terrain looked like a desert wasteland. Grey ash covered everything. The landscape looked like the moon. After hours of driving through this greyish deathly wasteland, he grew desperate to locate something that resembled life. Mile after mile, all he could see was what looked like the land of the dead. He finally became so desperate that he pulled off the highway and began to march through the ash looking for a sign. He hiked for about 20 minutes before his eye finally snatched a glimpse of something. As he drew closer, there at his feet, a tiny flower had broken through the crust of ground. He witnessed a crack in the grey soil. It was weak and fragile, but there it was. A sign of life. The land surrounding that flower was devoid of life. But the sign was there. A tiniest splash of color against the backdrop of grey. My dad said that he marched back to his car, dusted himself off, and with a renewed sense of joy, drove on to his next appointment. For more life and more color would be coming soon.  

We might be tempted to look around today and see nothing but grey. The landscape around us can look rather bleak. The nightly news reports continue to tell us of growing death totals. Covid19 cases continue to increase around the country. And the unemployment rates are moving into the unimaginable realms. But in the midst of this heavy, ashen reality, there are splashes of color. Life is breaking through, as fragile as it might seem. Love is being spread. Kindness is being paid forward. Compassion is breaking through on crusty hearts. The grey landscape will not last.

There was a bleak landscape surrounding that first Easter morning. But something broke through. New Life. This life was not fragile but rather filled with power. This life was not dull but a splash of light and color that would cover every corner of the globe. May this splash of color break through to your heart today. May there be a renewed sense of joy to carry you to your next appointment.

“The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.” Isaiah 51:3

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark



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