Pastor’s Devotion #109

“Three Simple Words”

“Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Be not afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.” Luke 2:30

Recently, Google has encouraged the use of three simple words to help employees avoid burnout. What might those words be? “No Meetings Week”. With those working from home, suffering through endless zoom and virtual meetings, the message, “No Meetings Week” is a welcomed moment to celebrate.

With the news of a pandemic’s third wave, a pulling back from any forward steps toward normalcy, and a preparation for what could seem like a hollow holiday season, perhaps we are need of three other simple words from Scripture.

I stumbled upon these words, once again, as I pulled papers out of my Bible, trying to preserve them from Sunday morning’s sprinkle. A weathered piece of paper fell out, waiting to be re-discovered. The three words were the title of a devotion that I wrote exactly 23 years ago, for the December newsletter. It was a devotion that I wrote after my daughter’s birth. This year, 2020, my daughter celebrated her “Golden” birthday. I didn’t know what a golden birthday was until Jeriah explained it. It’s the birthday  when your age crosses with your birth date. Jeriah was born on October 23rd, and this year she turned 23 – a la – a Golden Birthday! (My golden birthday occurred when I was six, the year I got shingles, not a year worth remembering in my opinion.)

23 years have passed since I penned the following perspective. Since then, there have been highs and lows, tears and laughter, adventures and sorrows. These three words still stand, ready to lift up, re-assure, and restore our focus. Messengers were sent by God, with the intent to restore and reorient thoughts to God with these words. We are to know that He is present through thick and thin, challenge and defeat, surprise and triumph. You’ve heard the words before. Perhaps working to survive endless adjustments and uncertainties, you need to be reminded again: “Be Not Afraid!” Pause here – Take a moment and reflect upon the places where fear has crept into your heart and mind. It is critical that we recognize those things that create fear within us – so that we can direct them to the Lord. God is greater than all that we fear. More than that – God is with us! GOD IS WITH YOU! He will always be with you! One word, “Emmanuel”, which we speak often at Christmas, holds the meaning in, with and under the word: “God With Us” – Yes, in these trying times – God is with us. Three words in One, like the Trinity – eternally true. No matter your experience this holiday season. No matter your experience next year and beyond, Almighty God wants us reassured, “Be Not Afraid”.

Written November, 1997

 “Be Not Afraid”

I felt a wave of fear wash over me as I watched the fetal monitor do a dance hour after hour. The contractions wouldn’t stop. Our tiny baby seemed determined to rush into the world eight weeks early. We were told survival was fairly certain, but then again, who really knows. What about complications and unforeseen circumstances? Fear hovered close by.

A few days later, with contractions under control, we made our way home. Now, new worries surfaced. When labor begins, would we have time enough to get to the hospital? Would the delivery be as sudden and as painful as Isaiah’s birth? October 22nd arrived. I received a page at 9:35 p.m. “Honey”, my wife said, “You better get home.” I raced home. We arrived at the hospital safely at 11:00 p.m. Yet again, more anxiety. Was the baby transverse? Dawn’s water broke at 1:30 a.m. The midwife declared the good news, “The head is down!”. The epidural was administered. The rest is history. A perfect delivery. A perfect baby girl. Jeriah Aryn Bankson was brought into this world on October 23rd at 9:36 a.m.

Looking back, I sometimes wonder, “What was I so worried about?” Then again, it’s interesting what happens as I look forward. Not that I am consumed with fear but what does the future hold? Could it be SIDS, sexual abuse, learning disabilities? Who will she date? When should she date? Will she be safe away at college? Who will she marry? Will her kids be born healthy? Does it ever end? If one is not careful, the answer is, no, it never stops. There will ALWAYS potentially be seemingly something worthy of worry.

But during this Christmas Season, there is a simple statement we need to hear and hold on to. This saying is not just for December but for each of our undetermined days. It is the message of angels! “Be Not Afraid!” This familiar phrase forever connects us to shepherds and angels on Christmas night. Shepherds keep watch over their flocks by night. Suddenly they are enthroned by a heavenly host declaring the glorious news that a Savior is born. We hear the message but we need to tune our ear to the preface. Three words which are easily overlooked but set the stage for the celebration. How can the celebration commence if fear fills the air? It is impossible. Fear has no place in God’s plan of action. As one scours the Scriptures, it is interesting to note that these three little words are littered throughout the herald’s message. The first words spoken to Zachariah and Mary by a holy messenger brings the assuring word, “Be Not Afraid.” In fact, from Genesis to Revelation, these three words are used with regularity. God speaks directly to Abraham, Isaac, Moses and others using the same words. And men of faith also speak these words of encouragement; Joseph to his brothers, Joshua to the people of Israel, Elijah to a widow, David to his son, Solomon, and many more. Finally, in Revelation, when John comes face to face with Almighty God, the first words spoken to him are, “Be Not Afraid – I am the First and the Last.”

What does this all mean? The message is clear! God’s desire is to remove ALL fear (anxiety) from every aspect of our life. God wants us to be filled with the gifts of his Spirit – joy, peace, patience, love, self- control. Fear has NO existence in the presence of God (except the “fear” which calls us to revere him and stand in awe)   

As Christmas approaches and we await the coming of the Messiah, let us take hold of and claim these three little words spoken by the Holy Ones. Regardless of our circumstances, past, present, and future,   we need not fear, God has made a way for us – we will overcome!

Let us celebrate the joy that is for all people – In the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord!

Love in Christ, Pastor Mark

 

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 3

“What’s the Score?”

Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.” 1 Corinthians 15:20

 

(If you watched today’s worship service on our website. I made reference to the, “Big, Big House”. I planned to play the song with that title, to conclude my message. Because of copyright restrictions, we were unable to include that song.  If you want to listen to it on YouTube – the song is by Audio Adrenaline – “Big House”. Zach Williams also have a couple other powerful songs you might want to listen to as well: 1. “Rescue Story” and 2. “There was Jesus”. Enjoy.)

 

Today is Devotion Day 49. Thinking about numbers, this potentially, could be a very important day.        

7 x 7= 49.

The number 7, in the Scriptures is an important number. In fact, in the Bible, the number 7 is considered a perfect, complete number. So, to have a double number multiplier, today, might be reason to lift your head.

Keeping with numbers, on this double 7, perfect day, do you know the score? Does anyone know the score? Where are we on this pandemic? Are we winning? Are we losing? What quarter do you think we are in? Have we reached halftime? The honest truth is that we still do not have any quantitative way to treat this virus. We have numbers galore. But it seems to me that we are lacking that perfect number that will set things straight! If you ask me, I would say that we are still in the opening quarter. Which is pretty scary. Not only are we challenged to consider physical health, but also our economic health, emotional health, and many other issues that will emerge in the coming weeks and months. That being said, we have a determined team of researchers and medical professionals who are leaving it all out on the field. These essential workers are determined to lead us to victory. Pete Carroll, head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, has a mantra he drills into his players. You don’t win the game in the first quarter, or the second, or the third quarter. The game is won in the fourth quarter. We must keep our mind focused for four quarters and when the clock ticks to zero – we will be the ones left standing with the wreath around our necks. Covid19 will be pounded to the tuff and defeated. For now, we keep grinding.

Last night, as I ran through the television guide, I noticed that Fox13, was going to replay SuperBowl LIV.  

Not to spoil it for you, but the Kansas City Chiefs win. They beat the San Francisco 49ers again – 31-20. All the anxiety and concerns about the game are eliminated, because we already know who would come out on top.

Interestingly enough, yesterday morning, an article that I wrote for our newsletter one year ago fell out of my Bible. A lot can happen in a year. A lot can happen in three months. But, then again, some things remain the same.

I thought on this 49th day, I would replay my article for you as a reminder that the most important game has already been played. The score is already known. And “In Christ”, we win. Some things will always remain the same.

 
(ONE YEAR AGO….)
 

“Do you Know the Score?

72-58

Last month, I was following Gonzaga basketball during the March Madness NCAA Tournament.

The Bulldogs ranked #1 in the West Region, and many had high hopes that they would win the championship. In the second round, the Zags were going to play Florida State. If they won that game, they would make it into the second round of the tournament, called the “Sweet 16”. I tend to get nervous watching these, one and done games, so I decided to wait to watch the game. I taped the game on my DVR. I decided that if they won the game, I would watch it. If they lost, I wouldn’t bother with it. Is that wrong?

Later that day, I checked my phone and found out that the Gonzaga Bulldogs beat FSU 72-58. So, I drove home, gathered some snacks around me and prepared to sip my sparkling water through to the end of the game. Do you know how much fun and stress free it was watching a game that had already been won? When the Zags made a bad play, missed a shot, or gave up a turnover – it didn’t matter because I know the outcome of the game. With 14 minutes left in the game, FSU had cut the lead to 4 points. Now, if the game was live, can you imagine how stressed out I would have been? I would have been biting my nails, yelling at the players – I mean, “encouraging” the players to play better. But because I knew the final score, I could continue to eat my chips and salsa in perfect peace and contentment.

Yesterday, I was going to be at church during the final round of the Master’s Golf Tournament. Tiger Woods was in contention. He had not won a major championship for 14 years. Again, I taped the final round and was hoping to watch it without knowing who won. Well, after church, the news feed on my phone beeped and announced that Tiger Woods at just won his 15th Major. Now, I was hot and bothered because I really wanted to watch the round not knowing who won. But after church, again with my munchies in close proximity, I watched the final holes. I watched in peace! When Tiger missed a putt, or put his drive into the woods, I wasn’t anxious because I knew the final score.

Do you know the score? I mean the “real” score – as it relates to life? Eternal life? If we knew the score at the end of our life – that we went to heaven and spent the rest of eternity with our family, friends; with Jesus Christ, the angels, surrounded in music, light and love, just think about how we could relax and not get so stressed about everyday life. Wait a minute, as Christians, WE DO KNOW THE SCORE! We do know that we have the promise that Jesus has gone before us and has prepared a place for us! So then, why do we get so worked up over all that is going on in daily life? Have we forgotten the score? Or have we chosen to be more invested, stressed and anxious about the things that are surrounding us now.

Jesus reminds us, “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable are you than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his/her life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (Luke 12:24-26)

Ravens are not smarter than we. But they do live much more care free. Have we cultivated a habit of worry and not even realized it? Let’s get back to the basics: God – 1, Satan – 0. If you know this score, relax, God has the whole world in his hands. And if you don’t mind – please pass the guacamole!
 

Love in Christ, Pastor Mark

P.S. – A lot has happened in the last 12 months since I wrote this article. But the score is still the same. God still has the whole world in his hands. The one thing that HAS changed – did you know Costco now sells bags of frozen avocados? Now, I’ll make my own guacamole, thank you very much.

During this pandemic, keep replaying the truth in your mind, “Christ INDEED has been raised from the dead!”  



Pastor Mark’s May Newsletter Blog

 
 

Pastor Mark’s May Newsletter Blog   “Do you Know the Score?”     72 – 58 Last month I was following Gonzaga Basketball during the March Madness NCAA Tournament.   They were ranked #1 in the West Region, and many had high hopes that they would win the championship. In the second round, the Zags were going to play Florida State. If they won that game they would make it into the second round called the Sweet 16. I tend to get nervous watching these one and done games – so I decided to wait to watch the game. I taped it on my DVR – and if they won, I would watch the game and if they lost – why bother. Is that wrong? Later that day, I checked my phone and found out the Gonzaga Bulldogs beat FSU 72-58. OK, so I drove home, gathered some snacks around me and prepared to sip my sparkling water through to the end of the game. Do you know how much fun and stress free it was watching a game that had already been won. When the Zags made a bad play, missed a shot, or gave up a turnover – it didn’t matter because I knew the score. With 14 minutes to go in the game, the Zags were up by 14 points. Then Florida State players starting making plays. With 4 minutes left in the game, they had cut the lead to 4 points. Now, if the game was live, can you imagine how stressed out I would have been, biting my nails, yelling at the players – I mean, “encouraging” the players to play better? But because I knew the final score – I could continue to eat my chips and salsa with perfect peace and contentment.   Yesterday, I was going to be at church during the final round of the Master’s golf tournament. Tiger Woods was in contention to win the tournament for the first time in 14 years. Again, I taped the final round on my DVR – but was hoping to watch it without knowing who won. Well, after church, the news feed on my phone beeps and announces that Tiger Woods had just won his 15th major golf tournament. Now, I’m hot and bothered because I really wanted to watch it not knowing who won. But after church, again with munchies in close proximity, I watched the final round. When Tiger missed a putt, or put his drive into the woods, I knew that it wasn’t too significant because in the end, I knew the score and he finished on top.

Do you know the score? I mean the real score as it relates to life? Eternal life?  

If we knew the score at the end of our life – that we went to heaven and spent the rest of eternity with our family, friends; with Jesus Christ, the angels, music, light and love – just think about how we could relax and not get so stressed out about everyday life.

Wait a minute – as Christians, WE DO KNOW THE SCORE!

We do know that we have the promise that Jesus has gone before us and has prepared the WAY!  So then, why do we get so worked up about all that is going on in daily life? Have we forgotten the score, or have we chosen to be more invested, stressed and anxious about the things around us. Jesus reminds us,

“Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable are you than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest.” Luke 12:24-26

Now, I reject the idea that ravens are smarter than we are. But they do live care free. Have we cultivated a habit of worry and not even realized it? Let’s get back to basics. God – 1, Satan – 0. If you know this score, relax, God has the whole world in his hands. And if you don’t mind – please pass the guacamole!        Love in Christ!   Pastor Mark