Seven First Words, January 2022

When I wrote my first newsletter article for 2021 I thought, “Surely this year will be better than the last!” Now as I look back at all that has taken place, I am not sure if it was better or not? There was no “lock down” from covid as there had been in 2020, but the pandemic has not gone away, nor the fears associated with it. Along with new variants, and surges of new cases, there are also conflicts over masks and vaccines. Fears and frustrations seem to abound both in public, and also in families.

I had some glimmer of hope that perhaps the new persons in Washington DC might be able to help us work together better, and to solve issues more unitedly. That was the campaign promise. But, the political landscape is just as chaotic as ever!

A few years ago, I enjoyed a whole calendar year without any funerals of church family members. Could it happen again? It did not. It has been a year of losses, and changes. Cancer and other health concerns have taken away our loved ones. As well there have been injuries, and surgeries, and lots of changes.

So here I am writing a new article for another new year. 2022! With this new year come hopes, and dreams. What new adventures await us? Young people will graduate from high school, and college! New little babies will be born! Bodies will heal from their injuries, and their surgeries. There is hope for better. The seasons will bring their blessings and their challenges.

There will be challenges, and changes. There will be more pandemic concerns– new virus strains, mandates, and health issues. Our lives change a lot over a year’s time. Often we don’t notice because we live it day by day.

I want to share Seven First Words for 2022 that may be hopeful for you and me. They may not be the first words you say, but they are words you can use as part of your spiritual walk at least.

Repeat after me: I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST! (WHO STRENGTHENS ME). There are ten words if you remember the whole passage. The Bible [Philippians 4.13], contains this confident assurance of those who believe in Jesus. The Apostle Paul, had learned to put his hope in someone more powerful than himself. We can too!

Not only is Jesus more powerful, but he is wiser, and more gracious than we are. He is ready to redeem. He is preparing a place for us in his beautiful kingdom of heaven. This is the Christ who strengthens us. He is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. By him all things have been created. He works all things together for good, for those who love Him and are aligned with His will.

What lies ahead in the year to come? For me a few new things. I have two more Spencer babies due in June. (Reed and Lesley will have five children). I will likely retire sometime pretty soon? (I am 68 years old). There are some new things to do, new goals to set, and some unknown changes.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” You will probably look back a year from now and say, “How did I ever accomplish those things?” In amazement, you may realize how far you have come, and what trials you have faced. When you do- bless the Lord! Praise His holy name! He is the One who strengthens us!

I am hoping in the Lord for better things to come in 2022. I am ready for some obvious signs that God is at work in this crazy world. But, my real hope is in Christ– not the new year! Not in politicians, or economy, or things of this world. As you move ahead, just remember those seven words for 2022. I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST! He strengthens us!


Pastor Mark

In His Perfect Time, December 2021

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. (Galatians 4.4-5)

I recently read another book by J. Warner Wallace entitled, The Person of Interest. Wallace was a homicide detective for the city of Los Angeles, and investigated many cold cases to uncover the perpetrators of unsolved crimes. Using techniques that he would use for crime scene investigations, he set out to prove, or disprove who Jesus was without the use of the Bible. Was there enough evidence to prove that he actually lived? Did his search through the other sources of that era prove or disprove what the Bible says about Jesus? Is there enough evidence to know more about this Jesus? – The Person of Interest. Could He really be who His followers say he is?- God? Warner came to believe the truth about Jesus, from his own digging.

One of the findings he discovered was the timing of Jesus’ coming. Do you remember when Jesus was born? Luke says, “In the days of Caesar Augustus…” Jesus was born in an era called “Pax Romana.” There was a period when middle east fighting, and wars, and the ravaging of Palestine ceased for awhile. The armies of Rome were so dominating that the smaller nations ceased from their fighting and wars with their neighbors. Herod was one of the rulers of Palestine, but un- der the authority of Caesar Augustus.

The Romans were also known for developing a system of roads for their armies to use. They were not interstate highways, and yet these roads which led from one major city to another made it possible for the message of Jesus to be shared across the Roman world. Paul the Apostle, traveled them. He also went via ship, across the Mediterranean Sea, which was protected by the Roman government.

Before the Romans gained control of this part of the world, the armies of Greece, under the leadership of Alexander the Great, were dominant. One of the rules that they tried to impose on people of that time was that everyone under subjection would adopt Greek culture, and their language. Thus, in Jesus’ day people were still speaking a common form of Greek called “koine.” The New Testament letters, and Gospels were written in Greek.

Did God have a hand in orchestrating all of these major factors so that when Jesus appeared, his message of salvation could be told across the known world, and written in a common language? I think so! And so does J Warner Wallace. Paul the Apostle says so too. “When the fullness of the time had come…” At just the right time in history! There are some other amazing discoveries. Jesus’ fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 12, the persecution of Jesus’ Church which caused the spreading of the Gospel from Judea to nations all around the world, Jesus’ fulfillment of other prophecies. How much evidence is needed to convince people that something is true? Some will refuse to believe despite the mounds of proof.

This Christmas season, those who believe in Jesus have an amazing reason to celebrate! The God who created this universe, and who gave us life as well, is able to orchestrate major events that will impact the world! Do you think He can order the events of your life too? What about the events of our country? There are crazy things happening in our government, and our nation. Is God working?

I believe He will be at work you your life and mine– if we ask Him. Why will he do this? He loves us with an everlasting love. If your gifts and packages don’t arrive on time– remember this…God does! He will come at just the perfect time!

God Bless,

Pastor Mark

Count Your Blessings, November 2021

On my grandmother’s chalkboard is this message she wrote many years ago: Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by
smiles, not tears. She often wrote on her chalkboard a verse, or an inspiring quote that she had read. It was her way of reminding herself, and also of passing her bits of wisdom on to others. Often my grandfather was the main one to gain insights from her. But, when we visited her there would usually be something new for us to read as well. Her chalkboard message was preserved by my parents on the original chalkboard after her passing. I read it again from time to time. It is a beautiful reminder of the important things of life.

At this season of the year, it is good to remind ourselves of the many things and people who make our lives meaningful. So often we get so busy with routines and duties that we don’t take the time to appreciate what makes life count.

Psalm 90 is attributed to Moses, as the author. It is a beautiful reminder of important things, and what we need to appreciate. It speaks of how short life is, and of how fleeting the years are. Yet it also reminds us of the security we can have in trusting God, and His care.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90. 1-2)

The Psalmist goes on to extol the everlasting love and power of God. “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by..” Then comes the lesson we need to learn:

All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan.

10 Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. 11 If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due. 12 Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Can we number our days? Do you know how many more you will have? Perhaps due to covid, or other illnesses we realize that the number of days is getting shorter. So how can we gain a heart of wisdom? How can we make the best of the days we have left? Perhaps one suggestion might be to ask yourself, “HOW RICH AM I?” Are you counting friendships, and smiles, and flowers, and the bright experiences of today? Are you blessed with riches that money can never buy? I know I am! Or ask yourself, “HOW CAN I GAIN A HEART OF WISDOM from God? One good way is to practice being thankful, and speaking words of gratitude to God, and to those who make our lives good.

Will you take a moment just now, or as soon as you can, to stop and thank the Lord for His love and blessings? Will you take a moment to thank a friend, or loved one for their wisdom and kindness? My grandmother’s last words of wisdom remind me that I am blessed with wonderful riches. Her chalkboard message comes from a poem which was the message of a Hallmark birthday card. The author is unknown

Count your garden by the flowers, Never by the leaves that fall, Count your days by golden hours, Don’t remember clouds at all; Count your nights by stars, not shadows, Count your life with smiles, not tears, And with joy on this your birthday Count your age by friends, not years.
(I would say, “And with joy at this Thanksgiving” count your age by friends, not years).

God Bless, Pastor Mark

Harvests To Come, October 2021

Here we are again at harvest time again. The fields around us are ripe, and tractors and combines, and grain wagons are ready to be put to use.
Harvest season is the culmination of months of work– planting, preparation, decisions, working around weather issues, and constant changes. Yet it is the time of hope and celebrating. It is also a time for us to pray for the safety of those who are working extra hours and often in dangerous conditions.

In 2 Timothy, Paul refers to the faithful farmer. “The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.” (2 Timothy 2.6) In the context of the passage, Paul is encouraging believers to be “strong and faithful” to Jesus. He encourages us to entrust our faith and hope in reliable men (& women) who can teach others. He compares our spiritual life to the faithful soldier who serves the commanding officer. As an athlete competes for the gold medal by training and competing according to the rules, so we must live our lives in faithfulness, and dedication to Jesus. We must live according to His spiritual rules of love, and grace, and walking by faith in Him.

As part of this encouragement towards faithful service to Christ, Paul suggests that there is a reward…a harvest. There are rewards and blessings that result from the believer’s walk with the Lord. The farmer’s reward is “a share of the crops.” There will be food on his table, and the resources to pay others who have helped, and who are owed their share of the crops too.

Likewise, we are challenged to be faithful to Christ. There may be some who think that the farmer only works in the summertime, or that the pastor only works on Sunday… If this is the case they will not be in business very long!

Likewise, if our only time of serving Jesus in on Sunday morning, then we may quickly discover that our spiritual harvest is pretty limited. Yes, we were saved by God’s grace, even while we were sinners, when we trusted in Jesus. Our salvation is not something we earn by hard work, or by great things we do. Yet, we are redeemed for a life of purpose, and calling, and blessings. There are times of harvest, and of blessing along the way in the spiritual life. But, they often come as a result of our faithful service.

Parents who bring their children to church, and who teach them about Jesus day by day, are often blessed to see them learning to know Him, and discover His amazing love and grace too. Those who pray faithfully, and consistently often reap a harvest of answers, and of assurances that God hears, and does wondrous things. Those who share their faith in Jesus, often see friends and loved ones become believers in Jesus. Those who serve their church with their time, and their treasures, often enjoy a spiritual home. And their spiritual home is an added strength when things are tough, or when there are weddings, and holidays.

So, as Paul encouraged Timothy, I want to pass along the message. “You then, my son (my daughter), be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 2.1) Praise the Lord! There are blessings, and harvests to come.

Blessings to you, Pastor Mark