Independence Day! July 2021

INDEPENDENCE DAY! We celebrate it every year. Last year was a little different– no fireworks (at least not the community ones).
Sometimes I wonder if people even remember what July 4th is all about? Do we celebrate the fireworks more than we do our independence and freedoms? Back in 1776, this event was the beginning of a war. The war for freedom, and for democracy was fought by men and women who valued freedom from an oppressive government even more than life. People died for the freedom we take for granted.

In recent weeks people in our church family have been involved in a number of battles. These have not been fought with guns, and cannons, but with spiritual weapons, and faith. How many have fallen and broken a bone? My 2 year old grandson broke his leg. Several folks in their 80’s and 90’s have suffered from broken bones, and injuries. Others have lost loved ones to battles with cancer, or aging, or other accidents. There have been the battles of change. People are moving and thus, people we have relied on are gone. There are changes in homes as young persons go off to college. We are happy for peoples’ new opportunities, but there are big life-changes for families too. I have noticed for myself a kind of “battle fatigue” that has come as I have tried to help others through their losses and battles. I have sensed my own feelings of heaviness, and grief. I am sure some of you have felt the same way.

I believe in “spiritual warfare.” There is an real enemy who is seeking to defeat us, and discourage us, and to cause us to give up our faith,. Paul the Apostle wrote to the Ephesians, “Our battle is not against flesh and blood…but against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6.22)

King David faced similar battles and fatigue. This week I have been reading Psalm 31. Here, King David is sharing his prayers, and his struggles with the Lord. O Lord, I come to You for protection…” (v, 1). He lists some other struggles… “Pull me from the trap of my enemies (v.4)… Lead me out of danger (v. 3)… I am in distress; my body and soul are withering away…(v. 9).

We all face similar battles. Physical battles, contain emotional battles (and visa versa). So how can we cope? How do we deal

with life’s hard things? David shows us several strategies here in Psalm 31. He has learned to trust in God’s goodness, and sovereignty. “How great is your goodness…” (v. 19). He has learned to find shelter in God alone. “You hide them in the shelter of your presence…” (v. 20). God is available to be our shelter also. David finds some strength in praising God, and remembering His past blessings. ‘Praise the Lord, for he has shown me the wonders of his unfailing love…(v. 21).

David has discovered God’s strength and blessings, and the help that comes from worshipping Him. Discovering his source of hope and strength is a blessing to us, because we are reminded that the same God of hope and courage is available to us.

So when you’re watching those fireworks this July 4th, remember the battles and wars of the past. But also remember how God provides for us during our tough times, in the present! The end of Psalm 31, gives a word of encouragement. So be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord.” (Ps. 31.24).

I Pray that you will sense God’s help as you seek to be strong and courageous. May you also notice how He has already been working in your life, and in others!

Blessings to you,

Pastor Mark

Changes Ahead, June 2021

As I write it’s 87 degrees outside. Weather has been changing a lot this year. But, hopefully it will finally be safe to plant flowers, and plan outings. It seems like life has been pretty volatile lately too! We have dealt with Covid, and with lots of violence in the news, and politics. Peo- ple are desperate to live in America, or places where their children can be safe, and provided for.

Church has been challenging as well. I have read many articles which wonder what will be the same, and what will be different going forward. Will people come back to church? Will people stop coming? What programs and activities will be the same, and what needs to change?

I recently read an article that mentioned things that may not be needed in the future. The list included printed bulletins (we’re still not that virtual– and probably will keep printing them), the “greet your neighbor” time, the passing of the offering plate, obsession over attendance, in-person only services, and others.

The article mentioned several things that we need to keep doing. Meeting together– most of us need this, even if we need to keep doing online church also. Singing, eating together, sharing communion, praying together, and baptism were things we also need to keep doing.

I have to admit that there have been a lot of uncertainties for me about church things. I have wondered about our attendance– it is significantly smaller than before Covid, but then that’s not counting the people who are able to join virtually. Many are able to join who would not be able to because of illness, or being away, or fear.

There are some other things we need to consider as we move forward. Have we represented Jesus well during the lockdown, and the past year? I think we have continued to do so. Are we representing Jesus well as we move ahead? What are we learning? What doesn’t need to be restarted? These are valid questions to consider.

I have noticed that the pandemic, and all of the changes have not prevented people from suffering. Cancer, divorce, financial issues, evictions, loneliness, suicide, mental illness, and substance abuse are still part of people’s lives. These are happening to people all around us, and to people in our churches. They need Jesus. They need our prayers. They need hope, and God’s love, and our encouragement. We need to help them with these!

So what’s ahead for church and for us? More ups and downs I suspect. But also, more opportunities to love, and care, and share Jesus with our friends and our families, and with those who are needing Him most! Jesus is still our hope for the world, and for our future as well! From everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God! (Psalm 90)


Pastor Mark

Anxious for Nothing? Stay C-A-L-M, May 2021

Are you anxious for nothing? My response is: “Not at all, I have plenty of good reasons for being anxious!” Learning to deal with our anxieties in a Biblical way has been our focus for the past few month.

I wonder, have you been able to apply some of the things you’ve learned. In Philippians 4. 4-8 we’ve found one recipe for dealing with life’s frets.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, what- ever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things.

As I have mentioned over the past few weeks there are a few steps we need to take to enjoy that “peace that passes understanding.” Step 1– Rejoice. (There are things happening around us to celebrate). Laughter, children playing, music, babies are being born. Step 2- Respond with gentleness. Be like Jesus. What would Jesus do, or say? Gentleness is the most Christlike way to be. When we respond with kindness, or patience instead of rage, or hostility– we become the catalyst for good, and hope, and grace in others. Step 3– pray with thanksgiving. Don’t forget to say “thank you.” We try to teach our children to be polite. Should be not be polite to our Heav- enly Father? If we’re not grateful for the ways God blesses us, what makes us think we have the right to ask for more? Yes, We need to ask! But we also need to remember what God has done, and say “Thank You, Lord!” For my health. For the way you provide for me. For the hope of everlasting life! For the people who love me, and my church. Pray with thanksgiving.

Then, the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds. What does God’s peace feel like? How does one describe that which “transcends our understanding?” For me sometimes I have looked back on an event that should have been stressful, and realized that I wasn’t stressed out. Sometimes I have been able to sleep, when otherwise I might have been up all night. Sometimes God’s peace, feels like release, freedom, letting go.

There is a 4th step, to peace. Learn to think on things above. We need to guard our hearts and trust our Father. There are good and positive things to set our minds on. There are things (and people) that are true, noble, right/just, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. We can enjoy God’s blessings by looking for them. We can guard our hearts from fears and anxieties, by learning to see God’s bigger picture.

In Anxious For Nothing, Max Lucado uses an acrostic to help us remember some steps to peace. C-A-L-M.

C– Celebrate God’s goodness. Rejoice in the Lord. Look at what the Lord has done, and find some happiness in it. Perhaps you’re tired ofsnow, but this morning as I drove to work, the trees which were blanketed in snow were glorious.

A– Ask God for help. “Let your requests be made known to God.” We sing, “take it to the Lord, in prayer.” I’m not very good at asking for help.My pride, or my male ego gets in the way. Most of us men hate asking for directions. We often need help very badly– but asking is not something we do well either.

L– Leave your concerns with God. Too often we ask for help but keep trying to fix it ourselves. We ask, but don’t trust Him to take care of the need. I wonder, why do we ask for help, if we don’t let God help?

M– Meditate on good things. What we choose to think about mat- ters. Has God blessed you today? Have you heard laughter, or enjoyed a hug from your spouse? Have you seen a kind deed, or a noble attitude? Pay attention!

I hope your are learning to be “Anxious For Nothing, and enjoying God’s peaceinstead. Itpassesourunderstanding!

Blessings, Pastor Mark

Easter Hope, April 2021

In the book Believe, Randy Frazee writes:

Unfortunately, too often humans put their hope in things that over promise and under deliver riches, people, idols, government. The only true source of hope is found in Jesus Christ. Christ and his promises become an anchor for our souls and the reason we can persevere. Of all the promises Jesus has made to us, the promise of eternal life with God is the most significant. No matter what we may be going through today, we know what happens in this life is not how our story ends. Our story ends, or really only begins, in the presence of God in his eternal kingdom. [Believe, p. 417]

There are things I hope for but am not very confident about. I hope I might win the lottery but I am not very hopeful that this will happen– especially since I don’t buy lottery tickets. I hope that someday our elected officials will learn to work together instead of against each other. The team I hoped for did win the Super Bowl, but that celebration ended long ago.

The Christian faith is based on a Living Hope- a Lasting Victory! The Living Hope is something that is “still unseen” and I am waiting to experience, but it is not like these other hopes. The lottery doesn’t promise me that I will win. But the Bible does!

The Bible promises this Living Hope of everlasting life to everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ as their Savior. We can all be winners! The Book of Hebrews mentions our blessed HOPE . Here are a few of the passages:

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10.23

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. Hebrews 6.19

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11.1

We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. Hebrews 6.11

The Apostle Peter also writes about the promised hope of eternal life with Jesus. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1.3

Once a young lady came to my door, and invited me to attend their “celebration of Jesus’ death.” I thanked her for the invitation– but also affirmed that I prefer to “celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.”

Paul the writer of 1 Corinthians, affirms what was believed and “passed down” from the first believers. “But now,Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (who have died). He also writes: “But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15.57).

So let me ask you a question? What are you hoping for? Do you have a hope that anchors your soul? Do you have faith in the promises of Jesus Christ? I believe in an eternal hope…an Easter Hope. I believe that there is a resurrection to everlasting life for those who trust in Christ! So, no matter what happens while I live in this human body– there is something better to come! Amy Grant sings, “In a little while we’ll be with the Father, can’t you see Him smile…we’re just here to learn to love Him. We’ll be home in just a little while.” Even when death comes to us or our believing loved ones the Bible says, Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. (1 Thess. 4.13).

May you be filled with “blessed hope” as you look ahead to what God is doing, and preparing for those who faithfully wait.”

Pastor Mark