A word from the Pastor with your coffee …
Are You Wearing a Mask?
These days, I am trying to wear a mask at certain times in order to communicate consideration and care toward others. It’s difficult though, as my glasses keep fogging. If I don’t breathe, it seems to be fine.
I saw a photo of a man wearing a mask and jogging out on a country road, with no one else in sight. I’m not sure who was being protected in that situation, but I respect his choice to wear the mask.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, people were wearing masks, you know. They were invisible masks, but they were still used for protection and covering up. Let me explain…
Some people wear a mask to cover up the fact that they really are not Christians, as the Bible describes. They pretend to be followers of Christ by saying and doing the things that will keep others from learning the truth. I admit that at times I have been fooled by this kind of mask. Thankfully, these mask-wearers aren’t fooling God.
“The Lord knows those who are His.” 2 Timothy 2:19
Some people wear a family and marriage mask. This mask covers up the fact that a marriage and home situation is teetering on the brink of falling apart. Yet, the mask is used to make everyone out in the community (or the church) think all is fine at home and that help isn’t needed.
“Bear one another’s burdens.” Galatians 6:2
It is very difficult to help someone with their family or marriage burdens, if those burdens are kept hidden behind a mask.
There are all kinds of other masks. They are used to cover up sinful practices, anger issues, greed, addictions, improper motives, and many other things that we want to hide from others.
But, remember this:
“Nothing in all of creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.” Hebrews 4:13
Friends, when the present pandemic is over, and you put away your cloth mask, will you still be wearing a mask of another kind – the one you were wearing before the pandemic?
This might be a good time to do something about it.
– Pastor Marlin
Lois, Eunice, and Beulah
May 6, 2020
“I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.”
-2 Timothy 1:5-
“You have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.”
-2 Timothy 3:15-
As the Apostle Paul writes to a young Pastor Timothy, he introduces us to Timothy’s grandmother and mother. Grandma Lois and mother Eunice were women with genuine faith, who had taught the scriptures to Timothy from the time he was a young child. This faithful teaching seems to have played a major role toward Timothy becoming a follower of Jesus Christ, who then possessed that same genuine faith as his grandmother and mother.
As Mother’s Day nears, I would like to add another name to the list of mothers who taught the scriptures to their children. That name is Beulah, my mother. She has been in the presence of Jesus for a year now, but I will continue to honor her every year at this time.
I am thankful that my mother intentionally made sure that I was taught the scriptures from the time I was a very young child. Then, when I was eleven years old, she prayed with me, as I received Jesus into my life to be my Lord and Savior.
Here is a paragraph that I found in my mother’s journal, while preparing for her funeral:
“Thank you, Lord, for shedding your blood on the cross and taking all our sins upon yourself. We are so unworthy of your love, still you are there and love us so much. When we fail you, you are there to forgive us, when we confess to you; all because of your matchless grace and mercy. We can never thank you enough, Lord. You are so wonderful!”
Can you see why my mother made sure that her children learned about Jesus, His work, and His salvation?
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!
Friend, I hope that you are able to add your mother’s name to the list of mothers with genuine faith, who taught the scriptures to their children: Lois, Eunice, Beulah, and _____________.
– Pastor Marlin
Grace or Grievance?
April 29, 2020
Which word best describes you these days – grace or grievance?
If I were to pose this question to your family members, how would they answer? Your friends? Your fellow-workers? Grace or grievance?
Let’s not read on too quickly! How about stopping here and giving some time to this important question. Think about your speech, your attitudes, your actions. Grace or grievance? What about the last weeks, as your life has maybe become more difficult, frustrating, or disappointing? Grace or grievance?
Picture your life as a packet of seeds. What kind of seeds have you been scattering this spring? Grace or grievance? Now, picture what each kind of seed might produce.
I invite you to contemplate God’s words with me:
Philippians 2:14 “Do everything without complaining (grumbling) or disputing (fault-finding).”
Ephesians 4:29 “Speak words that are helpful for building up others, according to their needs;words that benefit (give grace to) the one who listens.”
Colossians 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.”
Colossians 4:6 “Let your conversation always be full of grace.”
Psalm 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth and the thoughts on my mind be pleasing in your sight, oh God.”
As you put your coffee cup away, what do you think God is saying to you about the day ahead? Will it be grace or grievance?
– Pastor Marlin
Someone is Looking for You
April 22, 2020
The hero of the story unlocked and entered his hiding place in an old brick building down the alley of a Middle Eastern city. As he locked the door behind him, he looked down to see a piece of paper that had been slid under the door. The hero unfolded the paper and read the one short sentence written on it: “Someone is looking for you.”
As the story moves forward, we learn that the “someone” looking for our hero is actually twofold.
First, a group of terrorists is looking for him. Their intent is to capture and imprison him; perhaps even destroy him, if necessary.
At the same time, a team from his own intelligence agency is looking for him, to provide help and support; even rescue, if necessary.
Friends, if you are interested in knowing the rest of the story, you will have to write it yourself!
The above story could be written about the followers of Jesus Christ. As we walk through this world day by day, someone is looking for us. And like in the story, the “someone” is twofold.
1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be self-controlled and alert, for your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
Let me remind you that the devil is real and he is looking for people to deceive, tempt, capture, and even destroy. Peter goes on to instruct his readers to resist the devil, by standing firm in their faith.
In 2 Chronicles 16:9, King Asa receives this message from a prophet, “The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” In other words, God is looking for committed people to support. The king is reminded that whenever he had relied on the Lord in the past, God supported and delivered him from his enemies. He is rebuked for not doing the same in his present situation.
I don’t know exactly what troubles you right now, or what specific anxieties and fears you are experiencing. But, I can tell you this: Someone is looking for you!
The devil is looking to capture and weaken you.
The Lord is looking to support and strengthen you.
Resist the devil, by standing firm in your faith.
Rely fully on the Lord and His strength.
If you do, this present chapter in the story of your life will end well.
– Pastor Marlin
April 15, 2020
A few weeks ago, my wife celebrated her birthday, and I was right by her side, as I have been since 1973. You see, I love my wife. Jeannine and I have been married for forty-six years, and I love her more now than ever before. Now, wait a minute … don’t you start thinking that all I’m doing is writing some kind of nice sounding cliché’! I mean it! Our experiences together over the years have bonded us so tightly, that the love is still fresh – more mature, more sacrificial, more serving, and more unconditional, than when we started.
What is the key to a growing, loving marriage? The key is “the triangle.” I believe that God intended marriage to be a relationship made up of three people, not two: the man, the woman, and the Lord. So many couples leave God out of their lives and marriage. They eventually experience the sad consequences of that choice.
Structural engineers tell us that there is no more stable figure than a triangle. The next time you see a bridge, notice the number of triangles that make up the structure. Triangles create a strong underpinning for a structure, and the same is true of marriage. In building a marriage, “the triangle” is the key.
Jeannine and I are not embarrassed to say that we committed our marriage to the Lord at the very beginning, inviting Him to be at the head of our relationship. For forty-six years, we have done our best to maintain that commitment and keep God where He belongs, through every season of life, difficult or not.
It works! It can work for you. Make a commitment together to turn your marriage into a triangle, by inviting the Lord into it. Then submit to Him and follow Him together.
Maybe the sparks will fly again!
Family Table … The Lord’s Table
April 8, 2020
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18
What is the message of the cross? It is a message of love and sacrifice; a message that tells us a Savior has taken our place and been judged for our sins; that because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ, we can be forgiven and have a relationship with the God who created us. What we could not do, Jesus has done. Thank you, Jesus!
Typically, on Good Friday, we all gather together for the purpose of remembering the sacrifice of Jesus for us on the cross, by sharing the bread and cup that represent the body and blood of Christ. We call it communion, or the Lord’s Supper. This year, that gathering will not take place.
But, did you know that you can observe the Lord’s Supper in your home, as a family? Yes, you can.
There is no place in the Bible that tells us the communion service can only be experienced in a church, or that only pastors can lead such a service.
So, I encourage you to begin making plans to observe the Lord’s Supper in your home, as a family, on Friday night. What if we all do this between 5:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.? That way, in a sense, we are sharing communion together! Our family tables will become the Lord’s table.
Maybe it will be the most meaningful communion service that we have ever experienced. I guarantee that the Lord will be present!
I have some ideas for you to consider and choose from. You can always come up with your own ideas, as well. Do whatever fits your family’s situation the best.
- Plan a family meal, followed by the Lord’s supper, using bread and juice. These elements will help you remember the body and blood of Jesus. As you have your Lord’s supper experience, include reading 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 as a reminder of what is going on.
- Fast until supper. If physically able, instead of eating breakfast and lunch, spend those times reading the record of Christ’s crucifixion, as recorded in each gospel. Then spend time in prayer. Have soup and bread for supper, followed by the communion remembrance.
- Ask family members to create placemats for supper. Draw a cross on each placemat and then creatively put a verse on each one from the scriptures listed below.
- Build a cross from wood and put it up outside by your campfire spot. After supper, have a communion service around the fire.
- Read devotional number 13 in the book, “Along the Way,” and talk about it before sharing communion together. It asks the question, “Who Killed Jesus?”
- Sing, or listen to a song or two about the death of Christ and the cross.
- Write the 7 last words of Christ (see below) on place cards, putting them at each setting for supper. After the meal, each person can read the statement from Jesus that is on their card. Talk about these words of Jesus before sharing communion.
- Each person, if they want, could pray before sharing the bread and before sharing the cup.
- See if you have a movie about the life of Christ, or if there is one on tv. Watch it together after sharing the Lord’s Supper.
- Have family members read scripture passages from the list below.
Possible scriptures to use:
Isaiah 53:1-12 John 3:15-17 Romans 5:6-10
Romans 8:1-4 1 Corinthians 1:18-24 2 Corinthians 5:15-17
1 Peter 1:18-20 1 Peter 2:23,24 2 Corinthians 5:21
The 7 final words from the cross:
“I am thirsty” John 19:28
“Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43
“Here is your son … here is your mother.” John 19:26,27
“Father, forgive them.” Luke 23:34
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46
“It is finished” John 19:30
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Luke 23:46
– Pastor Marlin
Trials and Testimonies
April 2, 2020
We have been invited to a testimony service. The people of God have gathered to hear from Abraham, Job, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, Elijah, David, Daniel, Esther, Mary, Peter, John, Paul, Barnabas, and many others. It will be a long service!
As we listen to the testimonies of these people of old, and how God worked in their lives – revealing Himself, teaching them, and building them up in their faith – what is the common thread we will hear?
The common thread very possibly will be trials. Every one of these people experienced difficulties of various kinds and degrees. That is why they have testimonies. You see, in the lives of God’s people, trials have always led to testimonies. Check it out.
When we read from Scriptures like James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6-7, and Romans 8:28, we see that trials test the faith of God’s people and then produce good things like perseverance, character, and maturity. They end up teaching us about God and drawing us closer to Him and to each other.
The result is often praise, glory, and honor to the God who is faithful, because we receive a testimony to share.
Friends, in these present days of trial, keep track of what God is doing in your life. Remember what He is teaching you about Himself, and how He is building you up in your faith. Pay close attention, because God is giving you a testimony! You are going to have a “2020 coronavirus” testimony, and God will be glorified through that testimony. He turns trials into testimonies. He always has, and He is doing it again.
In the future, you are invited to a testimony service. I am going to host it, and you will be given the opportunity to share with us the testimony that God is creating for you through this present trial. Can I count on you to attend?
We Are All Vulnerable
March 25, 2020
I’m a vulnerable adult.
That’s what the health professionals are saying, because I fit into a certain age bracket. That’s what my children are saying, because they are concerned about their father and want to take care of me.
I, too, say that I’m a vulnerable adult, but it has nothing to do with the coronavirus. It has to do with my heart, mind, eyes, and mouth. In fact, I think that we are all vulnerable adults, teens, and children!
During these days and weeks, when many of us are spending more time at home or alone, let us not think that just because we are protected from a virus, we are also protected from temptation (I Corinthians 10:12,13). We aren’t!
The Scriptures say:
- Guard your heart. (Proverbs 4:23)
- Guard your mouth. (Psalms 141:3)
- Guard your eyes. (Job 31:1)
- Guard your thoughts. (2 Corinthians 10:3)
- Be on the alert for the devil’s efforts. (I Peter 5:8)
As I “social distance,” I want to also “spiritual distance” myself from the sins of the heart, the mind, the mouth, and the eyes. Temptation doesn’t stay six feet away from me! What about you?
Friends, I not only care about your physical health, but I care about your spiritual health. Please do not neglect it during this difficult time.
Be strong in the Lord.
Feed on the Word.
Take thoughts captive.
Pause before speaking.
Protect your eyes.
Let’s build some good spiritual habits that will continue when this crisis is over.
– Pastor Marlin
Bless Your Household
March 20, 2020
In 2 Samuel 5 and 6, we read about King David’s experiences of victory, grief, anger, frustration, and joy. David was able, with God’s help, to conquer the mighty Philistines, regaining possession of the Ark of the Covenant. As the Ark was being transported back to Judah, a man was killed on the spot, trying to steady it when the oxen pulling the cart stumbled. David grieved the death of this man and was angry over what seemed unfair. So, he cancelled the transport of the Ark. Once bringing the Ark back to Judah resumed, David freely danced and celebrated with great joy.
The text tells us that after experiencing all of those ups and downs emotionally, “David returned home to bless his household.” I don’t know about you, but today that statement really grabs my heart.
Men of God … in these uncertain and ever-changing days, it is very possible that you are experiencing all kinds of emotions. Perhaps things are happening at your work that frustrate you, or even frighten you, because you sense your job might be threatened by disease and cancellations. Maybe you are already feeling an effect on your financial situation. Whatever you are experiencing, I have an assignment for you: When you go home, bless your household! Be a blessing to your dear wife and to your children. They need you more than ever.
Wives and children, when the man of your household comes home and brings you a blessing, please respond with love, respect, and gratitude. Do not be like David’s wife, Michal. As we read on in the story, when David returned home, sadly his wife immediately began criticizing him.
Let’s be “one another people” in our homes during this season we are facing. Give blessings and receive blessings in a way that produces harmony and peace amidst the turmoil. What a difference it will make.
A Prescription for Worry
March 17, 2020
Coronavirus, self-quarantine, social distancing, test kits, masks, handwashing, cancelations, closings, stocks tumbling, etc.
We are hearing these words all day long, every day. How are you doing with the ever-changing pandemic news and recommendations? Life can certainly change quickly, can’t it? It reminds me that we continue to have much less control than we tend to think.
What are your feelings and thoughts like these days? Do they include fear, anxiety, worry, confusion, frustration, or even anger?
I once met a pastor who carried a notepad with him wherever he went. When he would be in a conversation with someone who was sharing their fears and anxieties, he would take out the pad and a pencil. On a piece of paper from the notepad, he would write a Scripture reference: Philippians 4:6-8. As he handed the paper to the person, this pastor would say, “Read these verses twice every day and call me in a week.”
He told me that this was his prescription for anxiety and fear.
What do these verses say? Well, since you might not have a Bible handy, here it is:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable … if anything is excellent or praiseworthy … think about such things.”
Friends, in these uncertain days, do you need a prescription to address the anxiety and fear? I offer the same prescription my pastor friend presents. Read Philippians 4:6-8 twice every day and email me in a week (email@example.com). God’s peace can guard your heart and mind. It really can.
Trivial, and Not So Trivial Questions
February 12, 2019
“In 1900, how many American homes, out of every 7 homes, had a bathtub?”
That was the final trivia question in our annual Men’s Trivia Tournament recently. A team of two men answered it correctly to win the championship. Now, when you and I see that question, we most likely think, “Who cares about bathtubs in 1900? What does it matter?”
We would be absolutely right! It is a trivial thing, and that’s why we call the game “Trivia.”
I have two questions for you that aren’t trivial at all. In fact, they are of eternal importance. Jesus actually asked these questions, so I simply pass them on to you:
“What do you benefit, if you gain the whole world, but lose your soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Mark 8:36 NLT)
There is nothing that this world can offer, which would be of greater value than the joy of eternal life with Jesus Christ, the one who created us and loves us. He is the one who paid our sin penalty on the cross. He is the one who conquered death by His resurrection. He gives forgiveness, reconciliation, and a heavenly home to those who humbly repent and follow Him by faith. If we pursue anything, or anyone besides Jesus, we lose. And that isn’t a trivial thing.
Please surrender your entire life to Jesus today.
*By the way, the answer to the trivia question was “1” in 7 homes had bathtubs in 1900.
~ Pastor Marlin
December 7, 2018
One Sunday I asked the congregation if anyone had ever journeyed out of the country to celebrate Christmas. One person spoke up and said, “Pittsburgh!” Now, Pittsburgh isn’t outside the country, but I suppose it certainly is a lengthy journey from the Minnesota Iron Range.
The longest Christmas journey ever taken was from Heaven to earth. That is a long journey! It was taken by Jesus Christ, and it is the journey that we are celebrating these days.
Jesus, who existed in the beginning and was God, became flesh, making His dwelling among us. (John 1:1-14) He humbly emptied Himself and was made in human likeness; God becoming man. (Philippians 2:5-7) It must have been an amazing journey for Jesus! There is absolutely no way that you or I can figure out how Jesus did this, but we do know why He did it.
Jesus said that He came from Heaven to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10) He said that He made the long journey from Heaven to earth in order to serve and to give His life, as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45) Jesus came to die in our place, friends. He came to pay our sin penalty, so that forgiveness and a right relationship with our Holy Creator would be available.
Jesus took the long journey from Heaven to earth for you and me. What journey are we willing to take for Jesus this Christmas?
- The journey of repentance and surrender to the One who died for us
- The journey of change (an attitude or behavior)?
- The journey of restoration in a relationship that has been broken?
- The journey of service, obediently using our gifts and abilities for His purposes?
- The journey of trust during the season, even if life is hard?
It is time to choose your Christmas journey. When choosing, be sure to remember the journey Jesus chose with you in mind.