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Pastor Marlin's Coffee Messages


A collection of devotionals to enjoy with your morning or afternoon coffee

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A Thanksgiving Tribute

Part One


On April 25, 2018, I sat with my father, as he breathed his final breath on this earth. About a year later, on April 12, 2019, I sat with my mother, as she took her last breath. 


Now, as the Thanksgiving season approaches, I find myself thinking often of my dad and mom. They certainly weren’t perfect people, but I am so grateful to God for giving them to me for over sixty years.  I would like to tell you about these two people, Merle and Beulah Bjornrud. Perhaps it is my way of addressing these recent waves of grief. 

 

First, I would like to share a verse from the holy scriptures that spoke to my heart and guided me over the last two years. The verse is I Timothy 5:4. It says, “If a widow has children or grandchildren, they should learn first of all to put their religion into practice, by caring for their own family, and so repaying their parents and grandparents; for this is pleasing to God.” 

 

My parents lived alone on the farm where my father had grown up. In 2017, they were 87 and 88 years old. My father was in his seventh year of dementia, and my mother’s physical health was declining. She could no longer take care of dad. 

 

So, my sisters and I did the very difficult thing; we talked our parents into leaving the farm. Moving day was August 8, 2017. The farm was five hours from the Iron Range, and my wife and I offered to have dad and mom move closer to us, which meant they would be settling into Carefree Living in Virginia. Dad would need Memory Care, and mom just needed help caring for him. 

 

This would become a difficult, yet blessing-filled two years, as the weight of being caretakers for my parents was added to our already full plate of responsibilities. But, you know, pleasing the Lord is the desire of my life, and since God had reminded me from His word that caring for my parents was a way to please Him, I was “all in” for as long as was necessary. 

 

Friend, do you find yourself in a situation, which calls for the challenge of I Timothy 5:4? Is it time for you to serve your parent/parents in their last years? It’s not easy, but it can be good; which seems to be true of most things that please the Lord.  

 

Maybe He is directing me to tell my story, so that it will be an encouragement to you at this time. That is my prayer. 


Part Two


My father was always a farmer at heart. He worked at other jobs over the years, but hobby farming his 300 acres of land was what he really loved. In fact, the last words I heard him speak a few days before his death were “John Deere!” 

 


One of the most difficult experiences I have ever had took place on a spring evening in 2017, when dad looked at me, and asked for the first time, “Who are you?” It took twenty minutes for me to convince him that I was his son. 

 

Dementia is a terrible disease, and I learned so much, as I walked through it with my father in the last years. At first, listening to him saying the same things and asking the same questions over and over again, was frustrating. But then I decided that I would choose to just enjoy hearing his voice. I knew that eventually the day would come, when I would wish I could hear that voice again. 

 

Even as my dad’s mental capacity declined, he continued to love the Lord. His most consistent moments of clarity were when he would pray out loud. Because of this, I asked him to pray quite often! There were times when he would ask fellow residents in Memory Care, “Have you asked Jesus into your heart?” 

 

The Bible tells us that we are created in the image of God. Even though my father’s mind was being taken away from him, he continued to be a special creation of God. My dad trusted Jesus Christ for salvation in 1943, and God placed His Holy Spirit into him at that time. Dementia did not take salvation and the Spirit of God away from my father! 

 

I have learned that someone with dementia is not less of a person, to be treated less than human. We must continue to relate to them with as much love and respect as we did before this dreaded disease made its appearance. 

 

In his last months of life, my dad was heard to say, “I’m not afraid to go to heaven.” You made it, dad! Today, you are in the presence of your Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, and your mind is just fine! 


Part Three


It was very difficult for my mother to leave the farm. Her many beautiful flower gardens and finely manicured lawn were her pride and joy. The thought of leaving them weighed heavily on her heart, but mom acknowledged that she could no longer care for dad with her own physical capabilities declining. So, she said “goodbye” to the farm and moved into a “facility”, which didn’t make things any easier for her. 

 

My mother was one of 13 children, living on a small farm north of Newfolden. In the late 1930’s, God did a wonderful saving work in her family, as my grandmother, my mother, and many of her siblings, surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ. From that time on, my mom’s desire was to serve the Lord with her musical abilities; which is just what she did for most of her life. 

On April 1, 2018, we all gathered at Carefree Living to celebrate mom’s 89th birthday. My father had been doing poorly for weeks, but that day turned out to be his last good day! This was God’s special gift for my mom, as dad sat with her, holding her hand, and visiting for a few hours. Three weeks later, he would pass away. 

 

Carefree Living continued to be my mother’s home for the next year. She grieved the death of her husband, but there was also the sense of relief that he was no longer suffering as a slave to dementia. She spoke often about what his experience must be like in heaven. 

 

Mom had some special staff persons caring for her. There was the girl she called “Miss Minnesota” and the nurse that she referred to as her “angel”. We were very thankful for the care she received. 

 

Then, on March 30, 2019, God gave mom another special gift. We all gathered, once again, at Carefree Living for her 90th birthday party! What a day! My mother was in her glory! The day wore her out, but she loved it. Two weeks later, mom passed away into the presence of the Lord Jesus. 

 

Isn’t God good? The scripture says in James 1:17, that “ every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” In the last two years, the Lord saw fit to give my mother the gift of two special birthday parties, as well as many people who were willing to love and care for her. Then, He gave her the gift of her heavenly home. 

 

You know, I think those gifts were for me, too. I needed them. 

 

Thank you, Lord! 


Part Four


I don’t keep a journal, but if I did, there would be entries something like the following: 

 

Thanksgiving 2016  “Jeannine and I spent time at the farm, celebrating Thanksgiving with dad and mom. It wasn’t on Thanksgiving Day, but of course, dad didn’t know that. He was very emotional… glad to see us. We noticed his dementia was getting worse.”  

 

Thanksgiving 2017   “We went into Virginia the day before our kids would start arriving for Thanksgiving.  Spent time with dad and mom at Carefree Living. It was nice not to have that five hour drive to the farm. It was a good visit. Dad knew who I was.”  

 

Thanksgiving 2018  “Well, this was my first Thanksgiving since dad died.  I miss him

Mom agreed to leave Carefree and spend the day with us and our family, but she called in the morning to say she wasn’t feeling up to it. I’m sure she is missing dad, too.” 

 

Thanksgiving 2019   “Since mom died in April, I guess this will be my first Thanksgiving ever without both of my parents. What will it be like for me? I don’t know. What I do know, is that I am certainly experiencing some grief right now. But that doesn’t change the fact that I will give thanks, because God is still good.” 

 

Here is what I’m thinking, as Thanksgiving approaches, and I reflect on what I have gone through with my parents in these last years… 

 

God’s 5th commandment was to honor our father and mother (Exodus 20:12). Then, the Apostle Paul repeated the same instruction to honor our father and mother (Ephesians 6:2). 


I am so glad that I chose to obey the Lord by honoring my parents during their lifetime, and then to care for them in their last years. Those last years were very difficult, but so worth it. 


You see, now that they are gone, I can honestly say, that I have no regrets. I am looking forward to seeing dad and mom again someday, in the presence of Jesus. 

 

Friends, you don’t have to live with regrets. Is something not right in your relationship with your parents? Are there things that need to be addressed with them? If so, address them soon. Honor God, by honoring your parents. 

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A Traveler's Trilogy

From 1990 to 2009, God graced me with the opportunity to bring my teaching ministry to Poland, Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and even the Caribbean. There were many memorable experiences. Here are three of them. 


A Foretaste Of Heaven” 

A Traveler's Trilogy Part 3

 

In February of 2004, my wife and I had a glorious time on a ship called the Veendam. We boarded her in Tampa, Florida, and spent six full days in the Western Caribbean, with stops at the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, and Costa Maya, Mexico. 

 

Early in the week, we made friends with a crew member named Fernando. He was from the Philippines, and was a follower of Jesus. He shared his salvation testimony with us, and we enjoyed sweet fellowship together all week. 

 

Fernando was leading a Christian fellowship group, made up of crew members and musicians. They met every Wednesday evening at midnight in the ship’s theater. Fernando found out that I was a pastor and invited me to speak at this worship service. I was honored! 


We gathered in the theater at midnight. There were twenty-five to thirty people there, from the USA, Indonesia, the Philippines, Africa, Europe, and other places around the world. They worshiped joyfully, as one man played an old, out of tune guitar. The words to the songs were handwritten on a flip chart that sat on a folding chair. It was beautiful! 


After the singing, I talked about the One Another teachings and how the practice of them can help us preserve the unity of the Spirit, no matter what nations we come from. 

 

I believe that on a cruise ship somewhere in the Western Caribbean at midnight, my wife and I were given a foretaste of heaven! When the Apostle John was taken up in a vision to heaven, he witnessed a worship service that he described in Revelation 7:9-10:  “I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice, Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 

 

One day, Jeannine and I will worship again with Fernando and his group. This time, we will be standing before the throne of God, and before Jesus Christ. What a time that will be! 


Will you be there? If you have trusted Jesus for salvation, you will be part of that worship service with us. All aboard! 

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A Traveler's Trilogy

From 1990 to 2009, God graced me with the opportunity to bring my teaching ministry to Poland, Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and even the Caribbean. There were many memorable experiences. Here are three of them. 


Into The Hands Of God 

 A Traveler's Trilogy Part 2


The castle at Toalmas, Hungary, has a long history, having been constructed in 1895. It was used by Hungarian royals, and then when Hungary became part of the Soviet Union block of nations, it was used as a hunting lodge for communist party members. 

 


After the Soviet Union fell in 1989, a Hungarian socialist trade union rented the castle to an evangelical ministry called “Word of Life.” This ministry provided camps for children and teenagers every summer, presenting the gospel of Jesus to Hungarian youth. 

 

I had the opportunity to visit the castle in the spring of 1990, and then in the next years, I taught at two missionary conferences, that were held in this castle. Never in a million years could I have imagined that I would one day stand in a Hungarian castle, where communist leaders had gathered, and have the privilege of teaching the truth of God’s word! 

 

On another visit to Hungary, I spoke at a conference that was held in an old communist school outside of Budapest. For years, this school was used to train future communist leaders. I was so humbled and excited to stand and teach God’s word from the same stage, where teachers had formerly taught the communist doctrines of Karl Marx to the young people of Hungary. 

 

A castle, once used as a gathering place for communist leaders, now in the hands of God. A school, once used for training youth to be communist leaders, now used for worshiping the true God and for teaching His word. 

 

The prophet Isaiah declared, “He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than He blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff. To whom will you compare Me? Or who is My equal? says the Holy One.”     Isaiah 40:23-24  

 

From the hands of communism into the hands of God! To God be the glory, great things He has done! The sovereign God will always have the last word. 

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A Traveler's Trilogy

From 1990 to 2009, God graced me with the opportunity to bring my teaching ministry to Poland, Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and even the Caribbean. There were many memorable experiences. Here are three of them. 

 

When The Wall Came Down” 

 A Traveler's Trilogy Part 1


Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” 

Those were the famous words of President Ronald Reagan in 1987, while standing at the wall that divided East Berlin and West Berlin during the cold war. Then, on November 9, 1989, the wall did come down! 


In April of 1990, four months after the Berlin wall had come down and the Soviet Union had fallen, my two traveling companions and I drove from Frankfurt to Berlin. This would begin a three-week trip around Eastern Europe for the purpose of making contact with believers and setting up future English Language Camps. But, since we were in Germany, we decided that we needed to take a side trip to Berlin and observe a piece of history. 


 Here is an excerpt from my journal: 


 “We got to the wall! Found it on our own. It was very special to walk along this historic boundary. We mainly saw piles of stones and rubble, but the beauty of the sight was what it represented:  freedom! 

 Each of us made sure that we grabbed a stone from one of the piles. My piece of the wall will be a memorable treasure. It was amazing to watch people so easily walking through the open gates, joking with guards on both sides in an atmosphere more like the U.S.A., than Berlin. 

Standing at the wall, I felt very happy for these people and the new freedom they now have. But, I also thought of Jesus’ words in John 8 about how the truth sets us free from bondage to sin. So many of these German people remain slaves of sin and are heading for an eternal prison camp, where there will be judgment.” 

 


What a night that was! When we got to our hotel room, we talked about walls. Not just the one that stood between East Berlin and West Berlin, but the wall of sin that separates man from his creator, God.  “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) “Your sins have separated you from your God” (Isaiah 59:2) 


Thank God, that through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross, our sin is paid for! Through repentance and surrender to Him, we can be reconciled to God. (Romans 5:6-11) 


Has that wall of sin in your life been torn down by the salvation and forgiveness found only in Christ? If so, stop right now, and give thanks! If not, what is holding you back? That wall has to go! 


I may never go to Berlin again, but every day, I can go to the scriptures and be reminded of Christ’s loving sacrifice, and that on July 11, 1964, the wall of sin that separated me from God was torn down, as I repented and received Jesus into my life, as Savior and Lord. 


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The Code Phrase

November 21, 2020


My third grade teacher was Miss Huglen. She was so thoughtful that she would keep extra jeans in the cloak room. If, after playing in the snow during noon recess, our pants got really wet, she would let us change into dry jeans for the rest of the school day.


There were times when Miss Huglen would give me a pair of jeans to wear. Then, after a few seconds of silence, she would say, “You’re welcome!” Why would she say that? Well, it was because I had failed to say, “Thank you,” and I came to learn that “you’re welcome” was a code phrase for, “What have I been trying to teach you all this time about being thankful?”


As parents, we all have used that code phrase as a way of trying to teach our children to say, “Thank you.” Admit it! And if you are like me, you have used it often!


One of the most common instructions in the Bible is to “give thanks,” or to “be thankful.” How do we help our children follow those important instructions?


Let me suggest that we do it by giving thanks and by being thankful ourselves. Let the children see you as a thankful person and hear you often say “Thank you” to God and to others. Gratitude toward God and others tends to be very contagious. Try it.


Set aside the “you’re welcome” code phrase and set the example. Then watch God go to work.