National Day of Prayer

child-praying

Thomas Paine once said, “these are the times that try men’s souls”.

America is in crisis, inside and out.  Protestors are threatening our peace from within, rioting if they don’t get what they want.  College age adults, trained in our schools, want limits on free speech.  They want to decide what is acceptable and what is not.  The PC police have frightened most Americans from speaking their own minds.   Outside of our borders we face new threats of terrorism on our shores.  Millions of people unhappy with their lot in life have been illegally streaming into our country in order to attain free benefits from our government: education, medical care, welfare, housing without having to work for it.  Our own politicians are enabling them in order to gain votes in any election.  O yes, they are not citizens, but they can get drivers licenses and they will vote.

 

Within our country we have seen the corruption of government in every sector, leaders who set up rules for the citizens which they themselves refuse to be a part of.  Just look at the degradation in our country due to a loss of proper values and morals.  Have your read about North Carolina’s new bathroom laws to protect our families and children, while our own Federal Justice Department is trying to overturn such laws as civil rights violations.  What about the rights of descent American’s who don’t want a few people’s perversions flaunted in their face while they try and use public bathroom?  Don’t they have rights as well?   We have a secular elite who want to remove our foundational freedoms in order to bolster their own power in government.  They are systematically tearing down and undermining the great foundations of our country.  What ever happened to the “will of the people”?

 

If there’s ever been a time in our countries history in which we ought to drop to our knees and begin to pray earnestly for our nation, this is it.

We have gone so far off course that it seems impossible to get back to what America used to be, what America needs to be for our sake as well as for the sake of the world. Abraham Lincoln once said, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”  We have always had the sense that we could do anything and fix anything, but as I look today we have gone too far.  It is going to take a miracle of Biblical proportions to save America for future generations.

 

In the book “7 Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness,” by Eric Metaxas,

He recounts a story of George Washington’s commitment to prayer during the Revolution. His nephew, George Lewis, told a Washington biographer that “he had accidentally witnessed [the general’s] private devotions in his library both morning and evening: that on these occasions he had seen him in a kneeling position with a Bible open before him and that he believed such to have been his daily practice.”

 

Would that every Christian in America had that kind of commitment to prayer.  It was a miracle that we won the revolutionary war, it was a miracle that gave us success at Midway that opened the door for victory in WW2.  Throughout our history the God fearing praying Christians of America have touched the heart of God and kept our country afloat.  We must get back to this kind of passionate prayer.

 

At Chuck Colson’s center they have given us specific focus on how Christ’s church—the people of God—can make a difference in our culture and around the world. We should not hesitate to join them and millions of others throughout our country.

And here’s what we will pray:

  1. We will praise the Lord that His sovereign goodness is as true today as ever. We will remember that this world ultimately belongs to God,

who created all things and Who, in Christ, is restoring all things.

  1. We will repent of our sin, and thank God for His promised forgiveness.

We will remind ourselves that all have sinned, and that we are welcomed

by God through repentance. Nehemiah began his work in the world with repentance. So will we.

  1. We will pray for our current government leaders to fight evil and stand up for truth. We will remember that there is no place where God is not at work.
  2. We will pray that truth and justice will prevail over “political correctness” and “tolerance,” both in our own lives and in our culture. We will remember that right and wrong do not change according to cultural fashions, nor does legality alter morality.
  3. We will pray for the upcoming election season, that God would show us mercy and not give us what we deserve. We will remember that God ultimately orchestrates human history and uses whom He will to accomplish His purposes.
  4. We will pray that God unites His people, using them to bring restoration in this broken culture. We’ll remember that those who have been reconciled to God have been put on mission as agents of reconciliation.

 

Friends, as we pray, we must remember what is true about God, about the Church, and about the world. History demonstrates that God will not tolerate legally approved immorality & a country that spurns His Word & His Ways. But history also shows us that God will hear our prayers.

We CAN make a difference!  We must for the sake of our children & grandchildren.

Mike Samarkand 1024x768

 

Coram Deo,
 
Pastor Mike


Coffee anyone?

stockfresh_2030188_various-colorful-cups_sizeS
A group of young adults got together at a friend’s home.
They talked about a lot of things but soon the conversation turned into complaints  about politics, stress in work, trouble in our country & life.
The host offered his guests coffee.  He went to the kitchen where he had already prepared the coffee.  He picked out a number of different cups and mugs, as he had a good collection.  Some were porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain-looking, some expensive, and some exquisite.  He brought it into the room with sugar and cream telling them to help themselves to the coffee.   After everyone had chosen a cup, and began to drink their coffee, the host remarked to the group.  "If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is but normal for us to want only the best for ourselves, that is the source of our problems and stress.   "Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee.  In most cases, it's just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup.   But, subconsciously, we go for the best cups...and then we began eyeing each other's cups.   "Now consider this: Life is the coffee, and the jobs, money and, the politics, our position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain life, and the type of cup we have does not define nor change the quality of life we live. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us. God brews the coffee, not the cups.  Let’s enjoy our coffee.”   When a family suffers a devastating fire in their home a number of things transpire.  There is the immediate shock followed by the sense of loss when you start to realize all that was destroyed.  The task of sorting through the rubble, is often a very painful task.  People often have to move out of the house right away due to health issues or safety problems.  That change in itself can be very demoralizing.   At some point you begin to focus on what is really important in life. It always comes down to loved ones and relationships.  You realize that your life was not the house of the things in it.  Job, in the Old Testament, experienced this in a major way that. God forbid we will ever have to experience such a nightmare.   The house the clothes, the possessions, were just the cups that hold our lives. God is most concerned about His beloved children. The cups they come and go.  Sometimes in life the cups are beautiful and precious.  At other times they are downright disappointments. But through it all, it is the “coffee” that is important, what God is brewing in our lives.  
Fortunately, we know the end of the story.  These cups here are only temporary.  Jesus is preparing a new cup for us, that will be glorious and it will carry this precious gift of life into all eternity.
401d25f7ffcdce8cc4a4662483cb4588
 
Mike Samarkand 1024x768
Enjoy your coffee,
Pastor Mike


Do you love me?

Theater-Fiddler-on-th_Horo
Last week I made reference to the movie/musical  Fiddler on the Roof.
I drew attention to the scene where Tevye is asking his wife Golde if she loves him.  They had been married the traditional way, by a matchmaker. They never saw each other until their wedding day.  His parents had told Tevye that they would grow to love each other.  He hadn’t thought about that much until it was time for his daughters to be wed.  They had each fallen in love and did not want to be married to someone chosen by the village matchmaker.  They were breaking tradition because of the love in their hearts for someone else. Tevye gives in to their request, but now he is wondering, does his wife love him. Tevye : “Golde, Do you love me? Golde responds: “Do I love you? With our daughters getting married,and this trouble in the town you're upset, you're worn out.  Go inside, go lie down!  Maybe it's indigestion.” Tevye persists with his question: “Do you love me?” Golde responds to his persistence:  “Do I love you?  For twenty-five years I've washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked the cow, after twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?” Tevye   wants an answer, “Do you love me?” Golde,  speaking to herself: “Do I love him?  For twenty-five years I've lived with him, fought with him, starved with him, twenty-five years my bed is his.   If that's not love, what is?”
Tevye jumps at his chance: “Then you love me?”
Golde   “I suppose I do”
Tevye  “And I suppose I love you too.”
They both seem quite satisfied to know, & then they sing together:  “It doesn't change a thing, but even so,  after twenty-five years it's nice to know.”
Yes, it is nice to know.  We all need to be loved & to give love in return.  Jesus summarizes the whole of the law of the Old Testament with 2 great commands in Mark 12:28-31
quoting Deuteronomy 6, the Shema.
28      …“what commandment is the foremost of all?” 29      Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; 30      AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ 31      “The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” I have a good handle on what it means to love others.  Not that it is all that easy.  Some are easier to love than others.  That is not so much a judgment on them as it is me.  My love needs to do a lot of growing here.
But the 1
st 
command, to love God with all my heart, all my soul, my mind, and my strength, now that is where I have a problem.  I have no issue loving my wife, my kids and my grandkids like this.  But to be honest, I struggle emoting those kinds of feelings towards God.
After the resurrection Jesus appears to the disciples on the shore of Galilee (John 21:15-17) where Jesus asks Peter three times in a row, “Do you love Me?” Each time John responds in the affirmative, & each time Jesus tells him to “take care of Jesus’ sheep”.   I take this to mean that our love for Jesus is shown to Jesus when we do what he wants us to do. He says as much in John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” And then in John 14:21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” In John 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. 24 “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.” And then Jesus closes out this section by saying in John 14:25 25 “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. 26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” Based on what Jesus has taught in these verses, then I can say with Golde when God asks me if I love Him, “Yes, I suppose I do.” My answer does not come from my emotions, it comes from my actions, living my life in obedience.  I gave up my dreams for my life & accepted God’s will for me to preach and teach His Word, and to tend His flock by feeding them. Although I must say I have struggled to bring them in from the field. Sheep are a stubborn lot, and many prefer to just stay out in the world for whatever reason.  But for those who come I have tried my best to feed them not only the milk, but the meat of the Word of God.  And I also believe that at Pathway we have done a good job in fulfilling His greatest commission by leading His sheep into the uttermost parts of the world in order to love people and share the life changing Gospel, the good news of salvation to all who would receive. Not everyone has the same calling.  Some are called to do other things than the things that I have done.  It makes them no less or more important than me.  We are all children of God, on equal footing, seeking to be faithful to serving God’s particular call upon our lives.  The trick is in discerning what God’s will is.  What is God calling you to do? Have you been obedient to all that God has asked of you?  I can’t say that I have.  I know that I have messed up quite a bit.  But I do keep trying.  I need to lean a little more on the “teacher” “my Helper”, the Holy Spirit of God.  (John 14:26) I still struggle with the emotional part of this.  Some followers of Jesus seem to have this incredible deep “feeling” of love for God.  I wish I could experience that.  Maybe it’s my personality.  I’m just not an emotional kind of guy.  I don’t have the answer.  But I do know that I am hungering for more of Him. Mike Samarkand 1024x768
“That all may Love Him”
Pastor Mike


I Can’t Wait!

rushing-where
 
 
 
 

A long, long, time ago, Alabama sang a song that 'fit me to a tee':

 

"I'm in a hurry to get things done
Oh I rush and rush until life's no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die
But I'm in a hurry and don't know why.
Don't know why I have to drive so fast
My car has nothing to prove,
It's not new But it'll do 0 to 60 in 5.2
Can't be late, I leave plenty of time
Shaking hands with the clock,
I can't stop I'm on a roll
and I'm ready to rock
I hear a voice That say's I'm running behind
I better pick up my pace, It's a race
And there ain't no room For someone in second place."

 

I remember my mother laughing at me when I was 5 years old and just starting kindergarten (a traumatic life style change for me). My question was very simple. “How long do I have to keep going to school?” After falling apart in laughter, she gently broke the news to me that it would be, at the very least, another 12 years.

 

In my mind, the starter’s gun shot out, & my “race with time” had just begun.

I couldn’t wait to finish kindergarten.

I couldn’t wait to finish grade school and then high school.

I couldn’t wait to finish college. I stumbled out of the starter’s gate & it took me 5 years, but I finally did finish.

By then, I was a follower of Jesus and had my call to full time ministry.

I couldn’t wait to get married and have our own children.

I couldn’t wait to finish Seminary & come back home to California.

I couldn’t wait to get my first church in Kernville.

I couldn’t wait to become an associate up in Yuba City. But after 3 years,

I couldn’t wait to leave.

I couldn’t wait to finish my doctoral studies, but no one seemed to notice.

I couldn’t wait to grow a large church in Orangevale, but it all fell apart right before my very eyes. I wasn’t completely broken, but I was badly bent.

I couldn’t wait to get well, to get my mind right. It is still a battle at times.

I couldn’t wait to get on the “mission field”. After several short term trips,   I couldn’t wait to get into the 10/40 window and reach those yet unreached.

 

I know what you must be thinking. “Now there is a “Type A” Driven man."

And I have no defense for that accusation. As you can clearly see, I have been impatient for most of my life.

The good news is that God has a lot of patience.

2 Peter 3:8-9 NASB

8     But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.

9     The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

 

For people like me, that is incredible. He could have squashed me like a bug, years ago. But His love for me, my soul, my eternity, is so very important. He was (& is) waiting for me to accomplish the task that was assigned to me when I became a follower of Jesus.

 

For me, I just keep prodding and kicking, like a rice farmer in Myanmar, trying to get that beast of burden to move a little faster. Some might say that I am too persistent. There is a big difference between being impatient and being persistent. Impatient people like me worry so much. We are fearful that we might run out of time & thereby miss out on the opportunity. I can see it all now. They are closing the door to the plane that I should have been on. As I race to the terminal gate, I am too late. I missed my connection. And so I worry. Always thinking about what might have been.

Matthew 6:25-34 NASB

25     “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink;

nor for your body, as to what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

33     “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness,  and all these things will be added to you.

34     “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.

 

Life becomes so much sweeter when we allow God to do the leading and directing. He has His own timetable.

 Mike-e1342678172131-150x150

Tempus fugit – Pastor Mike

 



It is good to be home from South Korea

Somehow, coming home always feels so good and right, no matter where I have been or whatever I have experienced.  My experience in South Korea was incredible.  I saw some beautiful sights and had wonderful experiences.  But nothing could compare with the inspiration of meeting Believers from all over the 10/40 Window.
The 10/40 Window is a rectangle on the globe from the 10th to the 40th Northern Latitudes from China to West Africa.  It is here that 2 Billion of the worlds unreached peoples live.  They have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ and New Life that He brings to those who place their faith in Him.  These are mostly Muslim Countries, Communist Countries or Buddhist Countries, with a smattering of Hindu’s here and there. In most of these countries it is either illegal to be a Christian or it is persecuted regardless of any “freedom of religion” statement made by the government.  As a result, these leaders find themselves in the delicate situation of expressing and sharing their faith where the cost may be severe. It may even cost their freedom, torture, or their very lives. It is because of this cross that they bear that makes their faith so powerful and real.  Prayer is often not a luxury, but a necessity for survival. Their understanding of Jesus two great commands;
  1. To Love others has He loved them &
  2. To spread the Gospel into all the regions of their country demonstrates their tremendous love for God and His Glory.
It was a humbling experience to be in their presence.  Some 3,000 people gathered to share, pray and inspire one another.  Just to be in their midst was a great honor. In order to get a sense of what some of them go through let me recommend a book to you.  Joseph Kim is the author of Under the Same Sky: From Starvation in North Korea to Salvation in America (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). His story of being stripped of the love of his family and left as a child begging in the streets of North Korea is eye opening.  Then he tells of the miracles that God did in his life (even before he knew about God) miracles that eventually led him through China, South Korea and eventually into the United States where he was to meet His Savior, our Lord Jesus. More than anything, my time in Korea was a confirmation of my hearts’ desire.  I truly believe that God is opening doors for us in the 10/40 window where we will be able to join these saints in fulfilling the great commission, completing the task that Jesus has given to us at Pathway.  Once that task is completed, then the door will be open for the return of Christ, the resurrection of the saints and the ushering in of His great Kingdom.May 2015
Marantha, Pastor Mike,
Matthew 24:14.


Time in a bottle

000_0014 I have often wondered what makes photography so fascinating for me. Beyond the obvious of capturing images that are beautiful and emote some kind of passion in my senses, there is the whole realm of time, and trying to capture it in an image.  In photography in some enigmatic way we can stop time and forever keep that moment.  At least that is what it feels like.  As a result I have spent most of my adult life photographing my family, capturing precious moments in time.  And now as I look at my grandchildren through the lens of a my Nikon (affectionately called “Wynona”) with a 64 gig memory card, realizing that I can take literally 1000’s of high quality photo’s at no cost, every moment seems the right time to capture their time.   At a season in life when the months and years seem to fly by there seems to be more urgency in my work.  And now I have 10’s of 1000s of images all stored and backed up in portable hard drives that hold terabits of memories, time in little bottles.  I do not have the time to edit them all, so I keep telling myself, that someday, maybe when I retire, I will devote myself to this task, leaving my family with a visual record of years gone by.   As I consider the idea of time passing by so swiftly, the clock continues to tick as if in a countdown mode until my departure into a world where there will be no moments in time to capture.  Time will not exist and our minds will be able to recall all of the beautiful moments in God’s Paradise without the aid of technology.   And in this fallen world, there will eventually come that day, when all of my earthly efforts will no longer be meaningful, and ultimately destroyed.   Ravi Zacharias says: “[Time] never moves forward without engraving its mark upon the heart—sometimes a stab, sometimes a tender touch, sometimes a vice grip of spikes, sometimes a mortal wound but always an imprint.” The Lotus and the Cross   To be sure, the capturing of those special moments is a great treasure as we live in this world.  As the ravages of time erode everything but our souls, we can look back and “remember when”.  That can bring warmth to the heart, or tears to the eye, but always with a sense that what was, will not be lost.  If it were not important God would not have given us the ability to recall those momentous events in life.   But all of this will fade away into meaninglessness as we enter into the presence of God and begin a new life, a perfect life, in a new world, pristine in all of its glory.  There will be no more sin, no more hurt, no more betray or anger, no more tears.   Will we remember those times back in an old fallen world?  No.  Not only will we not remember, but we won’t want to call up those events.  Why should we?  Even the brightest moments on earth will seem to be dark in comparison to the glories of God’s eternity.  C.S. Lewis writes about this brilliantly in his book, The Great Divorce.  The greatest loves of this world will be far surpassed by the greatest love that time has known, the Love of Jesus for His own.  What a wonderful Family that will be!   That is why Paul who had a little taste of heaven said,   2 Cor. 5:4   For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. 1 Cor. 15:54       But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.   Laus Deo – Pastor Mike