MESSAGE FROM MALTA

It was a moving experience as our tour boat cruised near the rocky shoals of Malta this fall. There was a pillar-like monument on the uninhabited headland indicating the likely place where the apostle Paul was shipwrecked on his way to Rome (Acts 27). I read and identified with the story while on duty in the Bering Sea early in life and now, over four decades later I am at this divinely historic spot near the tiny island of Malta.

 Malta is a tiny island nation between Africa and Italy in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.

Malta is a tiny island nation between Africa and Italy in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.

 Nancy and Rachel trying to enjoy ice cream while being assaulted by a sudden Mediterranean storm kicking up some waves.

Nancy and Rachel trying to enjoy ice cream while being assaulted by a sudden Mediterranean storm kicking up some waves.

It was late fall when the large grain ship the apostle was traveling in was lost at sea for two weeks in a storm. The captain feared the worst but Paul, a prisoner being transported to Rome, announced that an angel told him the ship would be lost but all 276 souls would be saved. Soon the vessel did breakup but all made it to shore on floating debris. They spent the next three winter months here and then found a ship to continue their trip to Rome where Paul would be tried.

 This beach on St. Paul’s island that Paul’s ship was thought to be wrecked on in Malta (Acts 27). A second possible site has been more recently discovered farther to the south on Malta where an ancient anchor was discovered.

This beach on St. Paul’s island that Paul’s ship was thought to be wrecked on in Malta (Acts 27). A second possible site has been more recently discovered farther to the south on Malta where an ancient anchor was discovered.

What does Malta have to teach us today? We were there at a conference with our missionary kids and were reminded by the speaker that the story instructs us about “time outs” in life. Paul didn’t expect to winter there. But they had no choice. It is good to not panic if our schedule does not go as planned. The side roads and ship wrecks of life are not a surprise to God. This was Paul’s fourth shipwreck (cf. I Cor. 11). He knew the routine.

 Rachel, Nancy and Michael and a few grandkids touring around Malta.

Rachel, Nancy and Michael and a few grandkids touring around Malta.

On shore Paul, still a prisoner. quickly helped gather sticks to build a fire for the cold and wet people. His concern for others is a good example to us. Suddenly a viper attached itself to his arm but he shook it into the fire. Local residents were polytheists and immediately thought Paul was a god. He quickly corrected them. Soon Paul was invited to stay with a leading islander named Publius who had a sick father. Paul prayed for the father who was healed. Publius was obviously blessed by this. Tradition says he became the first bishop here and later was bishop in Athens. Likely many on the islanders came to Christ as a result of Paul’s time here because when they finally left the islanders “honored us with many marks of respect” Luke says (28:10). The island is not much larger than Vashon Island but has remnants of over 350 church buildings today. Paul’s also undoubtedly impacted the passengers and sailors who likely carried the message of the Gospel to other distant destinations.

 I was beached on the rocky shore with my grand-kids Ellie, Jonathan and Daniel. It was a nice “time out.” We watched our step for vipers too.

I was beached on the rocky shore with my grand-kids Ellie, Jonathan and Daniel. It was a nice “time out.” We watched our step for vipers too.

Malta as a “time out” place is one we may find ourselves beached on at times. It may be a sickness that slows us down or a financial problem that causes a break up of our ship of life. Whatever it is we should turn to the Lord to see how He can change us or use us on that lonely isle. Christ said, “I will never leave you.” (Joh 14:18). "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.“ (Joh 14:27). Paul knew this vividly and used his time to pray for and reach others. He practiced the Great Commission (Mat. 28:19-20) even here. Next time you are beached for in traffic, delayed at an airport or on a plane, or stuck at a party you can’t leave from soon, then don’t complain. Instead pray and look for opportunities to help or reach others as Paul did.

Right now Discovery is in a “time out” as we await a building permit. This time has allowed us to pack and store things before starting. We are “Building for the generations to come” and we can seeing them coming every rush hour now.

Malta profited from Paul’s presence. As an apostle to the Gentiles his ministry in Malta had real impact. It is considered the most Catholic nation in the world. However, the Catholic church today is far different from Paul’s time. Rome no longer teaches the Gospel of free grace alone in Christ alone apart from any human works. Today it is in great need of reform. On the tour boat I met a local massage therapist who had a small practice on the open stern. He told me he was a Catholic but didn’t go to church. I said, “Why?” “Because I don’t trust the priests.” he said. Then I related the story of Paul and what the gospel really was. The young man agreed but didn’t own a Bible. He promised to get one and read it. Ironically his name was Luke, like Paul’s medical assistant Luke on the ship. Pray for this modern day Luke to come to know Christ personally.

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I had the chance to tell Luke the therapist about Luke the physician who traveled with Paul and also was shipwrecked in Malta.

 Behind family are the Megalithic Temples of Malta. They are UNESCO World Heritage Sites because they are the oldest free-standing structures in the world built 5,600 years ago. These polytheistic people may have been the ancestors of those Paul encountered. Picture LR: Mishael, Christina, Nancy, Noelle and Caleb Suko.

Behind family are the Megalithic Temples of Malta. They are UNESCO World Heritage Sites because they are the oldest free-standing structures in the world built 5,600 years ago. These polytheistic people may have been the ancestors of those Paul encountered. Picture LR: Mishael, Christina, Nancy, Noelle and Caleb Suko.

Today Malta is a key destination for Eastern Europeans. The price and weather are right. I heard that travel literature also now says Malta is the top LGBT destination in the world. This is stunning in light of the Catholic presence on the island that once was considered conservative. Revival is needed. Malta is also a refugee host country for those escaping from Africa. Many have died at sea trying to make it there. Last year they hosted 8,000 refugees.

God is still working. A good friend of mine has ministered there for years in solid churches. A recent letter from the head of Baptist Mid-Missions, Vernon Rosenau, reports how the gospel has impacted three generations in Malta. Recently “a middle-aged couple, their children, and the wife’s family have all been baptized as a testimony of how Christ has given them new life.” God bless them and the work of the Gospel of free grace on little Malta.

Pastor Mark

Also this Saturday 12/15/2018…

  • Men don’t forget our Men’s Discipleship Christmas Breakfast at the church with Dave Lunsford speaking 8:00 AM 12/15/2018.

  • Ladies don’t forget the Christmas Joyful Jingle Dinner at the chuch 5:30 PM 12/15/2018.







MESSAGE FROM A MONUMENT OF THANKS

When thoroughly lost a nice lady helped us find the wall that was bigger than life and a block long. It was the International Reformation Wall in Geneva, Switzerland which was built parallel to the ancient city wall below the University of Geneva that John Calvin started in 1559.

 The Reformation Wall with the key reformers in Geneva who influenced other reformers on their right and left (to the East and West in the world) for the centuries to come. The old city wall is behind it and the school Calvin started.  Not seen are a large block on either end with Luther and Zwingli’s names on them.

The Reformation Wall with the key reformers in Geneva who influenced other reformers on their right and left (to the East and West in the world) for the centuries to come. The old city wall is behind it and the school Calvin started. Not seen are a large block on either end with Luther and Zwingli’s names on them.

This wall depicted the impact of the protestant reformation by statues in bold relief. In the center were four key reformers in Geneva. Left to right was William Farel, a fiery minister who founded area churches. Next was John Calvin who was influenced by Farel to pastor God’s people rather than write books. Theodore Beza spread the movement to France. Finally, John Knox founded the Presbyterian church in Scotland. All were instrumental in bringing the church back to teaching Scripture and the doctrines of free grace rather Roman sacramentalism.

 The four key reformers from Geneva who impacted the world through the Reformation.

The four key reformers from Geneva who impacted the world through the Reformation.

“After darkness light” was inscribed by the images because most people were illiterate at the time. But, Calvin and Farel had established public schools so people could learn to read Scripture bringing real spiritual change to lives.

To the left and right this monument has three smaller statues representing the continued impact of the reformation in Europe in one direction and America in the other. On the right was Roger Williams who established the first baptist church in America in Providence Rhode Island in 1638. He differed with the pilgrims who were wanting to purify the Church of England which was tied to the government; Williams was a Separatist wanting to separate from the Church of England which had become corrupt. He was a staunch advocate for religious freedom, separation of church and state, and fair dealings with the Indians. His beliefs were founded in Scripture and eventually adopted in our Constitution.

 Roger Williams on the left with the Mayflower Compact mural to the right of him depicting the impact in the New World (America) as they cited God’s leading in the venture.

Roger Williams on the left with the Mayflower Compact mural to the right of him depicting the impact in the New World (America) as they cited God’s leading in the venture.

 The first Baptist Church in America established in 1638 in Rhode Island by Roger Williams. Picture taken by my son Nehemiah a week ago while visiting there.

The first Baptist Church in America established in 1638 in Rhode Island by Roger Williams. Picture taken by my son Nehemiah a week ago while visiting there.

What really caught my eye was the mural of the Pilgrims in stone next to Roger Williams. They were kneeling in prayer around a keg on the Mayflower. Above the picture the text of the Mayflower Compact (1620) is inscribed on the wall.

“IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great BritainFrance, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience. IN WITNESS whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of EnglandFrance, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini; 1620.”

It moved me to think in Switzerland there is a major piece of art depicting God’s hand in America (“God” is mentioned four time.). The Pilgrims clearly felt God had directed them here and later thanked Him even after loosing so much in the early days of their sojourn. They were simply an extension of what God had done in Europe. But it didn’t stop with the Pilgrims or Roger Williams. The Gospel still brings change in people’s lives wherever it is proclaimed. When it does it causes a deep sense of thankfulness for what God has, is and will continue to do in our lives, families and country. Let us give thanks to Him.

Nancy and I want to say we are thankful for all of you and pray the Lord will bless you with a wonderful and deep sense of thanksgiving this year. Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Pastor Mark

P.S. No Sunday School this Sunday due to the Holiday.

MESSAGE FROM A SWISS CLOCK

Switzerland is known for making clocks. Swiss watches are sold everywhere there. Perhaps the most famous Swiss clock is the Zytglogge in the capitol city of Bern. In Bernese German Zytglogge means “time bell.” It is housed in an 800 year old tower in the center of the old city. This timepiece is also an astronomical clock and has been accurately ticking for centuries. It has been wound daily by the same dedicated man for the last 25 years. The individual gear teeth are removable for easy replacement; it is made to last. When it chimes the time little painted wooden figures march out on one side and do their mechanical dance as tourist click pictures. Note Hans the gilded wooden bell-striker in the cupola; he rings the bell on the hour.

 The Zytglogge clock tower in Bern is a major tourist attraction and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Zytglogge clock tower in Bern is a major tourist attraction and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This clock symbolizes much about the meticulous precision we saw in the character of this country. Precision is also seen in their Swiss knives, chocolate, and cheese. We traveled mostly by trains there which are on time, too. Close to 3,000 trains a day leave the busy Zurich station! Any delay of over two minutes is announced and apologized for. Nancy and I would often say, “This country runs like a Swiss watch.” This precision time keeping is also true of passenger boats on the lakes and buses in the cities. Often electronic boat or bus stop signs also ticked off the time until a boat or bus would arrive. Might I add that the cities are all very clean and tidy. Even public toilets are cleaned regularly, sometimes after every use. Very little trash is to be seen in the streets or graffiti on walls. This preciseness is seen even in the countryside where the exactness of how they cut and stack firewood catches your eye.

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This portable public street toilet looks as clean as an operating room because it is cleaned automatically. Some even have robotic arms that do the cleaning.

 The massive Zurich rail station with a reader board of the trains leaving in the next hour or so. It is on several levels for tracks and even has it’s own shopping mall.

The massive Zurich rail station with a reader board of the trains leaving in the next hour or so. It is on several levels for tracks and even has it’s own shopping mall.

Swiss clocks are indicators to us of more than the time; there is a theological dimension here too. The impact of the Reformation continues to have an impact on this culture centuries later. The Gospel touches the heart and brings repentance and submission to Christ. When that is true it affects how we live as Christ becomes Lord of all. The bible has many good things to say on how we are to be diligent and use our time.

Col. 3:23-24 “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

All we do should be with diligence in our daily life because it is ultimately for the glory of God. It should affect how we use our time, how careful we are in our work, how we keep things clean, how we care for others, and even being on time for events like church. :-)

With that in mind don’t forget to set your clocks BACK one hour this Saturday, November 3, as we leave daylight savings time to fall back one hour into Fall! Then get up and to Sunday School and Church on time…like a Swiss watch.

Pastor Mark