Anaheim SDA Church
Mid-week Pastor’s Update
October 27th, 2021
“…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.” Philippians 4:8
Well, we are in the thick of the time of year again when ghosts, zombies, vampires, and witches dominate the landscape, from big box store aisles to neighbors’ front yards. Some of the decorations are ‘fun’ and ‘cute’, but others are downright gory! A few times before watching perfectly innocent YouTube videos with my kids, I’ve had to shield their eyes, or quickly hit the ‘pic off’ button on the TV remote, as ads for the theme parks’ Halloween special events show. Furthermore, gruesome horror movies are produced & promoted at a disturbing rate. This is the entertainment diet Americans clamor for, and support with their business?
And then, if you follow the news, you heard about the accidental shooting that took place on the set of a western movie shoot in New Mexico last week. While tragic, it’s certainly getting a disproportionate amount of news coverage compared to other unfortunate deaths. This one involves someone famous, though, so it dominates the headlines for days.
But here’s a thought I have: if the thing you’re simulating for the purpose of entertainment actually happens, and it’s a tragedy that needs to be mourned and criminally investigated, doesn’t that mean that something’s awry with the form of entertainment? The news coverage goes on and on about the tragic (likely accidental) death on a movie set, and I ask myself “and what’s the ‘body count’ going to be in that movie?”
So the connecting thought between the Halloween decorations and the movie set death would be: if something in actuality is terrible, tragic, and disturbing, why fantasize and have fun about it?
I think this reveals something about our natures: the fact that we find a form of pleasure in beholding the terrible, the ugly, the horrid, shows me that there’s something about our appetites that’s unhealthy, twisted, and fundamentally corrupted.
Of course, we as Christians don’t find this surprising. The principle has been in the scriptures for millennia: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9.
But the Bible doesn’t only condemn the negative, praise the Lord, it also directs us toward the positive. One of the strongest verses about this is the one quoted at the top of this devotional, from Philippians chapter 4. And that advice could be taken two ways. Admittedly, in my earlier Christian walk I viewed it as limiting and disappointing. “So I can’t enjoy my action movies now?” “Man, now I’m gonna feel guilty while I play my shoot-em-up video game?”. But I now view this verse as entirely positive as it gives us permission to leave by the wayside the negative and ugly in favor of the better and more excellent.
Why listen to filthy lyrics when I can listen to a symphony or a praise song? Why get revved up sexually from gyrating figures on a screen when I could behold works of art or landscapes? The internet makes all of these easily available, but will we choose the good?
I admit, my messed-up heart/nature pull me toward the less than savory frequently: I feel the temptations daily. But I ask myself: what’s the best way I can spend this hour I find myself with? Rather than indulge in the latest gruesome offering from Netflix, I could spend that time learning a language or trying a new recipe!
So I pray we wouldn’t see the Bible’s instructions as trying to ruin our fun, but to instead see it as steering us toward the better: the praiseworthy, the pure, the sublime and beautiful.
I pray that you and your families would be fulfilled by both your work and your free time/recreation time. And may we beam (metaphorical) rays of sunshine, while the rest of the world seems content to wallow in swampy muck.
Pastor Mark Tatum
Anaheim SDA Church
Mid-week Pastor’s Update
October 20th, 2021
“But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” Daniel 12:4
I find it incredible to think that, when God created the world, there were no timekeeping devices! Yes, the patterns of the moon and sun were given to establish general times (Genesis 1:14-19), but by those, people could only keep general times of the day & month. It’s kind of as if the day only had a few general time periods: morning, mid-day, afternoon, evening, and night. You could basically only plan 3 or 4 activities per day! “I’ve got this in the morning, that for the mid-day, the other thing in the afternoon, and dinner plans with ______ in the evening.” And that was your day!
Then, of course, the sun-dial was invented (in about 1500 BC, according to the Googlizer). People could now divide up their days into smaller chunks, though it wasn’t especially easy to check the time: (“Shall I go outside to see what time it is?” or “Shoot! It’s cloudy today!”). Plus, given the fact that the seasons changed things so much, one couldn’t really plan things according to a sun-dial, they are mostly just interesting to watch (hence, the lopsided hourglass shape).
Then, in the 1300s AD, the first mechanical clocks began to become developed. These were obviously labor intensive and rare, so wealthy cities would prominently display them: both to help people know the time at a glance, and to show off the city’s sophistication & advancement.
But could this development have unintentionally implied the idolization of time as being the most important thing? As someone would approach a city, what did it appear that city was elevating? Time. “Look at the time!”
Nowadays, most of us carry the time around on our wrists, or, even more recently, our cell phones. (My watch-band broke back during the pandemic when all the ‘non-essential’ businesses were closed, so, though I intended to get it fixed eventually, I never got around to it and have since lost my watch).
I fear, though, with all this advancement, time feels more scarce and short than it did when general periods of the day were all that could be discerned. We slice time into ever-smaller increments, with the rationalization that we’re maximizing time, when, in reality, we may be killing the ‘open time’ God intended for us to experience. Yes: I can now schedule 12-16 things into my day now, have it work like (heh) clock-work, and feel more productive, but are we fundamentally happier than when things were simpler?
I find the above-quoted Bible verse from Daniel 12 to be very apropos: we run to and fro, advancing knowledge, maximizing commerce & socialization (though that can be done ‘virtually’ now), but are we fundamentally better off than previous generations for it? The Bible actually testifies that life will get worse until Jesus comes (see Daniel 2 & Matthew 24). Though we obviously benefit from the many technological advancements, are we also accelerating the prophesied worsening with our scurrying?
My kids were watching the beginning part of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ the other day, and I saw the white rabbit singing his “I’m late I’m late I’m late!” song, and thought: is that how most of us live our lives?
I imagine that, from angelic/unfallen worlds’ perspective, we look fairly like agitated ants on an anthill. (Have you ever seen a group of ants acting normally, but then scare them by stomping your foot somehow and watch them go into fast-forward?)
Thoughts like these make me all the more thankful for unhurried, un-scheduled time with God. First of all, he establishes a day. He says “take time off from your busyness, and spend it with me, with your families, with the community of faith.” I love that we discern the Sabbath’s beginning and end by that original timekeeping method: sundowns (though we can of course have Google tell us the exact minute (yea, second) that the sun sets).
I sometimes wish we didn’t have a clock in the sanctuary! What purpose does it serve? Are we here to serve the God who extends continued, continued, continued time to us, or get increasingly grumpy with however minutes the preacher goes past high noon? (I know, people get hungry, and it gets particularly important when meds need to be taken with a meal at a certain time of day).
But let’s just enjoy the Sabbath day, huh? Not try to cram it full like the others. Perhaps this can be a challenge in the coming Sabbaths: bask in the openness of time, not knowing exactly what time it is, give or take a couple hours.
Secondly, God makes himself accessible anywhere, any time, for any amount of time. I’m so blessed when I can take a quiet 45 minutes in the sanctuary: I hope you have someplace you can go to be at peace & in communion with God during the week as well.
So let’s stop ‘worshipping time’, or make it the dominating factor in our lives. Let’s not let it fill us with dread. Yes, we have to work within it (as with so many things in life), but let’s not let it define us.
Praise the Lord that God offers to extend to us unlimited time, for all those who choose Jesus as Lord. To say “Yeah, I’ve got time for that”, rather than “I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!” will be a freedom of that Kingdom that, hopefully, we can get a taste of here in the meantime.
May God bless you and your families this week.
Pastor Mark Tatum
Anaheim SDA Church
Mid-week Pastor’s Update
October 14th, 2021
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Earlier this week, Josiah had took a tumble on the playground, falling from the monkey bars, and broke his arm. I drove to the school to pick him up early, and felt for him so in his pain! All I could do was hug him & speak soothing words to him, but I wished I could do more.
After getting it checked-out at a nearby urgent care, they discovered he had a slight break above the elbow – mom had to drive him to a different facility, and stay with him in the hospital until 2 a.m.! Apparently his injury was just on the border of needing surgery. But Josiah’s going to have to be in this above-the-elbow cast for some weeks, and then, upon assessment, they will determine whether he does or doesn’t need the surgery (pls pray for him not needing it!).
So Josiah is home in a cast now. He has taken this in great stride: I’m so proud of him. He hasn’t uttered any discouraging words of “I wish I’d never gone to the playground that day”, or “Why did God let this happen?” His optimism & normalcy of attitude have been a mini form of inspiration for us.
Of course, wounds and hurts of much larger kinds befall us in adulthood. Many of us would prefer a broken arm to other hurts/sadnesses we’ve had to endure. Some could very easily become discouraged in their faith, saying “Why doesn’t God prevent all bad things for people who love him?” But Jesus, in fact, never assures us of ease and avoidance of problems. In fact, he states nearly the opposite in the verse quoted above: he says “You will have trouble”! Not ‘maybe’, not ‘some of you’, not ‘if God is mad at you’, it is simply “will”. So, Jesus didn’t say he was here to avoid suffering for either us or him – he actually voluntarily walked toward great suffering and pain (and 1st John 2:6 says we should walk as Jesus did – yikes!).
But, how great the second part of the sentence recorded in John is. It makes any hardship summarized in the first half of the verse okay. The world will not have the last say: Jesus will! And, praise the Lord, He promises to, at the end, “wipe every tear from [our] eyes” (Revelation 7:17, 21:4).
But, think of those who get discouraged and lose faith because of the hardships & troubles. Jesus prophesied that this would happen to some (Matthew 18:28), but how tragic it is! You cannot get away from Jesus’ first half of the prophecy in John, but what a preventable loss to jettison the 2nd half (which more than makes up for it!). Indeed: I’ve seen it myself: some lose faith because of their troubles, and they’re left with the troubles, but without the God who is able to resolve them.
I hope we can all take some inspiration from kids’ “we’ll get through it okay” attitude. We will on a grand scale for sure! Even if the most dreadful end, death, comes to either us or our loved ones, Jesus says “Do not fear those that can kill the body” – “I have the keys to death and the grave” (Matthew 10:28a, Revelation 1:18).
I pray that, despite and even through hardships, you can learn patient endurance, one of the characteristics of God’s faithful in the last days (Revelation 14:12). Let’s center all our hopes in God, who began this good work in us, and will bring it to completion in the day of Christ Jesus our Lord (Philippians 1:6).
I pray a blessing on you and your families the remainder of this week.
Pastor Mark Tatum
P.S. so endearing! Just before I sent this, Josiah walked in the room, and I said “Thank you for your optimistic attitude through all this.” He said “You’re w-e-l-c-o-m-e” (practicing his spelling), with a grin on his face. My heart! ❤
Anaheim SDA Church
Mid-week Pastor’s Update
October 6th, 2021
“…If someone who is righteous disobeys, that person’s former righteousness will count for nothing… The righteous person who sins will not be allowed to live even though they were formerly righteous.” Ezekiel 33:12
A couple of weekends ago, my wife and I saw a film that unnerved and disturbed me profoundly. It was “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”, a dramatization of the televangelist couple the Bakkers, who built a Christian broadcasting empire throughout the seventies (becoming the 4th largest nationwide, with a viewership of some 20 million), only to have it come crashing down in the mid/late 1980s amidst financial and sexual scandals. In seeing the promotional ads, I knew I liked the actors playing them, the concept was gripping to me, but I knew I’d be made to feel queasy, since anything good I’d see in the first half would be undone (and more – great damage inflicted) in the second half. And boy, didn’t it! So much of what appeared genuine and endearing in the characters toward the beginning was gradually twisted in to a sickening manipulation in the end.
I have to admit I didn’t know 90% of what was portrayed in that movie: it simply occurred before my time: I was a kid on the playground as this empire of sorts collapsed. I’d long heard of disgraced televangelists and mega church pastors, but had never seen such a case detailed (or dramatized) so specifically. Frankly, I was shocked that it was so much worse than I had even imagined.
In the days after seeing the movie, I looked at documentaries and historical interviews on YouTube to round-out my understanding of what happened. It turns out there was much more than what could be fit into a two-hour dramatization! And it just sickened me to know that the Gospel had been used to such gain, and then to such twisted ends, during my lifetime.
I’ve long been curious as to why general society looks with such skepticism and suspicion upon Christianity, and this history I learned largely informed me as to why: As the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 2:24: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles” because of such as these.
The Gospel is powerful: it is incredibly good and life-changing, but some have used that power to their own advantage. Let that be a lesson. The original apostles were not elevated, they were humble, scraping by financially, sometimes having to have a day-job to make ends meet (see Acts 18:1-4 as an example). Similarly today: it is good when pastors and religious leaders can make their earning by doing the Lord’s work (1st Corinthians 9:13-14), but they should not be given lavish salaries, for money itself is described in scripture as a seducing power (1st Timothy 6:9-10, Matthew 6:24).
I’d say that a big cause of this and other scandals is that successful pastors and religious leaders are given pretty free reign: they are trusted, and unscrupulous ones can self-justify outlandish things. Pastors and religious leaders shouldn’t get too big: the Gospel isn’t meant to be centralized in individual people/messengers. The Pope is the epitome of what should not happen. Charisma is not what we follow. While administrative/organizational leadership is needed, Spiritual authority is spread broadly by the Spirit and the Word, as the sun sheds its light and heat broadly upon the earth. I for one found myself grateful that we have a system of oversight (both professional and financial), for checks-and-balances. It’s a shame these are needed among God’s workers, but due to the twisted nature of humanity, they surely are! King Solomon (who we’ve been reading about in this week’s ‘Read through the Bible’ chapters), is another big example of this.
So, I pray for the Lord to keep ministers (including myself) humble, in all respects. We are to be but servants, serving God’s children. As I was doing my readings for this week’s “read through the Bible” chapters, I came across the section quoted above from Ezekiel 33, about how one can’t bank on their ‘former righteousness’ to excuse and justify sin. That’s the beginning of what Jim Bakker and other defamed religious leaders have done: justified in their own minds cutting corners here or there, saying “haven’t I done so much more to justify having this little thing here?”. The answer is always, No. You haven’t. Anything good done before has been by God’s mercy and grace, and to continue to live under them, one must never step outside the bounds of His precepts.
I want to commend those of you older than me, those of you who remember the Bakker/PTL scandal of the early 80’s, for staying with your faith despite such a visible and public fall from grace of one of Christianity’s big representatives. Truly, you have your eyes on Jesus, rather than on people, who can fail and disappoint us.
Let us always keep our eyes on Jesus: the only one worth honoring and emulating and pedestalizing. He Himself lived very humbly (even homelessly – see Luke 9:58), and if we strive to ‘walk as he walked’ (1st John 2:6), we will avoid many pitfalls on our journey toward God’s eternal Kingdom. May He keep us on the ‘straight and narrow’ all our lives.
I pray a blessing from the Lord for you and your families the remainder of this week and beyond.
Pastor Mark Tatum
Hello again, dear Anaheim SDA Church family,
I’m writing to make a correction on the preaching schedule. I apologize for the mistake. Pr. Julio Tabuenca, who I’d mistakenly said was preaching tomorrow, is actually preaching the first week of November. Here is the preaching calendar as it now stands:
October 2nd: Sandra Fermin (former Youth Intern, now back from Seminary)
October 9th: Pastor Mark (Communion service + baby dedication)
October 16th Adam Wamack from ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency)
October 23rd: Pastor Mark or Pastor Nathaniel
October 30th: Pastor Mark or Pastor Nathaniel
November 6th: Pastor Julio Tabuenca
November 13th: Pastor Mark
November 20th: Pastor Nathaniel
November 27th: Pastor Mark
I pray everyone has a wonderful Sabbath!
Pastor Mark Tatum
Anaheim SDA Church
Mid-week Pastor’s Update
September 30th, 2021
“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31
Only once have I been in a hot air balloon, and it is a strange sensation: trusting the physical principle that hot air is less dense than cool air, thus permitting a thousand- or more pound basket to float in mid-air!
It was back, probably a dozen years ago, before Jime and I had children: we went for a week’s vacation in Park City, Utah. In looking at activities to do, we thought hot air ballooning would be fun and unique, neither of us having tried it before.
So, one morning we got up before sunrise to go to the launch spot, and had our little training session as the sun peeked over the mountains. It was a crisp and a quiet morning.
Then we heard the *blast* sound of the flames shooting into the rolled-out balloons to fill them with hot air! It sounded like a jet engine was taking off next to us! Once the balloon straightened to vertical, we got in the basket, we had to stand directly below that engine blaster noise. I believe they may have given us ear-plugs to wear ‘till we reached altitude. I also remember feeling like the top of my head was going to be singed off, it was so hot!
But once we got up, and the operator could turn the blasters off, it was so silent and elegant: calm and serene. We could watch flocks of birds flying below us. We could see the fog receding in the foothills around us. The sun drifted higher as we gently glided across the valley.
Periodically, the air in our balloon would cool, and our operator would warn us he was going to ‘blast’ the fire jets again to get us back to rising. I ignored the noise (and the heat), and kept enjoying the view of the horizon.
But something strange happened a couple of times: the pilot light for the engine mechanism went out. The operator grumbled and pulled out a high-school science lab-style spark striker to re-ignite it. Then we’d hear the loud *Bwoosh* sound of the flames again and begin to rise.
But the third or the fourth time this happened, the operator couldn’t get the spark to catch the gas to maintain the flame. He was grumbling and cursing about how whoever had filled the gas tanks probably hadn’t gotten the right mix. I figured that, rather than be preoccupied about the mechanism, I’d continue to enjoy the view, since that’s what we were there for that morning, and that we’d paid a pretty penny for it.
But this went on for a few minutes, and we were noticeably losing altitude relatively quickly. Thinking “just how urgent is this?” I glanced over my shoulder to look up at the mechanism, and the operator’s hands trying to light the pilot light, and saw that they were shaking as he repeatedly struck the striker. I began to think: “If he doesn’t get that lit, could we crash and get injured or killed?”
And I thought of how crazy it was that we were risking our lives in this wicker basket in the sky. And how ironic it was that, though we had all the necessary components of the balloon, the gas, the spark, and the jet engine mechanism; that if all the parts didn’t coordinate correctly, it could all be for naught, and we could die, having the life-preserving elements all with us.
And in hindsight, I think that’s how it is with us and our Spiritual lives: God in His benevolence gives us all the components we need: His Word, His Spirit, and His community all coordinating to sustain this faith life. But if we neglect them, or don’t utilize them in harmony with each other as intended, we could die, despite having all the tools present. I think of what a preventable tragedy that would be, and resolve to always utilize everything God gives us: our minds, our abilities, our personalities, to sustain faith and stoke it up in others. Hebrews 10:24-25.
Thankfully, the operator was eventually able to get the flame going again, and we made a controlled landing with the other balloons at our destination. The operator apologized to us about the suspense, and offered us a free ride on another morning (!) with the company if we liked. (We might’ve taken him up on the opportunity, but we were leaving the next morning anyway).
But that is a day that will long stand-out in my mind. I pray we would not put ourselves in peril by not applying all God has provided us with very graciously. I pray that as we go forward, we would recognize His providence and benevolence in providing us these things so freely. I pray that we’d please Him by utilizing them, and by seeing wonderful, powerful, ‘upward drafts’ lifting us up toward heaven, that we all may arrive safely, rejoicing and thrilled, to a new landscape.
May God bless you and your families the remainder of this week. Please greet your loved ones from all of us.
Pastor Mark Tatum
Wednesday Food Bank Distribution: This evening, and each Wednesday beginning at 5 p.m., our volunteers will be distributing boxes of pre-packed food into people’s trunks. If you or someone you know could benefit, do not hesitate to come/invite them to the church to come & receive. A big thanks goes out to Sharon Gladden, the Jauregui sisters, and the other volunteers who help collect, organize, and distribute the food. We will continue such distributions on Wednesdays going forward. If you would like to help out in some manner, don’t hesitate to let us know!
Wednesday Prayer Group, and “Read through the Bible” discussion, available either online or in-person this evening: Our mid-week prayer group continues to meet weekly. Tonight we meet at 6:00 p.m. to pray together and discuss the Bible. We are also continuing the discussion of the “Read through the Bible 2021” project, focusing particularly on the ‘columns’ / passages we didn’t read before, this week we’ll be discussing 1st Samuel 26 – 2nd Samuel 2 & Ezekiel 5-11. If you’d like to join us online, the zoom mtg ID# is 7053955673, with password 172569.
(If you missed last week’s Bible chapter discussion, it is posted on the Anaheim Sunkist SDA Church YouTube Page)
Sabbath Morning Worship: Praise God, we are mostly back to normal in our Sabbath morning gatherings. We are hoping we can resume the last few factors of using Sabbath School rooms, holding potlucks, and restarting our Sabbath afternoon kids’ clubs here in the fall.
Current Sabbath morning worship schedule:
9:00 a.m. Spanish service in the fellowship hall,
10:00 a.m. Spanish Sabbath school – fellowship hall,
Children’s Sabbath school – Youth/”Pathfinder” Room
English Adult Sabbath School – Sanctuary
11:00 a.m. All ages/languages church service in sanctuary
3:00 p.m. Spanish prayer group
5:00 p.m. Sociedad de Jovenes – fellowship hall
Online Worship Options: If you still prefer to worship from home, we have online worship options, live Sabbath mornings from 10:00-12:00 on Zoom (mtg ID# is 7053955673, with password 172569), or services being posted after-the-fact on our Anaheim Sunkist SDA Youtube Page: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfZrh44kEB7LJUy2c37XrFA
Resource Table in the Courtyard:We are going to be having Bible-study materials available on a weekly basis after church services. These can serve to either enhance your own study & growth, or lead others in growing in their walk with the Lord. Either Pastor Mark or Joel Milla are happy to train & recommend resources to anybody interested in leading others through studies.
Church Choir Getting Underway! If you were at church last week, you saw Mirta Leiss announce that we will be (re)forming a choir to enhance the musical beauty of our church services. We’re interested in singers of all parts. Please let either Pr. Mark or sister Mirta know if you’re interested. You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rehearsals are scheduled to begin Thursday the 16th @ 7:30 p.m., and continue Thursdays thereafter. For those not able to make Thursday evenings, she is willing to also do occasional Sabbath afternoon rehearsals from 1:00-2:30 p.m., the first one being Sabbath the 25th. If you wish to join that one, please bring a lunch to eat in the courtyard between church & rehearsal time.
International Student Seeks Housing:A Puerto Rican SDA student (with good English) has gotten a basketball scholarship for Bethesda University in Anaheim. He is seeking housing from anyone who may have a room to rent. His name is Miguel Velez, and he can pay $300-$500 per month. He is arriving this coming weekend, so would be most appreciative if someone could help. You may speak with Pastor Mark if you have availiablity, or you can communicate with him directly: Phone/text: (787) 450-9622 Facebook :Miguel Velez Instagram: @miguelvelezpr
Online Giving: Though we are just beginning to meet inside and still have minimal ministries running, our church and conference still have ongoing costs of utilities, education subsidies, and workers to pay. Your tithes (10% of your increase) and offerings are most appreciated during this time. Adventist giving has both a phone app and a website you can donate through: adventistgiving.org. Any donations made here are applied directly, with no percentage skimmed off, and your donations will come in your year-end receipt, seamlessly integrated with donations made in the church. May God bless us as we partner with him in faith through our finances.
Anaheim SDA Church
Mid-week Pastor’s Update
September 22nd, 2021
“[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
I remember when I was a kid, my mom’s usual pattern was to go grocery shopping on Sunday mornings. I often went with her, because if I did, I could pick my cereal for the week (as long as it wasn’t too sugary 😊 ). We would usually go to a “Lucky” store a couple of miles away from our house. It was fine, but, nothing special.
But then: they opened a NEW “Lucky” store a couple of miles away from our house in another direction, and this one was sparkling new and advanced! It had cool architecture and lighting, and I remember being awed in the produce section by seeing automatic mist sprayers for the first time: they would moisten the vegetables periodically.
The coolest thing for me, though, was that in the front left corner of the store, they also had a movie/video game rental area, you could rent these things in the store! My mom would let me rent one thing most weeks. So, for years of my youth, my time Sunday mornings was evenly spent in the cereal aisle, and the tech rental section, eagerly anticipating my week. 😊
Then I got older and went to college, and my mom kept shopping at the same store (without me). I remember I’d drive by it occasionally, but it didn’t seem new or exciting any more. In fact, it kind of got to looking run-down and dilapidated. My mom started going to a different store, because the neighborhood it was in didn’t seem so safe anymore.
Then, the grocery store closed-up entirely, and it became a big blank spot in a strip mall. For a while the spot was open again as a used book store, then as a seasonal Halloween store, then just boarded-up. Eventually, probably around 2010, they bulldozed the whole strip mall area and built something else there.
I still occasionally get called a “young man” (increasingly rarely :-p, but I am by no means old!). So it’s strange to me how I could see a shiny new grocery store and strip mall turn average, then old, then destroyed and gone, while still being relatively ‘young’ myself. It shows that our timeline is very different than it is for other things.
We live way longer than dogs or cats, and, indeed, longer than 99% of animal species. Upon doing a little bit of internet research, I found that only tortoises and a handful of sea creatures live longer than we do. And our time is short compared to lifespans in the Bible!
It’s strange: in our lifetimes, we see animals and buildings rise, age, and fall. We see societies boom and bust. We see forms of technology come and go. Yet we still want more: we say “life is short!”. We lament how people ‘died too young’ despite having decades under their belts.
To me this is all encompassed in that mysterious but brief phrase that King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes: “God has put eternity in the hearts of man.” What does this mean? While some might think it an Old Testament hint to the (misguided) Christian belief in immediate and eternal life after death, I think it’s much more something along the lines of We never feel we’ve lived long enough. We always want more. We always aspire to do and see more things.
I firmly believe that the only resolution to this perpetual longing of feeling that life is short (despite its being long) is to put it in perspective of eternal life in the Heavenly Kingdom, which will be gifted us by Jesus Christ on Resurrection Day. Only then will our bodies and our heart desires line-up!
There’s a place in Isaiah where it says “their days will be like a tree” (65:22). This is, correctly this time, a glimpse into future eternal life with God from a finite standpoint. In the ancient world, trees’ lifespans must’ve seemed practically endless: though people were of course familiar with the sight of a dead tree due to drought or injury, an old man could go to a place he knew as a boy, and look up at the limbs of a perfectly healthy tree he used to climb on in his boyhood. “This is what life with me will be like” God is Saying through Isaiah.
I pray that we will truly appreciate the time God has given us: the days which accumulate into weeks, months, years, and decades. I pray we wouldn’t waste the time, because it is precious, and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. But above all I pray that we would utilize the accumulation of time into worthy pursuits: investing in relationships, in knowledge, in beauty, in truth and purity. Truly a lot of good can be done over a lifetime, or a lot of pointless damage.
I close with the opening verses of Psalm chapter 1:
“Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.”
May God bless you all the remainder of this week and beyond.
Pr. Mark Tatum
Pardon me for writing this update a day late! With other things on my plate, I clean forgot ‘till yesterday evening! By the way, there are great announcements down below. *Mwah!* Mouth-watering!
Anaheim SDA Church
Mid-week Pastor’s Update
September 16th 2021
“Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yes, though she may forget, yet will I not forget you.” Isaiah 49:15
As you well know, this past weekend we commemorated 20 years since the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania. Now, half a week later, can we remember the mental, emotional, and societal state we were in 20 years ago at this point?
Many of us were still in shock: we felt like zombies walking around, as our sense of security was shattered. Though the attacks happened thousands of miles away, yes, they also happened in our hearts a little bit. For a moment the terrorists had their moment of triumph, in that they got us to fear.
But somewhere in those ensuing days/weeks, the resolve built to, rather than respond with fear, to respond with determination, with steadfastness, and with bravery. The term “never forget” became a rallying cry to live up to our highest ideals of bravery, democracy, and patriotism.
So, twenty years later, how are we doing? How is our resilience? Our sense of national pride and unity?
In terms of bravery, that continued steadfastly in the form of military members who went to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, ousting Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and ending their capacity to execute terror attacks on foreign soil.
But how about in terms of our unity as Americans? That few/several year period after 9/11 seemed a world away than the divisive and vilifying social and political atmosphere we see today.
It is a shame that it took a terribly tragic, outside event to get us to emphasize our commonality rather than our differences. Its arguably even more of a shame that, given that the ‘shock’ has dissipated during these twenty years, we’ve fallen back into the same pits of arguing and vilifying our ‘opponents’. Need it be so?
Part of what I love about Christianity is that it’s fundamentally positive in nature. The tent is big enough for all to enter into. We don’t need a “them” to vilify in order to have an identity as an “us”. Jesus as the center of our vision: our example, our goal, our destiny, makes anything else pale in comparison.
Yes, we are against certain things, but only as a consequence of the much greater thing that we are for. We are against alcohol and drug use because it compromises the single greatest gift God bestowed us with: our minds. We are against sexual promiscuity and pornography because they devalue and debase the noble greatness of the human body and love into twisted forms. We are against vice and violence in person or in entertainment, because glorifying it replaces the only One who is worthy of exaltation: God and Jesus His Son.
Big things, good and bad, will continue to happen around us. But we are called to be steadfast. Jesus says “He who stands firm ‘till the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13) but we don’t generate this steadfastness from within ourselves, we take it from our great example, who is fundamentally dependable. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
So friends, let’s, yes, learn the lessons that can be gleaned from the terrible event of 9/11. But let’s remember that they will never take us to the apex of development or of worthy aspirations: only Jesus belongs in that highest place. I hope you, like I do, long for the day when God will place everything under Jesus’ feet (see 1st Corinthians 15:25).
May God bless you all.
Pastor Mark Tatum
“If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to remove our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8
I’d been keeping pretty quiet about it, but over the past several months I’ve been keeping a secret, and was trying to ignore a continuing problem.
Since the beginning of my time at the Anaheim church, I’ve had a mini-fridge in my office, in which I’ve stored drinks and little food items for some time. Near the beginning of the pandemic, though, I stocked-up that fridge, thinking “I’m going to be spending a lot of time filming and editing videos in here, I’ll have makings for lunches and sandwiches here, some snacky stuff, etc.” But over time the reality was, as I’d be busy with whatever church work, whether sermon writing or meeting with people in-person or online, I hardly ever thought to use the stuff I’d stocked the fridge with. I’d eat either before coming, or after going, or skip a meal due to busyness.
Then, after a while, when I would occasionally open the fridge door, I noticed a stench coming out of it that would waft into the rest of my office. That filled me with a sense of dread: that stuff I’d bought weeks and months ago was rotting in that fridge. Did I fix it right away? No. I closed the door: that rubber seal would protect my nose from the reality of what was going on in there.
I bought spray fresheners to spray around the office to cover the stench if the fridge accidentally got opened. I sprayed half a bottle of freshener into the fridge through a gap in the door just wide enough to fit the nozzle, hoping it would neutralize the bad smell. It didn’t. But I went on working: ever aware of, but trying to ignore, that problem in the corner. When my kids would come to my office, I’d tell them sternly that that little fridge was off-limits to them (though they’d sometimes disobey or forget and open it anyway). Then I’d shout at them, spray the spray, and have to vacate the office for half-an-hour or so.
Then, last week, I saw an extension cord going from the 3rd office down the hall, out into the hallway outlet, and I followed it, thinking “I wonder who did that and why?”. I saw that someone was trying to revive the other mini fridge, which used to be in Maritza’s office, but lately had been stored over in the third office. When I saw it led to that secondary fridge, I figured someone had tried the sockets in that office, but to no avail. I opened that other fridge to see if it was cold, but it wasn’t.
I soon found out that someone was trying to revive that other mini fridge, because a church member’s home fridge had broken, and would be helped if they could borrow that mini fridge for a week or so ‘till theirs could either be fixed or replaced. When it was clear that fridge in the 3rd office wasn’t working, I was filled with dread: I had a working mini fridge I admittedly hadn’t been using, but it meant facing a dreadful reality: cleaning out the dreaded rot and sanitizing the fridge. While of course I’d be happy to loan it, I was loath to do that dire task.
But, the next morning, I came prepared: with gloves, sponges, paper towels, 2 types of disinfectants, and practically a hazmat suit, I faced my fears. At the last minute, I realized it would be better to empty and clean the fridge outside, so I went to the food bank to get a hand truck, and moved the still-closed fridge outdoors so the stench could dissipate into the open air. When I opened the fridge door, I think I saw a puff of green smoke emanate from it.
I of course threw all the rotten stuff into a trash can to take to a dumpster, then doused the inside with disinfectants and scrubbed the inside of that fridge. I took out the shelving and cleaned it too. I tried to beat back the enclosing frost in the little freezer section. I left the fridge door open to air out as I called the church member to tell them it was about ready. About 30 mins later, the brother of the church member came in his pickup truck to come pick it up. We loaded it in, tied it securely, and off he went. I hoped this would serve my church member, rather than curse them with stench.
About 90 mins later I texted the church member to ask: “I did all I could to clean out that fridge and get it presentable: I hope it works out fine for you.” A bit later, they replied “It is perfect, thank you.” I was relieved (on two levels): the practically unused fridge was helping serve someone, and I’d finally cleaned-out that dreaded filth I’d been avoiding.
As I sat back down in my fridge-less, stench-less office, I thought: how silly that I didn’t take care of that weeks or months ago? Here I’d been avoiding that for so long: yet in about 45 minutes the issue had been resolved.
And then I got to thinking: isn’t that like us with sin? We have this little cube in the corner of our hearts or minds, with rotten, putrid stuff in it. We allow people in: friendships, colleagues, the like, but we’re always thinking the mental equivalent of ‘don’t open the fridge! Don’t let them know that you’ve got that horrible, rotting stuff in there!’ Maybe even with Jesus, we’ll say “come into my heart”, but simultaneously be thinking ‘but don’t go over to that part – pay no attention to that over there!’ as if Jesus can be fooled.
Though it’s not easy, though it’s not pleasant, it’s so much easier to mentally clean house of our sins (or more accurately, let Jesus clean house). We’re so relieved once it’s done, we think ‘why did I wait so long to do that?’
The Bible makes it so clear that we have two options for what to do about that gunky stuff: the sin we hold in our lives. Chapter 1 of 1st John lays it out clearly: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” (vv. 8-10)
So, we have a clear choice presented before us. What will we do? Deny there’s a problem (as I did for months with my office fridge)? To do so never solves things: just makes it fester and worsen. Or confess? Sure, it’s not pleasant. Sure, part of our twisted hearts want to keep that junky stuff just where it is. But, come on! To come out into the openness of true freedom with Jesus? Far better, friends, so worth it. Living cleanly, openly, with no dread back in the back corner.
I want to invite you: if you haven’t done so recently: to clean house with God & Jesus. As Jesus instructs: go into your closet or a private room, close the door, kneel down, and tell God all about it. And the God who sees what is done in secret, will reward you openly (Matthew 6:6).
I pray that you will find a more relaxed, more open form of life with Jesus, free of the drama, free of the clutter, free of the stench and dread of sin. “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” May we ever go forward walking in that pure light of His truth.
May God bless you all.
Pr. Mark Tatum