Think About It... From Pastor Mark
It was 4 AM when Fyodor Mikailovich was awakened by soldiers banging on his door. Fyodor had been reading forbidden books about socialism. He had been talking up socialism. His socialist friends were enemies of the czar. Many of his friends were arrested that day too. So was he.
For the next many months, Fyodor and his comrades were in prison. There were no charges at first. Finally, there was a quick trial for conspiracy, but he never heard what the verdict was. He remained in prison. And the prison was a terrible place.
Then, just before dawn, on December 23, Fyodor and 14 of his socialist friends were hurried out of their cells. They were taken to a parade ground near the prison. Fyodor was surprised to see thousands of people there in the bitter cold and snow at that early hour. He and the other prisoners were ordered to take off their clothes. They made the men put on white linen burial shrouds with hoods on them. Then they were made to stand in front of a wall. A friend of Fyodor's in the crowd pointed to coffins that were lined up.
At first, the whole thing was surreal to Fyodor. But then as a firing squad stood 20 paces in front of him, it was now very real to Fyodor. As the clock moved toward 8 AM, he thought: "I am going to die in a matter of minutes." Then, the military commander began to slowly bark out the words: "ready .... aim ...." to the first group of prisoners. Fyodor would be in the next group. Just as before the word "fire" was about to be shouted, a courier from the czar galloped in with important papers that stopped the executions. When the dust settled, the czar had commuted Fyodor's sentence to four years of hard labor in Siberia.
Year later, Fyodor told of this day in 1849 when his life was spared . He said it has given new life - a sort of resurrection. He left socialism and nihilism that day. He spoke about that day to his brother Mikhail this way: "Now, in changing my life, I am reborn in a new form."
Fyodor's full name was Fyodor Mikailovich Dostoevsky. Years later, Dostoyevsky said his time in Siberia were as though he was "shut up in a coffin." The summers were insufferably hot and humid. The wisnters were unbearably frigid with temperatures that were sometimes minus 40 degrees centigrade. In his book, The House of the Dead, he wrote: "All the floors were rotten. Filth on the floors an inch thick...We were packed like herrings in a barrel...There was no room to turn around. From dusk to dawn it was impossible not to behave like pigs...Fleas, lice, and black beetles by the bushel..."
The only books Dostoevsky was permitted to have in prison were The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And through the life of Christ and the teachings of Jesus, Dostoevsky claimed a measure of the Christian faith.
From these horrific experiences, Dostoevsky went on to write books like Crime and Punishment, The Possessed, The Diary of a Writer, The Brothers Karamazov, and others. As a result of what he went through, Dostoevsky wrote about the redemptive and regenerative power of suffering in many of his novels.
For the rest of his life, Dostoyevsky had to deal with hard things. His wife died. His brother died and left Fyodor with all his debts. Unfortunately, Dostoevsky didn't practice what he preached or what he had learned. H e was penniless due to his own compulsive gambling. He had affairs with various women. Dostoevsky suffered from great bouts of depression. He didn't use the renewing power that hard times can bring.
While suffering in prison, he made some promises to God. But when the suffering was over, he never followed through on what He told God he'd do after he was released. Although Dostoyevsky intellectually learned the lessons of a Christ-centered life, he never yielded to the Lordship of Christ. He never put Christ in charge of his commitments, his emotions, his will, or his life. He changed for a while but the change never permeated his practice, his behavior, or his life priorities. When life got hard again, Dostoyevsky still used his same old coping skills of compulsive behavior and despair. One writer said he "never seemed to grow as a Christian."
When we talk about suffering and trials, we Christians usually quote James 1:2-4 says:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything".
I like the way the New Living Translation renders James 1:2-6, 12:
" ... whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything. If you need wisdom-if you want to know what God wants you to do-ask Him, and He will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking. But when you ask Him, be sure that you really expect Him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind ... God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him."
We forget that verse 22 is in the same chapter and the New Living puts it this way:
"And remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. If you don't obey, you are only fooling yourself."
Many of us are like Dostoyevsky, we do a great job of talking about having joy in the middle of the circumstances and the benefits of testing. But talk is not enough! It is not enough to go through hard times. God want us to grow through hard times. He wants us to be different as a result of them. He does not want just to listen to Him but to obey Him! He wants suffering to "finish its work" so that you are "mature and complete" in Christ.
Dear friend, have been going through some rough times? It may be this coronavirus thing or it may be the ramifications of it. It may be money, health, the loss of job, a failing business, a rocky marriage, a wayward child, or something else that has been very painful. Well, I am certain that God is talking to all of us. We wants us to let the hard times improve our character, refine our walk with Him, change our priorities, and force us to our knees in submission to His will.
Perhaps God's University of Hard Knocks has been giving you quite an education lately. Now is the time to finish your education with God and get His diploma! Graduate magna cum laude with a double major in perseverance and faith!! Let God permeate your life. Live in submission to His will. Move on to the deeper things of not simply knowing the Gospel but living it!
The Christian musical group from Australia, Hillsong, has a song called "I Will Never Be the Same." This song has been an important word in my life as I have promised God to learn, mature, and to never go back from what God has taught me in hard times. The lyrics are:
I will never be the same again,
I can never return, I've closed the door.
I will walk the path, I'll run the race
And I will never be the same again.
Fall like fire, soak like rain,
Flow like mighty waters, again and again.
Sweep away the darkness, burn away the chaff,
And let the flame burn to glorify Your name.
There are higher heights, there are deeper seas,
Whatever you need to do, Lord do in me.
The Glory of God fills my life,
And I will never be the same again.
Promise God that you will never be the same after the hard time you might have gone through. And then keep your promise! I know from personal experience that God will bless your life from this kind of promise. Suffering is hard, sometimes excruciating. But, to grow through hard times, you need to covenant with God now to never be the same and keep your promise! Never be the same!
By the way, Dostoevsky is buried in a monastery cemetery in Saint Petersburg, Russia. On his tombstone is a quote from the King James translation of John 12:24 into Russian. It says:
"Verily, Verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit."
The quoting of this verse gives me hope that maybe Fyodor finally died to self and was born to new life in Christ. The day before Dostoevsky died, he asked for his old prison copy of The Gospels. He asked his family to read the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. We can only hope that just before his death, for real this time, this prodigal man finally applied the lessons he learned so long ago.
Maybe Fyodor finally got his life right with God? I pray he did. Can you and I do the same after this time of Covid-19 is over? Will you and I emerge from this time, stronger, wiser, and more spiritually mature? The results begin when we do!

  I love being your pastor!
Pastor Mark Platt
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This Sunday's Message
This Sunday, we will conclude our sermon series called "How to Handle Trouble." We have been looking at the ways that we can survive and thrive in hard times with God's help. As our nation, our state, and our city anticipate re-opening after this lockdown in the next month or so, we will look at how to restart our lives after hard times. Pastor Mark will take on a topical study titled "RE-BOOT TO A NEW LIFE." You will be helped, encouraged, and inspired to make a new start with God's help!
Go to our live stream on Facebook on Sundays at 9AM or go to our website, www.easthillscc.org. for links to YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and our own Truthcasting. Printed outlines are available to download on our website and Truthcasting.  Our goal is to encourage you, inspire you, and help you during this challenging time. Join us!
What's Next!
Women's Bible study on Thursday nights with Evie Berg on Zoom. Right now, they are studying book of 1 Corinthians. Whether you are in Kentucky, Arizona, or right here on the East Bay, you can enjoy studying the Bible, with other women. Call June Peterson at (510) 604-4277 for more information. All women are invited to enjoy the fellowship and the fun of Bible study!
God is using our on-line Sunday ministry. We have been getting 200 or so views on the combination of Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and our own Truthcasting. Several are new names who live in Oakland. So that is encouraging. Pastor Jonathan is keeping our videos, our newsletters, and other ministries going. God is good!
Pistos (Greek for faithful) Korean Presbyterian Church will be renting our facilities on Sunday afternoons from 1:30 to 6 PM. Their rental income will help us do some needed property improvements. We hope to welcome them when the quarantine is lifted.
Support God's Work at EHCC
Our giving is holding up! Because of your faithfulness, we have been able to pay most of our bills. But we depend on your regular and sacrificial financial support of God's work. We still have staff obligations, utilities and other bills to pay. We have missionary support to send. We want to expand our "online" presence during this time and that requires money. Please intensify your financial support of East Hills during this time.

There are 4 ways to give:
Option 1: Mail checks to East Hills at 12000 Campus Drive, Oakland, CA 94519
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If you are unable to watch our online service, you can receive a transcript of Pastor Mark's message by US Post Office Mail. Email Pastor Jonathan here with your name and address and we will send it to you. (You might consider helping EHCC with a gift to cover the postage.) Or, call 510-531-7100 to request a transcript.
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"Need Prayer"

As we weather this storm together, we are trying to keep the lines of communication open, especially for prayer. If you have a prayer need, please click the button and submit your prayer. We have a dedicated team who will pray for your request. Prayers can be marked "confidential" for Pastor Mark. If not marked, the information will go to the prayer team.
Corporate Prayer
Join with other East Hills people for prayer each night at 7 PM. This is not online or formal. Just find a quiet place in your home to pray. You can ask your spouse and/or your family members to join you in prayer too.  
Please pray for seven specific things:
1. Pray for protection and for containment of the Coronavirus.
2. Pray for wisdom for our leaders as they deal with the virus.
3. Pray for God's protection and guidance for our medical professionals as they treat those affected.
4. Pray for those whose businesses, jobs, and incomes are affected.
5. Pray for those who are the most vulnerable to the attack of this virus.
6. Pray that God will use this time to bring our nation to repent, trust Christ, and bring spiritual change to our prodigal nation.
7. Pray for the ministry of East Hills with our online Sunday service, our devotionals on Facebook, our phone conversations, our witness in our neighborhoods, and with each other.
Click the play button to view last week's message.
Rely On God
Rely On God
Will The Real King of Israel Please Stand Up?
Only one of the four names listed is really a king of Isreal (Northern Kingdom). Identify the true king in each set:

1) Jehubbah, Jerobam, Johanan, Jezaniah

2) Bildad, Nadab, Abihu, Yahoo

3) Baasha, Smaasha, Raasha, Craasha

4) Zena, Zimiri, Ziphah, Zoheth

5) Rahab, Rehab, Ahab, Amad 
Current Sermon Series
New Sermon Series
John 15 is one of the greatest chapters in the Bible. It was spoken on the night that Jesus was betrayed, perhaps during the Last Supper. Using the metaphor of a grapevine, Jesus explained what it means to be one of His followers.
Now, over 2000 years later, these words of Jesus teach us the secrets of the life that God wants for each person. Join us for the next three Sundays as Jesus tells you the way to "Your Best Life."
1. May 31 - John 15:1-11 - "Christian Living"
2. June 7 - John 15:1-11 - "Obedient Living"
3. June 14 - John 15:1-11 - "Productive Living"

In The Bible (Reading Plan)

Weekly Through the Bible Readings
Since you are quarantined, why not read through the Bible in 2020. Here is the reading schedule for the next few weeks:
May 10-16                2 Kings; John 4-7
May 17-23                1 Chronicles 1-15; John 8-10
May 24-30                1 Chronicles 16-29; John 11-14
May 31- June 6        2 Chronicles 1-18; John 15-18
June 7-13                 2 Chronicles 19-36; John 19-21
June 14-20               Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther; Acts 1-7
June 21-27               Job 1-21; Acts 8-13
June 28-July 4          Job 22-42; Acts 14-22

Click to download a .PDF of our 2020 Reading Plan
Answers to "Great Questions in the Bible":
1) Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:26)   
2) Nadab (1 Kings 15:25-28)    
3) Baasha (1 Kings 15:27)    
4) Zimri (1 Kings 16:9-20)  
5) Ahab (1 Kings 16:28-22:40) 
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