Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Live Wide Awake: Known and Loved – Psalm 139

Starting a new Summer Series from Laura Degroot’s book: Live Wide Awake


Live Wide Awake: Known and Loved

Psalm 139

As followers of Jesus we look too God for the things that ail us.  I firmly believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only true answer to what we face today.  Human good intentions are temporary and human driven solutions always fall short of God’s desire for our created race.  Over time, without the Gospel of Jesus at its core, we become wayward.  The solution begins and ends with God.  God, ‘let your justice roll down like a mighty water, let righteousness flow like a never ending stream, let mercy resound like the waves of the ocean, and let praises rise high on the songs of the redeemed.”  

Grief and sorrow.  How quickly the move can be made from COVID-19 tragedy, shut down and difficulty reopening to an episode of nationally witnessed police brutality and the explosion of looting and violence.  What is the cure?  I’ll say again what I believe, the cure is found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The message of last week was a timely word, “Love your neighbor who is like yourself.”  The only way to tap into that well of action is to know and love God – to know his love and power that comes to our lives when we tap into his love.    

One thing of the past two weeks that comes through clearly to me is that division is a primary tool of the Devil.  However, that is not the complete story.  It is human beings, you and me, who pick up this tool of the Devil and run with it.  The human race has a systemic problem and it’s called depravity.  In our anger, frustration, grief and sorrow, we continue to perpetuate division by seeing, defining, labeling people into groups of other than, less than, to justify hatred or to bolster our own self-righteousness…  “All white people…”  “All African Americans…”  “All police officers…”  “All republicans…” “All democrats…”  and on and on it goes.  As good as it feels to group and label, and attach disparaging qualities to a ‘whole’ – it is not of God.  I find this kind of impulse never true about a ‘whole’ group of people.  Unless you want to say that ‘we are all sinners.’   That rings true to me.  Self-righteousness is also a primary tool of the Devil.  And again, as with the tool of division, so it is with self-righteousness – we, in our own depravity pick up this tool and engage it for sin.  

The desire to oppress and control, the desire to strike out in revenge comes from the poison of disobedience long ago.  We have a choice to pick this up and run with it or to lay in down before the feet of Jesus.  Division, racism and their ilk require constant ongoing vigilance – for it is at the heart of our shared human depravity.  We are called to once again grapple with the creed that ‘all people are created equal’ and live it out.  Once again we take in the message of Jesus to ‘love your neighbor who is like yourself’ and live it out.  And further, live out the necessary path of reconciliation by ‘loving our enemy’ for in this, we will be like our Heavenly Father… a son or daughter of God.  

So what is the answer to the divisiveness within the soul of humanity and the things which once again ail us?  The power of the Gospel – that flows in word and deed from a heart transformed by the love of God.  To seek justice for all, to walk in humility, in a posture of love and seeking to understand.  All people are created in the image of Almighty God – that’s not dependent on the color of skin nor on anything that humanity claims as ‘one’s net worth.’  When unjust brutality is perpetrated on anyone, justice must be pursued and rendered.  When looting and beatings occur in our cities and neighborhoods, just order should be maintained and enforced.  We all stand under the double edged sword of justice, regardless of the color of one’s skin, and justice should be administered impartially.  When these things do not occur justly, we cry out.  In this time, we must seek peace, but not pacification.  We must be in prayer.  We must seek God’s face.  We must repent of the sin we continue to perpetuate of division and labeling of others that leads too self-justification of our own sin.  We are called as a country made up of many nationalities, ethnicities, and races to build a common life of shared dignity and friendship with all persons regardless of the color of one’s skin… to ‘promote liberty and justice for all’ at every level of society for every citizen.  Not because it’s some pledge of allegiance, rather, because it’s God’s design, built into the fabric of God’s created plan for his ‘image of God’ created humanity.  Lord Have Mercy.  

This Sunday, we begin our summer series journey touching on themes and practices from the book by Laura DeGroot entitled, Live Wide Awake with the theme of Known and Love ed.  In prep for Sunday’s message, read Psalm 139 in the Bible, or from The Message by Eugene Peterson.  Looking forward to meeting you, even though in a virtual way.  Where two or three are gathered, God is present.  I think God has that covered virtually everyday!

In Him,
Pastor Mark

Pastor Mark's Reflections

Reflection: Sermon on the Mount Part 3: Come Follow Me!

When Jesus saw the crowds…’ is an amazing line in the Gospel of Matthew.  Jesus sees every one of us, the hurried and worried, the distracted and the distraught, the wayward and the self-righteous, the sick and the healthy.  So what does he do?  He announces “The Kingdom of God has come.”  He gives the invitation, “Follow me!”  And then sits on a hillside as his disciples gather around him, and the crowds gather around them and he begins to teach them (us)… More than that, he shows them (us)… There are three clips of the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Come Follow Me!’ (Matthew 5-7)

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Seven Paths: Bet you can’t eat just one?! Temperance, Moderation, Self-Control vs Gluttony

Pastor Mark is resuming the message series: Seven Paths leading to darkness, Seven Paths leading to light. 

Seven Paths: Bet you can’t eat just one?!  Temperance, Moderation, Self-Control vs Gluttony

1 Corinthians 6:12, Proverbs 25:28, Philippians 3:19-20, Romans 14:17-18

Followers of Jesus, 
This week we return to our series on the 7 Paths That Lead to Light/Darkness (formally known as the 7 Deadly Sins or the 7 virtues/vices.). We have 4 more to explore: Gluttony, Sloth, Greed, and Anger.  Maybe this sounds daunting, downcast, and depressing?  

“Do not fear!  For I have overcome!” (Jesus)  Although these vices are realities for us to face, God has given us his presence, his power and his purpose!  We have everything we need for anything that comes our way because of the gift of His Spirit – and His Spirit is Holy.  

I’ve had this past Text of the Quarter (Winter 2016-2017) from Ephesians 3:16-17 on my heart and mind as a prayer for you and me at this time: Out of God’s glorious riches may he strengthen you with power through in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith… that being rooted and established in love, you may have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ… to know this love and be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God!  …He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine!  

As we broaden and deepen our understanding of gluttony and gaze into God’s great wisdom and Holy Spirit power to overcome, may we find our satisfaction in God!  “We do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from God.” (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4). Sunday’s message: Bet you can’t eat just one?!  Temperance, Moderation, Self-Control vs Gluttony (1 Corinthians 6:12, Proverbs 25:28, Philippians 3:19-20, Romans 14:17-18)

SEE you Sunday (all be it virtual :)),

Pastor Mark         

Pastor Mark's Reflections

Sermon on the Mount: Part 1: Come Follow Me!

‘When Jesus saw the crowds…’ is an amazing line in the Gospel of Matthew.  Jesus sees every one of us, the hurried and worried, the distracted and the distraught, the wayward and the self-righteous, the sick and the healthy.  So what does he do?  He announces “The Kingdom of God has come.”  He gives the invitation, “Follow me!”  And then sits on a hillside as his disciples gather around him, and the crowds gather around them and he begins to teach them (us)… More than that, he shows them (us)… This is the first of three clips of the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Come Follow Me!’ (Matthew 5)

Pastor Mark’s Reflection Video 4/16: Sermon on the Mount Part 1: Come Follow Me!
Pastor Mark's Reflections

Holy Week 2020: Prayer, Fasting and Lament

We have entered into Holy Week 2020 during a significant, challenging time in our world’s recent history.  As we and our world continue to grapple with the reality of COVID-19, it is a call to prayer, fasting, and LAMENT for God’s people.  On this coming Good Friday, we are joining churches around the world and the entire Christian Reformed denomination to a Day of Fasting and Prayer.  
Jesus once again shows us the way of LAMENT.  Biblical Lament has four movements: 

  • 1st, CRY OUT to God: Why?  How Long?
  • 2nd, ASK GOD for what is needed: Petition Him!
  • 3rd, Acknowledge and speak TRUST in God.
  • 4th, make a VOW TO PRAISE.  

I have attached a video demonstrating these movements of Biblical LAMENT, filmed and put together yesterday that embodies the prayer of LAMENT:  

After watching the video, what is it that you are lamenting?  For yourself?  For the world?  COVID-19 is bringing its share of lament, yet, there are many things to lament over.    On the cross, Jesus quotes from a Psalm of Lament, Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  He asks God to quench his thirst, “I am thirsty!”  He speaks trust, “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.”  He also voices trust in God even in his crucifixion to the point of death by saying, “It is finished!”
For our Good Friday Worship Service, we will worship through the 7 words of Jesus from the cross.  Full worship order and instructions for Good Friday service will come to you on Thursday.  We are putting the finishing touches to the order of worship today and tomorrow. 
Know this with certainty and absolute confidence, God will have the last word in all things, and it has everything to do with Easter and God’s marvelous answer to all lament and brokenness – RESURRECTION!!!  Sunday is coming!

Pastor Mark      

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Palm Sunday: Triumphal Entry

Pastor Mark has currently postponed the message series: Seven Paths leading to darkness, Seven Paths leading to light. 

Palm Sunday: Triumphal EntryMatthew 21:1, Mark 11:1, Luke 19:28, John 12:12

Crestview family,
This Sunday, Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week 2020.  As we enter into this special worship week there are many things on each of our hearts and minds.  The stress and anxiety, coupled with the continual adaptation to ‘abnormal’ is tough.  There are rhythms of coping and engaging in positive constructive activities one day, only to be defeated in some way the next.  It’s been very disorienting.  

As prayers continue to be offered for one another and our world, as we each strive to love our families and neighbors well during this time, including reaching out and walking alongside others both near and far, we must have a firm foundation.    

Our faith muscles are getting a workout.  Our hope engine is looking for the right kind of fuel.  Our love expressions are tested in the home and in the neighborhood.  Our trust is being challenged.  Now is a time of juxtaposition: defined as ‘when two things are seen or placed close together with contrasting effects; the nearness of contrasting realities; the comparison of two seemingly unrelated, almost opposite ideas, placed in proximity to one another creating an intriguing effect.’

Some of us feel fine but others are sick and dying.  We know that God is Sovereign over all and yet things seem a bit out of control.  As we enter into Holy Week with Palm Sunday, we will see and experience a huge juxtaposition: Jesus enters into Jerusalem with great fanfare and ‘worship’ and ends the week being betrayed, denied, and rejected – crucified!  This juxtaposition is intentional on God’s part.  In the contrast of these two realities, the profound truth of salvation in Jesus Christ can be found.  Maybe in the juxtaposition, we too can find our part.    

May the grace and mercy, truth and joy of Jesus Christ be upon you,
Engaged in life together with you,

Pastor Mark  

Here is this week’s video reflection/meditation:    

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smyOyByK_T4

View Lenten Devotional Booklet Here

Pastor Mark's Reflections

Mark’s Reflection Video for the Week of April 1

The Gift of Neighbors and the Blessing of Neighborhood. As the challenge of COVID-19 grows around the world and here at home, the connection of neighbors has been a gift – those who are close – those who are nearby. There is a song being sung, a poem being written – behind, underneath, and above the sorrow and chaos of this outbreak. If we listen, we will be able to hear it. If we pay attention, we will be able to participate in it. Do you have 11 minutes?

Pastor Mark's Reflections

Reflection: Seeing The Long View

From Pastor Mark 3/25/2020

In this time of myopic focus on the COVID-19 virus (necessary), it’s good to peek our heads above the clouds and see the long view. There is much to learn and understand from our present situation (and it will be a while before it’s known.).  While God has narrowed our focus on the day to day happenings of our life and world, I think in the midst of it, he encourages us to look up and see the long view. Wisdom literature in the Bible does that for me. It gives me the long view in times of trouble. The Lord of all History probably has the best vantage point, ya think? So here is a reflection from Ecclesiastes 3:1-14. It comes in 3 points: There is a time for everything (guess that includes COVID-19), He makes everything beautiful in His time, and there is nothing better for a person to do than be content and do good. Sounds like good medicine perspective in the midst of our shared COVID-19 experiences.

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Look to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of Our Faith

Pastor Mark has currently postponed the message series: Seven Paths leading to darkness, Seven Paths leading to light. 

Fixing our Eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our Faith

Hebrews 12:1-3

“May the peace (and love) of God rule in your (our) hearts…  may the message of Christ dwell among you (us) richly…”   (Colossians 3:15-16).  God is calling us to find our home in Him.  As we ‘shelter’ at home, keep this in mind, as followers of Jesus, we find our shelter and home in Jesus, an inexhaustible well of goodness and grace.  

This Sunday, the message is titled, Fixing our Eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our Faith.  This phrase comes from Hebrews 12:1-3, a context of people in the midst of struggle and challenge – much like our present situation for many of us and many around the world. 

I would like to dive into the reality of suffering and explore how we are to understand it and respond to it as followers of Jesus.  In seminary, 20 years ago now, we were given a book to read for a Soteriology class (the study of the doctrine of salvation).  In this book, Douglass John Hall opened up the understanding for me of the Theology of the Cross.  

Suffering, as it turns out, is a part of becoming.  The suffering of becoming is how God designed us to grow, develop, and mature.  It was present in the good creation from the beginning and continues now, even in a broken and fallen world.  Certainly there is good suffering and bad suffering.  There is suffering as becoming and suffering as burden.

We will briefly consider 4 sufferings of becoming (loneliness, experience of limits, temptation and anxiety) and then ‘fix our eyes on Jesus who is the author and perfector of our faith.’ What can we learn from our Lord Jesus when it comes to our own suffering and the suffering of others?  

The answer to this question, revealed to me through Douglass John Hall 20 years ago, and then discovered in Scripture and in the life of Jesus blew me away – it was deeply profound.  It lies in answering this question: How did God answer our suffering?  

Sunday, I will try and put words to what God’s answer to this is… 

Humbly yours,
Pastor Mark

Here is this week’s video reflection/meditation:    

View Lenten Devotional Booklet Here