Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Gospel of John: (Intro) A LIGHT in the darkness! (Advent 1) God has made himself known: In grief and loss

Gospel of John: (Intro) A LIGHT in the darkness! (Advent 1) God has made himself known: In grief and loss
Jn 1:1-18, 3:19-20, 8:12, 12:46

1st Sunday of Advent, 2023: God makes himself known in grief and loss.  Advent is all about waiting, longing, and anticipation.  Waiting for what?  Longing for what?  Anticipating what?  

For hundreds of years God’s people waited for a Messiah, a Savior, a Deliverer.  And since Jesus came 2,000 yrs ago, God’s people have been waiting for 2,000 yrs for him to return again.  What are we waiting for, longing for, anticipating now?  Essentially, we are waiting for what is wrong to be made right.  Things are not what they are supposed to be.  The wrong is oft so strong… We experience grief, sorrow and loss on a daily basis. 

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Advent is a wonderful opportunity to live into Jesus.  His first coming brings about repentance and salvation, the call to follow him and walk in faithfulness. His second coming will bring about a new heavens and a new earth, where all things will be made new and right.  

But in the meantime, we live in the in-between times of Jesus coming.  It’s a time of advent – longing, waiting and anticipation.  There is a strong theme in scripture of God making himself known in grief and loss.  It can be summed up in a phrase from our text for this coming Sunday from the Gospel of John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  Summed up in an advent song: “Light of the World, you stepped down into darkness…”  Jesus became flesh and ‘moved into our neighborhood.’  The neighborhood of our grief and loss.  

Frederick Dale Bruner in his commentary on the Gospel of John encourages us not only to believe in Jesus, but to live into Jesus.  As we anticipate Christmas and Jesus coming again, a 2nd time, embrace ‘the already but not yet’ truth of Immanuel, God with us, even in the midst of our grieving and losses we experience.  

See you Sunday,


Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

OLH: The Day of the Lord (Advent 1)

The Day of the Lord (Advent 1)
2 Peter 3

Happy Thanksgiving!  As you gather with others, may thanksgiving grow in your hearts and minds as you recall all that God has done, is doing, and will do!

Sunday we complete our series on 1st and 2nd Peter, Our Living Hope.  Throughout our series, Peter has been clarifying our identity in Christ, encouraging us to walk in the light of Christ – to be ‘in the world but not of it.’  Basically, calling us to deeper faithfulness, holiness, and discipleship.  

Fact is, life is full of decisions and choices.  In Christ, we are given unbelievable freedom.  And with that freedom comes much discernment and responsibility.  So here are 12 areas of discernment to help navigate the gray areas of life, the freedom choices we encounter everyday, that can lead us into deeper faithfulness, holiness, and discipleship: 

  • Overindulgence: Am I addicted to it?  
  • Self-awareness: Do you know yourself and your weaknesses?
  • Stumbling Block: Do others around you take offense?
  • Time: Is the time spent on it equal to it’s true worth?
  • The Flow: Is the majority of culture preoccupied with it?  
  • Escapism: Is your engagement avoiding reality and its problems?
  • Redemptive: Is it a redeemable or redemptive activity?
  • Priorities: Is time and energy spent in line with priorities, what really matters?
  • Proactive: What about God’s priorities?  
  • Sacred/Secular Split: Is God in it? (He should be!)
  • Conscience: Does your participation in it bother you, bring guilt or shame?
  • Authority: What do those in authority (mentor) say about it?

Happy Thanksgiving!  Give Thanks!  And happy discerning!  
   See you Sunday!
        Pastor Mark 

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

OLH: True and False Teachers – Discerning the Difference

OLH: True and False Teachers – Discerning the Difference
2 Peter 2

Last week the text of 2 Peter 1 ended with the verse, “Prophecy (Scripture) never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”  I have been thinking about that phrase all week, “carried along by the Holy Spirit.”  

Theologians have given this a term when speaking about Scripture – Organic Inspiration.  What that means is that in the speaking and writing of Scripture, it’s 100% human involvement and 100% God involvement.  

This seems to be a good description of what everyday life can be, should be, why not have it be – living life in Christ.  Organically inspired!  Meaning,  being carried along by the Holy Spirit – 100% God and our involvement – all of me and all of God.    

There’s a song, once quite popular, by John Legend, titled All of Me.  It’s not a song about relationship with God. Its focus is on a romantic relationship between people.  It’s hallmark lyric when the song soars is, “All of me loves all of you.”  

And I’m back to organic inspiration.  The integration of faith and life, in living life in Christ, being carried along by the Holy Spirit involves my life, God’s love, my faith, God’s strength and power at work in me, 100% God and 100% human involvement, all of me loves all of God and God absolutely loves me.  Even with all my imperfections.  

Organic inspiration seems important for understanding and reading Scripture as well as important for living life well.  

As we dive into chapter 2 of 2nd Peter, be good to keep this idea of organic inspiration at the forefront of our exploration of it.

   See you Sunday!  
      Pastor Mark

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

OLH: Confirming Our Call and Election

Confirming Our Call and Election
2 Peter 1

Our journey through the letter of 1st Peter has been so good!  Continues to resonate.  So if there is a 1st Peter, there must be a 2nd, and there is!  So we go from good to challenging in 1st Peter, to 2nd Peter, “I wish you would?!”  So we will.

3 weeks for 3 chapters.  Some text for this Sunday from 2nd Peter 1 with some of my slight paraphrasing to have the connections flow, “Through faith in Jesus, because of Jesus, God’s divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life (which is…) to participate in the divine nature and escaping the world’s corruption caused by evil desires.  (So here is what to do) Make every effort to add to faith – goodness, to goodness – knowledge, to knowledge – self-control, to self-control – perseverance, to perseverance – godliness, to godliness – mutual affection, to mutual affection – love. 

Whoever increases in these things is effective and productive, bringing God glory.  Whoever doesn’t is near-sighted, even blind.  One remembers God’s love and lives it out.  The other forgets God’s love and doesn’t.  

Which do you want to be?  
Got Jesus?  
Get on with it :).

See you Sunday, 2nd Peter 1, 
   Pastor Mark

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

OLH: Stand Firm in the Faith

Stand Firm in the Faith
1 Peter 4:12-5:13

1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him.  Stand firm in the faith.”  

We used to live a couple blocks from a zoo.  At night you could hear the lions roar.  What if one escaped and was roaming around the neighborhood?  What would you do?  I wouldn’t go down a dark alley alone.  I would travel with others (and make sure I could run faster than at least one other person).  I would take it seriously.  I’d shore up any vulnerabilities I would have, look out for loved ones, secure our home… 

Sounds like a spiritual conversation waiting to happen.  And it will, Lord willing, Sunday November 5th.  Don’t be square, be free to share, see you there,

Pastor Mark