Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Live Wide Awake: Foundations

We are in a new Summer Series from Laura Degroot’s book: Live Wide Awake

photo courtesy of Pastor Mark, taken 6/24 on Flagstaff Mountain

Foundations
Acts 18, Genesis 1 and 2

July 4th holiday week.  A day of celebration of our Independence as a nation.  It has been on my heart in anticipation of this coming holiday week, the blessings we enjoy in our country.  A nation of immigrants, a tapestry of nationalities, races, and ethnicities, which over hundreds of years has been a ‘melting pot’ where peoples and states have lived under the title of ‘United States of America’, governed by a constitution and a system of government that distributes power among three branches… maybe four in reality… Executive, Judicial, and Legislative… with the fourth branch perhaps being ‘the people’ who make up our country’s population and exercise ‘power’ through voting.  

In the midst of our world’s tendency to use power to ‘lord it over others’, Jesus calls us to a third way.  Everything in today’s political world seeks to divide us into a binary choice of party affiliation, stance of issues (on almost everything), leading us to significant judgment of one another.  As Christ followers, this puts us in the position of thinking we need to choose sides.  

I’ve always believed that as followers of Christ we are called to be aligned with the Kingdom of God, we are citizens of heaven, children of God.  This gives us the unique position of being ‘in the world, but not needing to be of it.’  It allows us space to follow Christ while engaging our world with the light and love of Christ.  This reality presents a third way for us to engage our world and the powers that be.  Our choice is seldom the binary choice that our current culture would like to present to us.  Our choice is more of a third way – the way of Christ and his Kingdom.

This 3rd way is one marked by respecting the dignity, worth, and protection of every human life in the name of Jesus.  This way is marked by an absence of manipulation, domination, or any form of abuse of another.  This way is guided by the foundational revelation of God in Scripture and by ongoing revelation of the Holy Spirit.  It is the way of truth telling, by speaking truth in love.  It is grounded in a spirit of service and often suffering.  It is grounded in seeking the well being of all people, because all people are created in the image of God.  As we seek the well-being of our neighborhoods, our cities, our nation and our world, we must keep this 3rd way in mind.     

May the Lord bless you and keep you as you enjoy the freedoms that the Lord our God has given us in Jesus, as well as the blessing of living in the United States of America.  We have been given some amazing gifts – may God give us the wisdom, knowledge, and understanding to steward them well.  God is good and the Lord bless you!

The message for this week, July 5th, in our online worship, will be on chapter 5 of Live Wide Awake, entitled Foundations.  Our scripture point of reference will be Acts 18 and Genesis 1/2.  Our tentative date of discussion with leadership for our first gathering of public worship is July 26th.  Stay tuned for more information after our July 14th council meeting!  We had a good gathering together for prayer outdoors this past Monday night, a taste of things to come.

In Jesus name,
   for the Glory of God,
     and the building of His kingdom,

      Pastor Mark      

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Live Wide Awake: Seen


We are in a new Summer Series from Laura Degroot’s book: Live Wide Awake

photo courtesy of Pastor Mark, taken 6/24 on Flagstaff Mountain

 Seen
the Book of John, chapter 10:14-15
Guest Speaker: Pastor Adie Johnson

This Sunday, Adie Johnson will bring the message for our worship service from chapter 4, in Live Wide Awake by Laura DeGroot.  Welcome Adie!  The title of her message will be Seen, with a focus on the Book of John, chapter 10:14-15.

Congratulations to Morgan Quist and Trevor Sooy on their Wedding this Saturday!  May the Lord bless you and keep you as you enjoy the freedoms that the Lord our God has given us in Jesus, as well as the blessing of living in the United States of America.  God is good and the Lord bless you!

I will ‘see’ you again on July 5th, online worship, with a message on chapter 5 of Live Wide Awake, entitled Foundations.  Our scripture point of reference for that morning will be Acts 18 and Genesis 1/2.  Our tentative date of discussion with leadership for our first gathering of public worship is July 26th.  Stay tuned!  We had a good gathering together for prayer this past Monday night, a taste of things to come.

In Jesus name,
   For the Glory of God,
     and the building of His kingdom,

      Pastor Mark    

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Live Wide Awake: Growth


We are in a new Summer Series from Laura Degroot’s book: Live Wide Awake

Growth
The Book of Philippians 

This week has reminded me of the absolute importance of spiritual disciplines.  Remembering, recalling, reciting scripture memory.  Engaging in the devotional practices in the chapters of Live Wide Awake.  Regular call to prayer and a posture of surrender to God’s will in our own lives and our prayers for our community, country, and world. 

The chapter for this week’s message entitled Know Who You’re Not made me smile and made my heart sing.  Challenging and convicting.  I think she nails it!  And the practices for this week will continue to bring about the growth Jesus is leading us into.

The Book of Philippians will be our meditation for this coming week after the message on Sunday June 21st.  Once again, I started reading Philippians and read straight through the book.  Here is one of several messages that came out in that reading (from The Message, Ph 4:1), “My dear, dear friends!  I love you so much!  You make me feel so much joy, fill me with such pride!  Stay on track – stead in God!”  

A word of encouragement in the midst of trying times.  More encouraging and challenging words to come this Sunday.  As you engage Ephesians 1 this week in the practices (Chapter 2), the Book of Philippians is on tap.  

See you (virtually) this weekend,
Pastor Mark

PS.  Adie Johnson will be bringing the message from chapter 4 of Live Wide AwakeTell Me About Yourself entitled, SEEN on June 28th.  Deone and I have a wedding to attend that weekend, congratulations to Morgan and Trevor in advance!   

Peace,

Pastor Mark

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Live Wide Awake: Broken


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

Thomas Merton once said, “The spiritually poor man loves his very insufficiency.”  This reminded me of Jesus teaching, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  My mind and heart are going back often to the things I have learned from the past.  I’ve picked up the journal from my seminary days, now 20 years ago, where I was privileged to experience the learning environment of a multi-cultural and multi-racial context.  An amazing gift.  Posture is critical in our response to the sins that ail us.  God has led me to the posture of humility in the midst of our current cultural context.  And that quickly leads me to sorrow and grief.    

Racism has always been a part of the human condition.  A reality that requires continual vigilance, watchfulness, action, and prayer.  As we have witnessed via video with our own eyes, racism and all of its spawned evil is clear for us all to see.  How ought we to respond?  The responses for followers of Jesus can be a myriad.  Some are led to speak something, more than do something.  Some are led to do something, more than speak something.  Some are led to engage both avenues and the strength of any response varies from person to person.  And of course, there are a plethora of possibilities between the two.  

Personally, I’ve been led to silence.  The unfolding of responses have brought me mixed emotions – from anger to deep sorrow, from a desire to strike out at injustice and unjust doers to falling down on the ground in helpless frustration, from launching into full activism mode to the desire to withdraw from it all…  

And then I’m reminded of Thomas Merton who essentially says through his writing, Thoughts in Solitude, “This life is more about hungering and thirsting, and the next is more about fulfillment and satisfaction.”  And I’m both encouraged and discouraged by it.  I’m encouraged by the reality spoken in the statement – we are in the ‘now, but not yet’ time of God’s kingdom fulfillment.   And I’m discouraged because I say, “This kind of thing that happened to George Floyd is something we still have to grapple with?  I want Kingdom fulfillment now!”  This statement by Merton causes me a desire to both engage for ‘Kingdom Come’ and at the same time, feel my shoulders sag and bring my gaze to the ground in discouragement.      

I do take hope in this: That in recognition of our sin and our weakness, spiritual wretchedness and infirmity, our ‘poverty of spirit’ – Jesus becomes amazingly sufficient.  My hope is in Him, and Him alone.  Why?  Because I know, in my humanity, apart from God, the pathway of sin will lead me toward hatred, violence, and ultimately, despair.  But thanks be to God, that is not the reality for which God has called me forward.  

So in the midst of such overwhelming issues to navigate, from racism, sexism, climate change, abortion (and this is the tip of the iceberg), I find myself in the myriad of responses, from activism to prayer, spoken words to being speechless, overt engagement to withdrawing in solitude.  Its a delicate dance of deliberation and discernment.

I am in awe of our Lord Jesus, and the love of God the Father, and the gift of the Holy Spirit to whom there can be acknowledgment of my sin, surrender of my spirit, and a gentle leading of my steps each and every day.  His grace is truly amazing.    

I am also deeply grateful for a Gospel that orients and informs my worldview when confronted with the evil’s of our time.  I began this blog with referring to a time in my life 20 years ago, in the midst of wonderful growth, particularly in a context of ‘the poor’ and where racial reconciliation was the heart of every ministry experience.   In my journal was this poem I wrote back then:  

I’m having a hard time dying to self
to put myself on a shelf.
to lay aside my ideology and activity
and return to God – nativity.

The simple, humble act of resting in Christ – source of love and life, water and blood, flowing, bubbling, running over – FLOOD – bury, cover, drown out my sin.  Cleanse, wash, and fill deep within.  

Breathe into me Spirit, new life, this heart of mine
sweet smelling fragrance, the taste of new wine.
Cut off, disengaged, unplugged from the source
renew, redirect, remove my remorse
relight my path, and chart a new course.

Why do I struggle and battle along the way?
Ever increasing glory from day to day.
Prune me Lord, prune me I say.
Painful, hurt, freeing, dying to self.
Help me Lord, put myself on a shelf.
Glory, radiant, someday I’ll witness
the mirror transformation of His likeness.
Father, Son, Holy Spirit, 3 in 1 glory,
renew me today – make me a grace story.  (MAQ)

This week’s message leads us to a place of humility and acknowledgment of our brokenness.  With any hot issue of our time – it begins here.  This brokenness is to be acknowledged individually and also, corporately.  As we seek God individually and corporately in the face of the challenges of our current context and it’s burning issues, let us keep our eyes focused on Jesus.  I think if we do this, we will be in awe of Him, and desire to follow Him in all things his Kingdom.  What this will do is shape our responses into God glorifying endeavors.

Peace,

Pastor Mark  

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

The Good Samaritan: The End of the Story


We are in the final week in the series on The Good Samaritan.

The Good Samaritan: The Rest of the Story
Luke 10:25-37 and 2 Chronicles 28:1-15

I am looking forward to week three on the story of the Good Samaritan.  So far, I’ve given you two softballs to hit out of the park when it comes to comprehension and easy to reach ‘action.’  The messages were straightforward and to the point.  This week, the message will require a bit more brain power and exegetical chutzpah.  

In order to grasp a more profound theological and scriptural truth from the story of the Good Samaritan, we will need to dive into the audience of Jesus day, the intent behind Luke’s gospel, and search the Bible for behind the scenes connections to Hebrew Testament Writings.  A mentor of mine once said ‘Jesus doesn’t say anything new.  Anything you hear him say has some grounding in the Hebrew Scriptures.’  I’ve tried to prove this statement wrong.  So far, I’ve failed at it!  

The story of the Good Samaritan is no different.  Jesus reference in the story to Jericho, a Samaritan, the dressing of wounds with oil, giving of clothes and food, a needed donkey ride, the compassion of an ‘enemy’… are all mentioned in 2 Chronicles 28 after Israel defeats Judah and is in the process of hauling them off to ‘slavery’ in Samaria.  Hmmm… think the teacher of the law and the audience of Jesus story can hear the connections to 2 Chronicles 28?  You can believe it.

Sunday’s gonna be a fun deep dive,
See you Sunday, 

Pastor Mark              

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

The Holy Spirit Life – Loving the Forsaken

We are in a three week series on The Good Samaritan.

The Holy Spirit Life
Loving the Forsaken while Seeking Justice and Reconciliation
Luke 10: 25-37

Ephesians 3 from The Message has been on our heart and mind this week (Mark and Deone) where Paul brings encouragement to God’s people, “My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth.  I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit – not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength – that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in.  And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love.  Reach out and experience the breadth!  Test its length!  Plumb the depths!  Rise to the heights!  Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.”  

Yes!  In this time of growing discouragement, comes the Word of God for encouragement.  The Message goes on to say, “God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!  He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” 

We are leaning into this truth. We are continually asking, seeking, and knocking on the door of God’s mercy and love as Almighty, Loving God upholds his world – that His goodness and righteousness will prevail.  We are praying for wisdom, discernment, patience and guided action as the Holy Spirit leads us to engage in God’s will, all the while keeping our eyes focused on our Shepherd, Jesus Christ.  

This text from Ephesians, in both The Message and the NIV translation, is well timed for us as we look to a summer of ‘reopening’, whatever that will look like.  It is well timed for our engagement with different Biblical themes (God-children, Broken, Growth, Seen, Foundations, Wilderness, Becoming, Loved, Impossible?!, Live?!, Fear?!, and Trust!) from Laura DeGroot’s book, LIVE WIDE AWAKE. 

The message for this week will focus on the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) with additional highlighting of another story Jesus told of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25).  “See” you online.

The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, in you, upon you,
   Pastor Mark

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

The Holy Spirit Life – Caring for the Sick

We begin a three week series on The Good Samaritan.

The Holy Spirit Life – Caring for the Sick
Luke 10: 25-37

For the next three weeks, we will be looking at the story of the Good Samaritan as told by Jesus, found in Luke 10:25-37.  This particular story brings some challenge to our life together in today’s context.  As necessary barriers to the face and social distancing practices affect every area of life, even in the midst of ‘reopening’ practices, we are challenged by Jesus to have eyes for the forsaken.  

This time is having an interesting effect for each of us on our ability to reach out and interact with others, including others in need.  There is a tendency toward suspicion and self-protection.  It makes sense, we are fighting a largely unknown, unseen, untamed virus.  I get it.  Yet, on the other hand, how can we as followers of Christ be people who ‘speak peace’, ‘love the forsaken and care for the sick and isolated’ when we are encouraged in every way to ‘stay away.’  

As we engage this story of Jesus for three weeks, coming at it with various emphasis and angles – may we with open hearts and open minds ask God to give us eyes to see, and the ability to engage ‘the stripped, beaten and left for dead’ persons on the side of the paths we travel day to day in this new reality we live in.  

May God’s compassion and mercy that he has poured out on each of us flow from you to others around you whom God places on the path of our lives.  

Special NoteBeginning June 7th and continuing through August 30th, we will engage in Laura DeGroot’s newly released book, Live Wide Awake – Engaging God’s Story, Embracing Yours.  Please order this book ASAP for you and others in your family or purchase an E-version. Week to week, the topics of the 12 chapters will give foundational themes for our summer messages and the book will provide discussion points for summer gatherings of on line or in person smaller groups.  More guidance and information to come.  For NOW, get ahold of this resource so we can all stay on he same page together through the summer!

Looking forward,
   Your servant in Christ,
      Pastor Mark   

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Seven Paths: Anger – I’m So Mad I Could…

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

Seven Paths: Anger-I’m So Mad I Could…,
Versus the Fruit of Patience and Fortitude
Genesis 4

Brothers and Sisters in Jesus,

Beginning this week, I have seen more of you in person and that has been good for my soul.  I was reminded this week particularly of the beauty of human connection and the God created gift of community.  We celebrated a birthday in our neighborhood Wednesday morning, a surprise with coffee, donuts, and chalk art.  It was a gathering of joy that touched parts of my heart that have been a bit dormant during this time of isolation.  I smiled much.  

As we continue to best understand and feel our way through ‘reopening’ phases of contact one with another, may our Great God guide our heads, hearts, and hands in sharing our lives and living life together in ways that will seem more natural.  

As a faith community, we will be putting our heads together over the next couple of weeks to determine our best course for summer connections whether virtual or in limited personal gatherings, stay tuned.  

This Sunday, we wrap up a journey through ‘pathways’ with a dive into patience/fortitude/anger.  Through the rest of May, we will journey through the story of the Good Samaritan.  And beginning on June 7th-August 30th we will walk together through a 12 week series on embracing God’s story, embracing our story.  Our weekly themes will come from a recently released book by Laura DeGroot called, Live Wide Awake.  Some of you know Laura through past connections with Crestview Church.  Week to week we can journey together in messages that will develop out of the chapters of Laura’s book.  So get  online and order your book today (or get an E-version, Kindle, etc) and get ready for our summer journey together whether virtual or in smaller groups, in personal devotions or gathering in the sanctuary – wherever God leads us this summer, we will journey together. 

May God bless you and your family in worship this week, and ‘see ya when we see ya.’  In prayer for each of you, our world, and our neighbors.  

Two kernels of wisdom for you, one from Abraham Lincoln and another from an observation of the Amish culture.  Both have some connection to our topic this week related to patience/anger and the cultural context we live in today.

In Him,
Pastor Mark