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Psalm 27: Strength

The Psalms are a treasure trove of experiential knowledge.  They are dynamic human interactions with our Living Creator Redeemer God.  The Psalms fluctuate from expressions of agony to unwavering trust, from despair to the heights of praise, from complaining to thanksgiving.  That sounds much like the reality of ‘life and living.’    

As this summer Psalm series has unfolded, I have noticed a few things.  Psalm 1 begins the Psalter with describing the path of wisdom.  Then Psalm 2 enthrones God as King of the heavens and the earth.  And then there are two groups of laments, crying out to God (2-7, 9-14) with another enthronement Psalm in the middle, Psalm 8.  Then a mixture of Psalms focused on a revolving pattern of lament, confession of trust, thanksgiving, and praise.  Sometimes they are expressed communally and other times individually.   

This revolving pattern of dynamic human expression and experience in relationship with a loving and mysterious Living God, seems an accurate reflection of our day to day life.  We are never all praise all the time, we are never all trust all the time, we are never all ‘in sorrow’ all the time… like Ecclesiastes says, “There is time for everything under the sun.”  

What’s my point?  Not sure… yet, here is something… There is comfort in knowing that others, especially the community of God’s people, can and do express their heart of worship in authentic and real ways.  The ebb and flow of life with its ups and downs, even for people of strong faith, is not only ‘OK’, it is to be expected.  It’s normal.  

When it comes to worship of God in our lives, seems to me that God desires authenticity when we express our worship, preferring ways that reflect honestly and openly where we are with God.  God invites the different postures in which we can approach him.  And when we approach Him, make sure we are engaging him with reality – no ‘fake-ness’ allowed.    

Sunday we take a look at Psalm 27: Strength.  It is a difficult Psalm to categorize because it embodies different genres of the Psalms.  Lets explore it together on Sunday – – See you soon!

Pastor Mark    

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Psalm 23: Comfort

I have been spiritually blown away this week in preparation for Sunday’s message on Psalm 23.  I think this is for a few reasons: 1) God is amazing and the way he speaks through his timeless Word is amazing. 2) spending intensive time in the Psalms fuels me as the inter-related ‘ness’ of the Psalms is powerfully insightful.  They seem to fit together like a puzzle, completing the picture of human existence and experience with the Living God.

Psalm 23 has been a favorite of God’s people for centuries.  It speaks powerful truth about who God is and how he cares for his people.  Yet, I think that many people miss the central point of the Psalm by taking the Psalm out of its context (the life of a shepherd and sheep).  Most people read Psalm 23 through the lens of envisioning a kind of utopia.  However, after some contextualization of David’s time and a trip to Israel and walking the land, my view of Psalm 23 have been flipped upside down.  

Rather than tip my hand as to the direction of the message for Sunday, I’ll see you on Sunday or you can tune in to the podcast after Sunday to see and understand where this weeks message if going.  Looking forward to Sunday – Installation of elders/deacons, worship through Psalm 42 and 23, and celebration of Communion.  

Looking forward, God is ‘preparing a table before us,’

Mark 

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Psalm 13: Lament

What are we to do when it seems like our Covenant Partner (God) seems or feels distant or abandoned us?  This seems to be a common human experience.  Each one of us has had our pits of doubt, anger, frustration, sadness, in the midst of some troubling human experience.  What are we to do with that?  How should we lament?  Is there a right or wrong way?  What’s allowed?  What’s not?  Hmmm….   
It doesn’t take far into the Psalms to find a song of deep and gut wrenching lament.  Some of us may have been raised with such a high reverence for God that we aren’t even to question God or question our suffering.  Others may be a bit too casual and have no problem slandering God if we feel justified in our anger and heartache.  What is the right response?  Somewhere in between?  Is it all OK?  

Psalm 13 gives us a window into the Hebrew worldview of suffering that seeks to hold faith, doubt, and a dynamic/real relationship with God together.  It is very instructive and spiritually shaping.  

In reading Psalm 13, you may notice a structure/pattern to it.  The Psalmist begins in a pointed way in verses 1-2.  What is it?  Then transitions in verse 3-4 to another tactic.  What is it?  And finally, comes around to finish with another approach to God in verse 5-6.  What is it?  

What does this Psalm give us permission to do (vs.1-4)?  And what also does it call us to do (vs.5-6)?  Not only can we engage in lament with God individually, we can also lament with God on behalf of others.  What is it that you lament over for yourself?  On behalf of others? 

See you Sunday,
Pastor Mark              


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Summer Psalms: Wisdom

Summer Psalms is putting in the river this coming Sunday.  We will explore some Psalms together over the rest of the summer.  The Book of Psalms is a wonderful tapestry of the human experience.  Pointedly, they describe with passion the relationship between the human experience and God.  We begin Sunday July 14th with Psalm 1: WISDOM.  

Psalm 1 is a masterpiece of Hebrew poetry with several unique Hebrew literature qualities.  Can’t wait to dive into this one with you on Sunday.  Psalm 1 is a beginning to the Psalter.  Why is it a good beginning?  What effect is the writer seeking to have on its reader?  What do you think the writer has learned about God and the human experience that he desires to communicate to us? 

See you Sunday,

Pastor Mark     

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Happy 4th of July!

June already passed us by?  Time to dive into July!  Looking forward to exploring the Psalms together the rest of this summer and also reading through the book, Love Does by Bob Goff as the summer unfolds.  I read the first chapter this week and looking forward to more.  ‘Love doesn’t just think about good things, or agree with them, or talk about them… Love does.’  We will be exploring Psalms 1, 13, 23, 27, 32, 46, and 51 through the rest of the summer.  May you all have a God blessed July 4th holiday weekend celebration filled with gratitude and goodness.   

Welcome this week to Jeff’s official 1st Sunday leading our Crestview family as Worship Arts Director.  Also, welcome to Pastor Emily Crider, our connection to University of Colorado through Graduate Christian Fellowship.  Emily will bring a message from 1 Peter 5:1-7.  With a quick glance at the passage for Sunday, I was struck by the connection between suffering and glory, humility and exaltation, God’s promise of care and our tendency for anxiety.  Read 1 Peter 5:1-7 before Sunday, reflect and mediate on it, and readiness will be in place for hearing God’s voice this Sunday.  

Enjoying time and space with our kids and extended family!In the name of

Jesus,Pastor Mark     

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Cultivating Love in the Midst of Market Style Exchanges.

Its happening again!  A message series is coming to a culmination!  I’m always surprised by this.  I think to myself, “10 Commandments for 10 weeks” and then poof, the 10 weeks are complete.  “9 weeks on Fruit o the Spirit” and then poof, the 9 weeks are complete… Sure enough, our message series on the Fruit of the Spirit culminates this week with the fruit of Love.  

This fruit is the glue that holds all of the fruit together.  It’s true that God is Love.  We begin Sunday with looking to out God, who is love and love is what he does.  Love is God’s centrality and his character.  Then we will quickly move on to exploring the impact and call of God’s love on our lives together.  

1 Corinthians 13:13 says, “Faith, hope and love are lasting – but the greatest of these is love.”  Galatians 5:6 says, “The only thing that counts is faith made effective through love.”  Colossians 3:14 says, “Above all… put on love that binds everything together in a bond of perfection.”  

Love isn’t simply a virtue – it is the center from which all virtues spring.  

Looking forward to Sunday – Jeff will join the worship team this Sunday – looking forward to that too!  Title of message for Sunday, Cultivating Love in the Midst of Market Style Exchanges.  See you soon,

Pastor Mark

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Cultivating Joy in the Midst of Sorrow

This is an Ode to Joy of sorts this week.  As some will be in the mountains at Golden Gate State Park this weekend on a Crestview Campout, others will be gathering at Crestview for a continuation of our message series on the Fruit of the Spirit: JOY!  

The broken record I have been playing in this series isn’t a ‘skip’ pattern – it’s an intentional focus on GOD as the source of all spiritual fruit.  Joy in the Lord, Joy from the Lord, is a deeply profound reality – both profound and deep.  When experienced and known, it can be very difficult to describe.  It is as the Scripture says,’beyond understanding.’  

The fruit of the Spirit – Joy, involves satisfaction and desire.  It involves finding satisfaction in God.  John Piper states it well, “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in him.”  CS Lewis says, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”  Joy “is a byproduct whose very existence presupposes that you desire not it, but something other and outer.”  Joy is a consequence of experiencing something beyond oneself.  

The fruit of the Spirit – Joy, is also hindered as well.  How?  We will explore two main ways together on Sunday.  The Joy of the Lord is hindered through the pursuit of ‘bigger and better’ of our consumeristic desires as well as more practically, our disobedience.  Obedience and joy go hand in hand. 

Here is another thought to ponder: Is joy the absence of trouble, hardship, brokenness and pain?  Or can the joy of the Lord, the Spirit’s fruit, exist in the midst of such things?  

Text for Sunday: John 15:9-17, Philippians 4:4-9, and Nehemiah 8:10.  For a juxtaposition point of view, listen to Switchfoot’s song, Gone.  Look it up and order your pleasure and joy pursuits accordingly.  

Close up photo of Pastor Mark and wife Deone in the spring waters near Jerusalem.

Joy up and peace out,
Pastor Mark  

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Cultivating Self Control in the Midst of Pleasure and Addiction

The Fruit of the Spirit series is rolling along… maybe we should have kicked off this series with this weeks fruit focus – Self-Control.  Aristotle, Plato and Socrates spent much time thinking about this Fruit of the Spirit and had some interesting things to say about it.  

Socrates thought that Self Control was the foundational human virtue.  The beginning of any virtue in life began with one’s exercise of self control over desires.  

Plato thought about this for awhile… and came tot he same conclusion… who is the self anyway?  Who is the self being mastered and who is the self doing the mastering?  The more he thought, the more absurd this sounded.  Anyone who is his own master is also his own slave… it would seem that the self trying to master itself will always be at war with itself.  

Plato solved this problem by defining a noble self: the noble self is the rational self within a person.  And the less nobler self is the passion and desire driven self.  For the ancient Greeks it was like this: Freedom is of supreme value and freedom is maximized when one’s desires and passions are mastered by the rational self so that one was free to enjoy them rather than be enslaved to them.  

This starting point of mastering the self with the self has some Biblical inconsistencies.  Basically, if the self is sinful then the self cannot self-control the self.  We are in need of an outside influence or outside power in order to control the self.  It’s a fundamental understanding in Scripture that self-control is a bit of an oxymoron, for self-control is found in being controlled by the Spirit of God. 

I’ve always liked the analogy of a lure and a fish to describe the lure of pleasures that can quickly lead to addictions.  We are like fish, swimming around the vast waterways of life – so much freedom of where to travel.  And along the way we have hungers and desires that long to be satisfied.  And then, we see something enticing that promises to fulfill the hunger and desire.  We swim around the lively lure – looks so real, so promising.  And then we decide to consume this promising pleasure… and when we realize the promise wasn’t real – its too late – we are hooked.   

Sounds like we have a challenging one for Sunday.  In a world bent on pursuing pleasure as an end game, where addictions of many kinds seek to control us and our lives, this message is relevant for each and every one of us.  Title of the message is: Cultivating Self Control in the Midst of Pleasure and Addiction.  Our text will come from a couple places: The Parable of the Sower (seed among the thorns), Titus 3:3-5, and 1 Corinthians 6:12.  Word out!

In Jesus name, 

Pastor Mark

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Cultivating Gentleness in the Midst of Aggression

Are you noticing a theme beginning to develop in this Fruit of the Spirit series?  You can’t miss it: Every fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) find their source and origin in our Creator Redeemer God.  It should be obvious.  These realities are fruit of the Spirit!  

And you know what – this is a relief!  To generate these qualities ourselves and in our own power/ability leads to an exhausting pursuit, one that leads to failure after failure.  We simply need to receive these things in the name of Jesus as God’s good gifts to us.  Then we simply live out what God has given us.  In Jesus name, we are made good.  And out of God’s goodness we live into the Fruit of the Spirit.

I said ‘simply’ but it isn’t a simple, easy thing to do.  Why?  Because there is another reality – a reality of sin and selfishness that fights daily against these things.  Consider some of the things we have been exploring: impermanence, self-help, self-sufficiency, productivity, and fragmentation. These realities often war with faithfulness, goodness, kindness, patience, and peace.  

This week, we will explore the fruit of Gentleness.  Title for the message this Sunday: Cultivating Gentleness in the Midst of Aggression.  One of our texts for Sunday’s message is from James 1:19-21.  A closely related word to gentleness is meekness.  This leads me to Jesus words from the Sermon on the Mount, Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.  God’s Kingdom is often the opposite of the world’s kingdom when it comes to things like power and position.  The fruit of the Spirit of gentleness will quickly bring us to the notion of humility.  

See you Sunday,  

Pastor Mark              

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Cultivating Faithfulness in the Midst of Impermanence

Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, and now – Faithfulness!  A strong theme is developing in this series on the Fruit of the Spirit.  When it comes to the Fruit of the Spirit we take our cues from God.  God is the source of all these good gifts.  Faithfulness finds its home in the Creator/Redeemer God of the universe.  We learn the truth about faithfulness from the One who is faithful.

Sunday, we will reflect deeply on faithfulness by noticing the problem in the world with faithfulness and parallel that with the problems with faithfulness described in Scripture.  Then we will turn to God’s grace revealed in Scripture when it comes to faithfulness and how we can cultivate faithfulness in the world through our faithful living before God and with others.

The title of the message for Sunday is Cultivating Faithfulness in the Midst of Impermanence.  In addition to Galatians 5, we will focus on the Parable of the Sower from Luke 12 and a phrase from Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

A key to living a life of faithfulness is understanding, knowing, and believing that God is faithful.  Where is Scripture do you see God’s faithfulness to the world and to humanity?  How have you experienced God’s faithfulness in your life?  

See you Sunday! 

Pastor Mark