Pastor Mark's Weekly Email, Uncategorized

Jesus’ Ascension: What Does It Mean?


The disciples are trying to put it all together: Jesus died, raised to life again, and now what?  Jesus tells them to stay in Jerusalem until he sends them the Holy Spirit.  And then something very unusual happens.  After this promise to send the Holy Spirit, he ‘ascends’ into the clouds.

Read the end of the Gospel of Luke (24:36-53) and the beginning of the Book of Acts (1:1-11).  Its believed that the disciple Luke wrote both of these Biblical books.  He writes in Acts 1:4, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.”  And then he was “taken up before their eyes.”

What does Jesus ascension into heaven mean?  Why did Jesus leave the disciples again?  What was God’s master plan in all of this?  I suspect the answer is in Acts 1:8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Somehow, someway, Jesus ascension is connected to the sending of his Holy Spirit in fulfilling God’s purpose for the world through his people, the church.  Lots to unpack here.  Is Jesus ‘outta here’? Or is he just getting started!  Jesus Ascension: What does it mean?  Luke 24:36-53 and Acts 1:1-11

See you Sunday,
Pastor Mark

 

Pastor Mark's Weekly Email, Uncategorized

Peter Restored: This is what it looks like!

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Peter.  What is Peter thinking?  What is he feeling and experiencing after his denial of Jesus during his crucifixion, and now that Jesus is alive, risen?  I can only imagine his guilt and shame.

Jesus tells the disciples to go to Galilee and he would meet them there.  And when Jesus invites the disciples to share a breakfast meal of fish and bread I can imagine the mixed feelings and emotions raging inside of Peter.  It would have been difficult for Peter to even make eye contact with Jesus.  As painful memories of his rejection of Jesus flood his heart and mind.

Read this amazing story from the Gospel of John chapter 21.  How does Jesus restore Peter and bring reconciliation to the relationship between them?  What do you notice about the repetition of their conversation?  What affect might this have on Peter?

Shame can be a debilitating reality.  It is probably our most limiting factor in following Jesus effectively and wholeheartedly.  In order for us to love him well, and love others well, we must come face to face with the reality of shame.  It affects all of us in powerfully negative ways, even significant ways we may not fully realize.  Jesus brings the answer to our shame.  He is the one who can free us from shame and release us to engage in an abundant life.

Come Sunday ready to receive the grace of Jesus and to give of yourself to Him,

See you Sunday, Peter Restored: This is what it looks like!  from John 21.  We will be having a second offering this week for Graduate Christian Fellowship on the campus of CU.   
Pastor Mark

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Life in Christ – One aha moment after aha moment…

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We are changing gears from The Gospel of Matthew to the Early Church and the Gift of the Holy Spirit!  Beginning this Sunday we wonder with the disciples what Jesus death and resurrection really means.

We start with a story in Luke 24:13-35, as two followers of Jesus wonder about the events in Jerusalem.  As they are walking along the road, Jesus comes up beside them and has probably one of the most fascinating conversations anyone has ever had with him.  One problem, we don’t have the conversation recorded in Scripture.

However, I think that almost the entirety of what Jesus said to these two men on the road to Emmaus is recorded somewhere in bits and pieces throughout the rest of the new testament writings.  Read the story in preparation for Sunday and imagine trying to make sense of Jesus crucifixion and crazy reports of Jesus resurrection.  Questions would abound!

This story gives us a couple clues as to what life in following Jesus post resurrection looks like.  Two truths strike me: One, following Jesus (a life of discipleship) is one AHA moment after another.  Two, be on your Guard!  There will always be an alternative narrative to try and explain away Jesus’ death and resurrection.  So what will you believe?  The story of Scripture?  Or the alternative stories that discredit Jesus’ death and resurrection?

Come Sunday, come ready, come and worship,

Pastor Mark

 

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7 Stations of the Cross, Passion Week

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Passion Week (Passion/Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter) has arrived.  Every year, I have this experience of the Lenten Season: All of a sudden its Easter and there is some shame about not having spent the time preparing my heart for the rich spiritual blessings of this season.  The Lent season is abbreviated because of my busyness and filling my time with all kinds of ‘good’ and seemingly ‘necessary’ things, yet, I didn’t invest enough time in the preparation of my heart for Passion Week.

This week, there is an opportunity for us to spend a half hour to come to Crestview Sanctuary and go through the 7 Stations of the Cross.  Space has been prepared for you to come and spend time in preparation of your heart for Good Friday and Easter celebrations.  Only one thing remains, for you to take advantage of the opportunity, carve out a half hour this week between the hours of 7am to 7pm to visit the sanctuary and the Stations of the Cross.

Passion Week Spiritual Growth Opportunities:

  • Stations of the Cross: Daily this week, in Crestview Sanctuary from 7am to 7pm.  Self led and self guided stations for prayer, reflection, and meditation on the Stations of the Cross.  Enter through the West entrance door to the sanctuary.  Instructions on table in center isle for beginning.  You will be guided through 7 Stations: The Last Supper, In The Garden, Before Pilate, Crown of Thorns, Taking Up the Cross, Death of Jesus, and His Burial.  Each station will have a Scripture to read, a reflection for meditation, and an experience to engage in.  See you at the cross.
  • Good Friday Worship – 5:30pm.  Join us for Good Friday worship at Crestview Church at 5:30pm as we join All Souls Church for Good Friday worship service. 
  • Sunday Easter Worship 9:30am, followed by Brunch and Easter Egg Hunt.  Our worship service will be a celebration of Jesus resurrection and what that all means for life.  We will celebrate in a variety of ways!

Peace in and through Jesus our Lord,

Pastor Mark

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As I Have Done For You, Do For Others

Blog banner with the image of a highway and the word: "Journey" for the study of the Book of Matthew.
This Sunday March 18 is Passion (Palm) Sunday,

My friends, I will be leaving you soon and will not be with you much longer.  And where I am going, you cannot follow.

I invite you to join me for a celebration of all the things we have shared together, of life, laughter, and love.  I want to remind you of the important things for the future.  And I would like to show you the full extent of my love for you.

As you enter into the sanctuary for worship on Sunday, remove your shoes and enter with stocking feet.  The time we will be spending together will be holy ground.  See you at 9:30am Sunday Morning.

– – Jesus

PS: Our text for Sunday will be from John 13:1-17 as well as highlights of several of Jesus teachings.  We will imagine together what Jesus might have said to the disciples during his washing of the disciples feet.  See you Sunday!

Pastor Mark

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Relax and Get Busy!

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My friends,

We are coming to the close of our journey through Matthew.  Things are coming to a climax for Jesus in his last days of life on earth.  Two weeks ago we witnessed Jesus handing out 7 woes to the religious leaders of his time.  And this Sunday, the very next chapter (Matthew 24), Jesus goes prophetically bananas!  Jesus isn’t bananas in that he is crazy, bananas as in outrageously and graphically prophetic.

As he leaves the temple mount and walks with his disciples outside of temple walls he says, “Do you see all these things?  Not one of these stones will be left on another.”  This is crazy talk – what does he mean?

The disciples are confused too and can’t believe what Jesus is saying.  Jesus then answers their questioning by mixing the description of two very important events that will occur in the future.  One that will happen in 40 years to come, one that the disciples will experience for themselves: the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.  The other event Jesus will describe is when he will return to earth in all of his glory at the end of time, an event that hasn’t yet happened.

Jesus descriptions of these events are chilling and can bring on fear.  There have been many attempts by Christians to try and define what Jesus words mean in terms of the how and when of these events.  Some of the conclusions of Christians, especially in recent history, is very descriptive and can generate fear.

I would like to take an approach to Jesus words that may be more descriptive than prescriptive based on clues Jesus gives us about how and when of the event of his return.  Jesus words should not cause fear.  Rather, Jesus words should stimulate two things from us:  “Relax!” and “Get busy!”

Jesus words about the end of all things give us courage, confidence, and purpose.  I will attempt to open up this understanding from Scripture itself.  Our message will be based on Matthew 24.  Read the entire chapter for Sunday and you will be prepared to dive in.  The focus of the message, “Relax and Get Busy!“, will intensify on vs. 36-51.  Download will unpack different interpretations of Jesus return from the history of Christian thought and reflection.

See you Sunday and be prepared for Jesus to go prophetically bananas!

Pastor Mark

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The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats

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Welcome to my friend and ministry partner Eric Snyder from Hillcrest Church in Denver.  Eric and I have been spending regular time together as part of his transition into the Christian Reformed Church from another denomination.  Eric completes his educational and practical training for ordination this spring.  Eric has a ministry degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and has pastored previously in Cheyenne, WY before coming to Hillcrest. Eric is married to Radha, and they have two children, Lily (9) and Ben (7).

Eric and I will be trading churches this Sunday.  Eric is continuing our series in passion week texts from Matthew 25:31-46 by focusing on the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats.  While I will be continuing his series in Luke in chapter 19/20, Jesus interactions with the Rich Young Ruler and Zacchaeus.

Welcome Eric!  Eric will also be available following the service for a time of download discussion.  For preparation for Sunday, read the text from Matthew on the Sheep and the Goats and also Romans 8:14-17 and reflect on this question: Is life in Christ more about avoiding and rising above our own suffering and the suffering of others or is it more about entering into our own suffering and the suffering of others?

Reminder: This weekend we ‘spring forward’ in our time change!  I’m ready for the longer lighter evenings!

Pastor Mark

Pastor Mark's Weekly Email, Uncategorized

Seven Woes! Jesus’ Call To Be The Real Deal!

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We are on a journey with Jesus and his disciples through the Passover week teachings of Jesus.  Jesus teachings during this time become increasingly passionate.  After overturning the outer courts of the temple and sparing with the religious leaders, he now launches into a sevenfold warning against hypocrisy.

Some would call this a ‘tirade’ after reading it (Matthew 23:1-39).  Jesus goes after the appearances.  He goes after masks and facades.  He goes after preaching one thing but then practicing another.

If I had to boil it down, Jesus is calling his disciples to be real – to live authentic lives in following Him.  He does this by calling his disciples once again to humility, service, and the worship of God alone, following Jesus alone. 

When reading the text for preparation of Sunday’s message, what do you think Jesus is going after?  And what is Jesus calling us to do and be?  Jesus calls the religious leaders many different names, “Blind!  Whitewashed tombs!  Snakes!  Brood of Vipers!  Hypocrites (5x’s)!”

This teaching of Jesus can’t be denied, pushed aside, or explained away.  Matthew puts it right in front of us where we can’t miss it.  Title of Sunday’s message: Seven Woes!  Jesus Call To Be The Real Deal!   Matthew 23:1-39 

See you Sunday,

Pastor Mark

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Three Testy Questions from the Peanut Gallery and One in Return

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Its Passover Week for Jesus and his disciples and their families.  He is under increasing pressure from the ruling class of Herodians, Pharisees, and Sadducees.  In our passage for Sunday (Matthew 22:15-46), the leaders come to Jesus with intent to ‘trap’ him.  The Greek word is stronger than our English translation of ‘to trap.’  The Greek has an understanding of being attached to the work of Satan and the demonic.

The intent of the leadership is to destroy Jesus.  They attempt to take Jesus down by posing a series of tricky questions on paying imperial taxes, marriage and resurrection, and the greatest commandment.  If Jesus answers one way or the other its a trap!

Ultimately, the truth that the leaders are having trouble with is being faced with a truth that they have to acknowledge or deny: Is Jesus the Messiah or not?  Jesus follows up these three questions with a tricky question of his own that leaves the leaders speechless.  They didn’t dare answer.

We will revel in Jesus masterful teaching in response to these three questions this Sunday.  For download discussion, we will focus in on the first question and answer of Jesus about paying the imperial tax.  What is due the government and what is due to God?  What is the authority of the state and the authority of God meet?  How are we to understand this relationship? Sounds like a testy conversation to me 🙂

Three Testy Questions from the Peanut Gallery and One in Return   Matthew 22:15-46 
See you Sunday,

Pastor Mark

Pastor Mark's Weekly Email, Uncategorized

Upside Down, Inside Out, Faith or Doubt

Blog banner with the image of a highway and the word: "Journey" for the study of the Book of Matthew.
Doubt.  It’s the in thing these days.  Instead of ‘don’t believe everything you hear’ the new motto is ‘don’t believe much of anything.’  It almost seems that if you have lots of doubts you receive extra kudos – like an authentic badge of honor.

In our text for Sunday, Jesus makes a powerful statement to the disciples about faith and their need for it.  On his way back into Jerusalem, Jesus is hungry and stops at a fig tree to grab a snack.  There are no figs to be found.  He curses the tree and it withers.  The disciples are amazed and wonder how this could happen so fast.

Jesus reply, 
“Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Is this for real?  What does Jesus mean exactly?  I’ve asked God for different things, believing I’m asking in faith, and didn’t get it.  So what gives?  And what is the relationship between faith and doubt?  Can I possess both and still be a faithful follower of Jesus?

An interesting discussion on this one.  Jesus gives a little insight into the answers with three parables in succession about two Sons who responded differently to a Father’s request, some tenants who messed up in caring for an owners vineyard, and a surprised guest at a wedding getting unexpected treatment.  Faith takes on many different faces.

Title for Sunday’s Sermon: Upside Down, Inside Out, Faith or Doubt from Matthew 21:18-22:14.

See you Sunday,

Pastor Mark