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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

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Cultivating Goodness in the Midst of Self-Help

Cultivate!  A mandate given by God from the very beginning of time.  Cultivate!  As we are walking through the Fruit of the Spirit together God calls us to cultivate!  We began with Peace, then Patience, and last week, Kindness.  This week its Goodness.  What is good?  Jesus says, “Only God is good.”  Instructive, but what does that mean for us?  So this is what happened to me this week: 

Here I am sitting at a fast food restaurant in Lakewood, CO waiting for Deone to show up for an evening fund raiser where a percentage of the proceeds from the evening sales will benefit Bethany, the organization Deone works for.  

I’m here early because I was in the area for some other meetings.  As I look around, I’m noticing much diversity from race to socioeconomic (appears to be.)  I’m sitting at a high table and next to me is a women pouring over a well worn Bible with various restaurant drinks around her.  We are both minding our own business. 

After a few minutes she reaches out to me and says, “Would you like something to eat?” I said, “I would.  I’m waiting for my wife to come, but yes, I sure do!  Can’t wait to order up a chicken sandwich!”  She then offers me a gift card with $23 on it.  She said, “Someone gave it to me – I’m giving it to you.”

I recognized this ‘random’ act of kindness instantly after last weeks sermon and smiled widely, both inside and outside.  I said, “Really?  You can keep it if you like or need it.”  And she again offered it to me, wanting me to have it.  I gladly thanked her and accepted it.  Then I remembered my own words from Sunday, random kindness is nice, but intentional relationship that meets the deep need of another is what kindness is all about.  

We talked some more and I found out she has been in and out of the hospital with severe frostbite on her feet.  Even now, she has open toe’d (what’s left of them – mostly stubs) orthopedic shoes to air out the open sores.  Since the weather was so bad yesterday and today, she was in the hospital again, and now recently released.  She spends her time mostly outside and on the street and iin and out of hospitals as needed.  

Think about it – she is living on the street, was given a gift card with much needed money remaining for meals for the future, and she gave it to me.  What a delightful gift of grace and a stunning example of the love of God she gave to me.  We spent about an hour together talking… and as I received kindness from her through a gift card and wonderful conversation, my heart was flooded with gratitude.

She loves the mountains, especially around Morrison where she spends most of her days.  That’s right sleeping in the mountains, wandering the streets, her daily needs stashed away in the mountains.  She was heading back to Morrison yet tonight.  I asked her if she was going to be OK – anything she needs?”  And she said, “I have everything I need.  God is taking care of me.”  We both were thankful for the connection we could have for an hour.  Probably met a deep need in both of us.  

Kindness and Goodness are so closely intertwined – quite inseparable.  She was a Bible reader.  Knew much and communicated God’s truth beautifully.  The display of her goodness and kindness was unexpected and super instructive.  We blessed each other in God’s name as we parted ways.  May God continue to provide everything she needs and for me as well – the deepest needs of our soul, everything for life. 

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Cultivating Kindness in the Midst of Self Sufficiency

Peace, Patience and on to Kindness.  Kindness is an interesting word.  It seems very mellow… almost bland.  Kinda like when someone asks you do describe someone you love and the response is, “He or she is nice.”     Nice or kind are words that can lack passion.  Kindness seems so everyday…  
Remember the popularity a few years ago of a billboard/bumper sticker blitz, Practice Random Acts of Kindness.  It was a trendy statement – a faddish slogan.  A well grossing film was produced based on this idea, Pay it Forward.  It was a good movie.  It made people think about kindness and motivated people to ‘practice random acts of kindness.’  For example, stop and help someone change a tire or pay for someone’s meal behind you in the drive through. Yet, it seemed to fade away after awhile – as what was ‘cool’ – cooled.    

Just this past week, Deone and I experienced a random act of kindness… it was graduation weekend at CU and Friday night downtown restaurants were packed with families celebrating.  We drove in on the street that bisects pearl street near the Brewing Market where there are about 6-10 spaces there, and right in front of us, a person pulled out and we pulled in.  5:00pm – I walk over to the kiosk to pay for parking and stuffed into the ticket dispenser was a ticket.  I pulled it out and it had parking covered on it through 7:01pm.  After 7:00pm its free.  Our parking for our Friday date was covered!  It made us smile and set our feet a dancing as we walked to dinner.  

Random acts of kindness are beautiful expressions.  They are very ‘nice.’  Yet, what God encourages us to do is to make kindness a lifestyle.  And you know who needs our kindness more than anyone?  Those who are closest to us.  Those who know us best.  Those who have the potential to annoy, aggravate, and disappoint us.  To cultivate a life of kindness is to be like God.  Title of Sunday’s message: Cultivating Kindness in the Midst of Self Sufficiency.  (Hosea 11:3-4 and Luke 6:33-36)  More to come on Sunday – see you soon!

Sunday is Graduation Sunday!  We celebrate our graduates Damaris Huffaker, Tilden Huffaker, Brooks Knight, Jake Nienhouse, Chase Rietema, Elly Scheeres, Sam Cuthbertson and Sybil Danita Quaye.  Time to celebrate!

(Recognition during worship service and celebration afterwards.)

Living life in Christ and the fruit of the Holy Spirit,

Pastor Mark

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Cultivating Patience in the Midst of Productivity

The journey has begun: The Fruit of the Spirit.  We began with PEACE last Sunday and this week, it’s PATIENCE!  So start praying now that God will give you patience (careful what you ask for!)  

Patience and Peace are closely related.  As with peace, patience springs from a deep well within our spirit and is found in the source of patience – God.  

Romans 8 describes an interesting dilemma we face daily, ‘we groan inwardly’ as we wait patiently for God’s work to be done in the world and in and through us.  This requires patience, as God’s timing doesn’t always seem to be in step with our desired and ‘needed’ timing.  

Our culture is increasingly undermining the fruit of patience.  Time seems tyrannous and constraining – not enough of it and its moving to fast.  Demands and expectations from outside bombard us, not to mention the internal demands and expectations we put on ourselves. 

What’s the cure?  What is the remedy?  We will get to that on Sunday.  First thing first, we need to understand who God is – his character and nature.  When it comes to patience, we have been created in God’s image and God is amazingly patient.  God does not view time as we view it – God is timeless and can operate just fine inside or outside of time.  A day is like a thousand years to God and a thousand years like a day.  

In preparation for Sunday’s message on Cultivating Patience in the Midst of Productivity, read Romans 8:22-25 and James 5:7-11.  We will touch on concepts of Sabbath practice, God’s sovereignty, and what it might look like to ‘slow down’ a bit in order to cultivate patience.  

See you Sunday,
Pastor Mark

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Cultivating Patience in the Midst of Productivity

Peace.  The peace of God and the God of peace be with you.  Shalom.

Shalom speaks of a completeness – a wholeness of body, mind, and spirit.  Things are as they are supposed to be.  It is a spoken blessing in the Jewish faith that has been passed on from generation to generation.  Peace, in the Christian faith, an extension of the Jewish faith, is a ‘fruit’ of the Holy Spirit at work in us.  To say ‘Shalom’ to another is to say ‘may your life and person be willed with well-being.’  

Shalom doesn’t necessarily mean the absence of war or conflict.  It does mean, that in midst of circumstances and conflict, one has a sense of peace.  That in the midst of difficulties where ‘things are not as they are supposed to be’ there is a sense of deep and profound well being.  I can’t imagine having this kind of peace in the midst of difficulties and conflicts without Jesus.  

Paul teaches us in the book of Galatians that peace is a fruit of the Spirit.  The action of the Holy Spirit in our lives produces a shalom in us and produces the action of shalom in our dealings with others.  Scripture is filled with urgings to live a life of shalom one to another.  A past TQ (Test of the Quarter) of ours expounded on this very truth: “Rejoice!  Be gentle.  Do not be anxious.  Offer your prayers and petitions to God… and the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4)  James also touches on peace.  “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every evil practice.  But the wisdom that comes from heaven is pure, peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, sincere and impartial.  Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3)  And Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be (are) children (sons and daughters) of God.”  

Here is an assignment for Sunday you will enjoy.  Look up Galatians 5 in The Message by Eugene Peterson.  Its at your internet fingertips.  Read the entire chapter.  I think it is a well done interpretive paraphrase of Paul’s words to us.  See you Sunday!  And… Shalom!   Title of our message for Sunday: Cultivating Peace in the Midst of Fragmentation.  

In Him,
Pastor Mark

Men’s Moab Retreat, 2019

PS: Ask anyone who went to Moab this year for Men’s Retreat about their experience – it was a good year together!
PSS: Work Day at Crestview Saturday May 11th, 9:00am to 12:00pm.  Be there or be square.  Be there if you dare.  Or if your not there, you will be somewhere.                      

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To the King of the Mountain, Creator of Storehouses of Snow…

It’s Moab week 2019, something I look forward to every year.  It’s the time of year to take a deep breath after a full ministry season.  I looked back over the past few months and noticed I hadn’t taken a Sunday away from the rhythm of weekly ministry since early August (Leadville 100!)  No wonder I was beginning to feel a bit weary. So this is it – a week off! 

I decided to take off early for some personal retreat time.  And so far I’m 50/50 on actually taking a deep breath (a break from the ministry routine).  I’m camped out near Alma, CO and spent most of the day yesterday outdoors just kickin’ around.  It was fantastic as waves of snow showers would come in periodically and change the landscape in an instant, after the cracking of boisterous thunder.  One was so loud, I jumped about two feet in the air.   And then, a snow squall moves in.  However, after dinner I just couldn’t help myself.  I began to plan the next series on the Fruit of the Spirit and worked late into the evening planning themes for preaching through Christmas.  Couldn’t stay away from it J.  Its OK – I love it!  Next series is gonna be great!  

But this morning, I started off better.  Cooked a breakfast and began to journal – like it, love it.  Then I packed up, drove to the end of a road and hit the trail for a high-altitude hike.  It was a brilliant day in the snow packed mountains between Alma and Leadville, CO.  All’s I wanted to do was go up.  As I followed a ridge line, I was on deep snow from the first step.  I came upon some bobcat tracks – fresh after last night’s snowfall.  “O God, give me a glimpse of the bobcat.”  

I followed the tracks up a massive snow pack.  At this time of year, these massive snow packs are firm due to the spring sunshine and the melting and freezing cycles almost daily.  I felt like an elf as I walked easily on the top of these gigantic snow fields.  This year, they are particularly large from the abundant winter snowfall.  

I summited my first peak and decided to go for another.  Everywhere I went, I kept crisscrossing the bobcat’s fresh tracks. I summited another and decided to go for one more, seeing that I could complete a loop by crossing another monstrous snow field.   The vista views were glorious and stunning, the drops off the cliffs took my breath away, and I was taken back by the enormity of the snow fields this year particularly.  I fast forwarded in my mind to seeing the melted snowfields replaced by fertile soil and mountain flowers.  Going to be a good year for mountain flowers!   

A panoramic 360 view, still no visual sign of an actual bobcat, only tracks, yet, God was on full display.  It was hard to miss Him.  After years of drought, he has filled again the mountain storehouses with snow.  Majesty everywhere I looked.  Brilliant white, wafting clouds, Mt Democrat and Mt Lincoln (14’ers) not far away jutting their praise to the sky, like arms raised to heaven.  And this is where the bobcat has his home? Does the bobcat have any understanding of the brilliance around him as he traverses this terrain daily?

‘Thank you God,” I whispered to myself.  I put out my arms up with hands open and began to laugh.    

Before my descent, I dialed in I-tunes, shuffle mode, let the fun begin.  The path down was extraordinary – a massive storehouse of snow over a mile long.  As I’m descending, songs play at random – Indescribable… I Surrender All… You Make Beautiful Things… and I started  running, laughing all the way.  Once in a while, the joy of the Lord floods your soul, and now was the moment. 

When I reached the car, my heart was glad.  I didn’t see the bobcat that had crisscrossed my path all morning.  But I did catch a glimpse of God.  And that’s all that mattered.  Maybe next time I will see the elusive bobcat…

This Sunday we welcome Pastor/Professor Ron Nydam to Crestview.  Ron will be bringing a message about belonging from Ezekiel 16.  Ron has spent a lifetime working with Adoptees and Adoption issues.  He has written a book on it, and continues to engage in this work today.  

This topic is particularly important to me, as I have been adopted.  My core identity in Christ is understood through the lens of being adopted by God as his child.  It’s made all the difference in the world for me.  Welcome Ron!

To the King of the Mountain, Creator of storehouses of snow, and the one who adopted me as his child,

Pastor Mark 

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Amazing Love! Satisfaction and Resurrection in the Name of Love!

As we prepare for Good Friday and Easter worship services, I urge you to read in one sitting, an entire passion week series of events from the Gospels.  I recommend Matthew 26-28, Mark 11-16 or Luke 22-24, or if you are really ambitious John 12-21.   

These chapters contain beautiful stories of Jesus last days with his disciples and describe a tragic series of events that lead to his crucifixion.  Of course, the last word is resurrection!   

On Good Friday (19th), we will walk together in worship through the significant events of Jesus passion with various readings, traditional songs, abbreviated teachings, and participation in communion.  On Easter (21st) we will celebrate with Christians around the globe the resurrection of Jesus.  Our text for Sunday comes from John 14:5-14.  Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  What does Jesus mean?  He also says, “It is the Father living in me who is doing his work.”  And further, “you will do even greater things than these?”  Jesus is teaching his disciples what it will be like when he leaves them.  And it has much to do with his resurrection life and power that will soon be at work in them.  

I’m looking forward to seeing you this weekend.  Go ahead, take on the challenge – read through, in one sitting, Jesus passion through the eyes of the disciples before Good Friday worship.  See you soon.  

In Christ,

Pastor Mark