Pastor Mark's Weekly Email, Uncategorized

Advent 3: Relationship, Social Psychology, and Shepherds


A Universe of Promise: From Creation to its full Consummation at the end of all things!  Our Advent series has been a wonderful adventure of looking deeper into the narrative of Luke 2.  Who were these characters (Caesar, Angels, Shepherds, Mary and Joseph, and Jesus) and why do they matter?

We looked at Caesar and the political world of Jesus birth, a tale of two kingdoms.  We looked at the angels bursting on the scene in brilliance and then ‘poof’ they return to heaven.  Why such limited glimpses of God’s glory throughout the unfolding of God’s story and why so much waiting for God’s people throughout history for his Kingdom to come in all of its fullness?  And this week we look at the shepherds.  Who were they at Jesus birth?  High society class or low?  Older men or children/teenagers?  Boys or girls?  Why could that matter?

Come Sunday ready to worship our Savior Jesus!  “For to the shepherds (us) this Savior has been born” – to ordinary, common, everyday, ‘least of these persons’… just like us – like me, like you!  And that is good news!

This Sunday, we will plan to squeeze in a Christmas program, Advent Candle reading, Jesse Tree teaching, Communion, and a briefer than ‘normal’ message.  Sounds like a very full time of joy!  Come and worship.

Merry Christmas!

Pastor Mark

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A Universe of Promise: Justice, Political Economy and Caesar.


Its here – Advent 2018!  As we begin our Advent journey be aware of the use of your time and the strength of your commitments.  Be intentional with the spirit of the season by avoiding the rush of activities, the hustle and bustle of our commercial culture, and the over scheduling of events.  Carve out intentional time with God in regular Sunday worship, daily reflection in Word and prayer, meaningful connection with those closest to you, and seek opportunities to bless some others.  Or what will almost certainly happen is your life will be swallowed up with other things and the holidays pass by with more regret than joy, more fatigue than rest, more anxiety than peace.  When it comes to the Christmas season – less is more.

With that mini sermon (word of wisdom) in mind, our focus for Advent will be on Luke 2.  We will walk through this epic Christmas story with eyes on different characters.  Each of our five Advent worship experiences will weekly focus on Caesar (Political Economy and Justice), Angels (Beauty and the Arts), Shepherds (Family and Relationships), Mary and Joseph (Listening and Faith) and Jesus (The Reason for it All).

For this Sunday, Advent 1 – December 2nd, we will take a look at the rulers of zero AD: Caesar Augustus, Quirinius, and Herod the Great.  Why does Luke even mention these people?  Could it be that Luke is setting up a ‘Tale of Two Kingdoms’?  Luke is a very detailed writer and includes names and places for a definite reason.  It probably has something to do with the main themes of his Gospel: The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (and save what was lost..). and Today, a Savior is born to you, he is Christ the Lord! 

See you Sunday!
Pastor Mark

Hike to the Star this coming Saturday, December 1st, meet at church at 5:30pm!

Pastor Mark's Weekly Email, Uncategorized

Give Thanks! How to Work Through A Tryptophan Hangover!


How do you get over a tryptophan ‘hangover’?  GIVE THANKS!  Its a bit ironic that we will be having a Thanksgiving celebration the Sunday after thanksgiving, yet, that is exactly what we are going to do.

When it comes to ‘Thanks – – giving’, what is your story?  Out text for Sunday will come from Psalm 107 and Psalm 136.  Over the past two years we have heard the word hesed spoken in different contexts of worship.  Hesed is a Hebrew word to describe God’s love.  Its very hard to translate into one word in English.  Combine love, mercy, kindness, and grace and you have the definition of hesed.

Psalm 107 and 136 recount God’s love for his people.  There is special mention of those who ‘have wandered the wastelands hungry and thirsty’, who ‘are in prison of darkness and suffering’, who ‘are suffering because of their sin’, who ‘are blown and tossed about by the wind and waves,’ who ‘experience plenty and abundance and then the bottom drops out in famine, drought, and sickness.’  In each circumstance God calls on his people to give thanks.  “Give thanks to the God of heaven.”

Sunday, November 25th, we are going to give thanks together as a community for the stories that God has given us.  As you read Psalm 107 and 136, reflect on how God’s hesedintersects with your story.  Maybe you will be led to share something about this in worship Sunday as a witness of and testimony to the great love of God at work in your life.

See you Sunday and before then, have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Pastor Mark

Pastor Mark's Weekly Email, Uncategorized

What Went Wrong and Why Jesus Christ Matters


What happened to Eden?  It seems like our relationships and our world is being vandalized. What’s going on?  Why are things the way they are?

The Biblical Worldview from Genesis 1-3 has so far been a beautiful picture of ‘SHALOM,’ the way things are supposed to be.  God bringing order out of chaos.  The goodness of gracious boundaries that all support the flourishing of life.  The beauty of right relationships with God and human interactions of male and female, family life and community.  So why the wrecking ball that seems to be tearing our world and our families apart?

The Biblical Worldview from Scripture helps us understand this.  The disobedience of our first parents brought into the world a curse that extends to everything and to everyone.  The ramifications of human sin has infected everything.  And today, as with everyday since the fall of humanity, we reap the fruits.

What do we do about this?  What’s the cure?

Actually, there isn’t anything we can do.  When it comes to salvation – the redeeming and claiming of what is now broken and affected by sin begins with God.  He initiates and then invites us into his reclaiming of all things. That’s right – invited to join him in all the ways that God’s love transforms our lives and the lives of those around us.

Genesis three explains the reality we live in perfectly.  A broken world in need of redemption and reclaiming.  The questions that God asks in Genesis three are the same questions God is asking of us today, “Where are you and who told you that you were naked?”  Jesus asks similar questions throughout his ministry, “Who do you say that I am?  What is it you want to do for me?  Do you love me?”  The Biblical Worldview goes a long ways in helping us answer these questions.

Sunday we will celebrate communion.  Read the text of Genesis three for Sunday preparation.  See you then,

Pastor Mark

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Relationship Beauty: Marriage and Family


Week three of our worldview series: In the beginning... Let there be community!”  Over the past two weeks we have looked at some key Worldview realities that come from Genesis 1-3.  Week one we saw that out of chaos, God established laws boundaries for our good and flourishing through the separating and filling of creation, “In the beginning… Let there be boundaries!”  Week two we saw God’s God’s marvelous design in crowning humanity as stewards and caretakers of the creation, “In the beginning… Let there be earth keepers, gardeners, builders, and developers!”

This week we take another look at the crown (humanity) of God’s creation with a focus on relationships; community and family.  There are some very important and informative phrases in the Hebrew language of the creation story.  We will look at God’s design for community and family through phrases of, ‘It was not good for Adam to be alone’, ‘God created a ‘helper’ suitable for him’, ‘the two shall become one flesh’, and ‘they were naked and unashamed.’ 

There is much research out there about the affects of isolation/alienation on our overall health.  God’s design for humanity is wrapped up in community and family.  Yet, these concepts today are fraught with pain and brokenness.  What did God design in the beginning?  What changed?  And how does Jesus Christ and God’s redemption bring this design into goodness once again?

It has much to do with the reversing of shame and isolation.  Today, we see evidence everywhere of a ‘Battle of the sexes’.  Its not a new story but an old one.  What ought the nature of our female/male relationships be?

Lets look into the garden (Eden) and see what we find,

Pastor Mark

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Earth Keeping and Care Taking


We are entering Worldview Week 2.  Last week we saw God’s amazing design creating ex nihilo (out of nothing), calling order out of tohu wabohu (chaos), separating matter with boundaries/governing laws and filling the creation with living things, and finally, it was GOOD.   

This week we are focusing in on the mandate God gave to Adam and Eve (humanity) in Genesis 1:26-28.  What does it mean to be a ‘steward’ of God’s creation?  When we observe our world we notice that the created order is made up of cycles upon cycles, cycles within cycles, cycles of cycles… all designed for our good and for the flourishing of life.

On Sunday, we will name seven cycles of God’s design that support life on earth, followed by seven ways in which these cycles are degraded, and finally, what are some principles that can help us to navigate the stewarding of creation well.  (Earthwise by Calvin B. DeWitt is a foundation for this message.)

Strap on your seatbelt for this one – much ground to cover.  In download, we will dive into another concept of Creation Care: How do we balance the care of creation with environmental, social, human, and economic needs?  Sounds like a good discussion for download :).

See you Sunday if not before.  Pray for the world, pray for our city, and pray for your neighbor.

Pastor Mark

Pastor Mark's Weekly Email, Uncategorized

Let there be… Order


Two years ago in the fall of 2016, we engaged in a four week worldview series on Genesis 1-3.  I want to revisit this and dive deeper into where the ‘rubber hits the road’ by zeroing in on four specifics that Genesis 1-3 informs: Boundaries, Creation Stewardship, Human Relationships, and ‘What Went Wrong and What Now?’

Many of us have some kind of vision deficiency.  What’s your diagnosis?  Nearsighted?  Farsighted?  Myopia?   A worldview is like a pair of glasses, a set of contacts – a way in which we view the world.   A Worldview is a set of beliefs and assumptions – a conception-philosophy-outlook of the world that informs our living in the world.  A worldview guides us in making sense of our world.  Its how one sees life and their place in it… it involves our understanding of knowledge, values, what is good, true, right, beautiful – it informs and shapes purpose and meaning.  A worldview is like a road map determining priorities, can help explain our relationship to God and other people, help us assess the meaning of events in our life, and significantly guide our decisions and actions in life.  Michael Palmer says it this way, “A worldview can lead us in our understanding of what is authentically real.”

This is important stuff – what is our worldview and how does it inform your everyday life?  Genesis (beginnings) is a powerful informer of worldview.  As you read Genesis 1 in prep for Sunday, notice the structure of boundaries.  God definitely placed boundaries for our good and flourishing in the created order.  But Genesis says much more about boundaries in the physical created order… MUCH more.

See you Sunday,
Pastor Mark

Pastor Mark's Weekly Email, Uncategorized

A Missional Life: God’s Last Word – What is it that concerns you?


Here we find ourselves at the end of our journey through the book of Jonah.  And Jonah returns to his crazy making ways in the final chapter.  The irony as well as the story line comes to climax.

Last week we ended with a total and wholehearted response of repentance from all of the inhabitants of Nineveh from the greatest to the least.  It even included the animals!  The repentance is not only marked with a sorrowful lament over their sin, but also included a turning from their evil and violent ways.

And God, in his compassion and mercy, heard their cries, saw their turning, and relented of the judgment he was going to bring upon them.  Amazing grace!  You would think this would cause Jonah to be overwhelmed with joy and praise to God.  And here is where the irony comes to a climax.  Instead of rejoicing in the salvation of Nineveh, he becomes angry and goes up on a hill overlooking the city to pout about it all.  A stunning response.

God asks a question of Jonah seeing him in this puzzling state of response, “Is it right for you to be angry?”  And Jonah responds, “Yep… it is.”  Wow!  God follows up this scene with an object lesson of a growing and fast withering shade plant.  And then God proclaims his message for his people, “Jonah, you have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow.  It sprang up overnight and died overnight.  And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many animals as well.  Should I not be concerned about that great city?”  Shouldn’t we?

Can’t wait to unpack this week with you.  Read Jonah 4 in prep for Sunday’s message – Sunday is a comin’!
 
Pastor Mark

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A Missional Life: The Word Regurgitated


We are on to week three of Jonah – Chapter three!  Jonah has been given a second chance to be God’s prophet and bring the Word to Nineveh, a huge populated city.  His message isn’t a pleasant one to bring, “In 40 days, Nineveh will be destroyed!”

As Jonah enters the outskirts of the city proclaiming this message an amazing thing happens – the people fully repent.  News reaches the king of Jonah’s message before Jonah even reaches the king.  And the king’s response is immediate – repentance!  He issues a decree for everyone, including the animals of the land to engage in mourning over their sin.  He says something amazing, “Who knows?  God may relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish!”

This brings up an important theme for us to consider: Is God’s judgment of sin conditional or unconditional?  Meaning, does God change his mind about his judgment of sin if there is repentance?  This is an important question and we will grapple with it on Sunday.

See you Sunday,
 
Pastor Mark

Pastor Mark's Weekly Email, Uncategorized

A Missional Life: From Death to Life


Here we go – Jonah chapter 2!  We left Jonah swallowed by a great fish navigating the depths of the sea.  What is Jonah thinking now?  Is he having a change of heart?

One thing is certain: Jonah begins to Lament.  His prayer from the belly of the great fish is a classic Hebrew lament.  He cries out to God, appeals to God’s character, and vows to praise God for his deliverance.  There seems to be at least a whimper of repentance (a turning around) in Jonah’s spirit.

There is a consistent message in the Bible that repeats over and over – ‘repent and be saved.’  Repentance means ‘to turn’.  Repentance is to do a 180.  Jonah, through the experience in the belly of the whale, seems to do a 180.  And by the end of chapter 2 he is vomited (regurgitated) onto dry land.  A rebirth.  A new beginning.  A fresh start.  A 2nd life. Jonah 2.0.

So far the wind, the waves, the great fish all serve as a kind of rebuke for God’s people.  They had forgotten what God had called them to do, ‘to be a light to the Gentiles.’  (Isaiah 42 and 49)  Now that Jonah has a 2nd chance to walk in God’s call for his life – will he follow through?

This question is a good one for us too – now that we have a 2nd chance to walk in God’s call for our lives – will we?

Sunday is a comin’,
 
Pastor Mark