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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

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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

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A Missional Life: Jonah 1: Try and Run

Into our faith community for the next four weeks comes the Biblical story of Jonah. So also, message of the Book of Jonah to the people of God is also coming to our faith community over the next four weeks: God’s Call for HisPeople, Repentance and God’s Justice/Mercy, Running from God’s Call on our Lives, and God’s Concern and Grace for the People of the World.

Jonah is an amazing book in its message, story and literary quality – a masterpiece.  Every word matters.  Its pithy and filled with adventure and challenging truth. It also filled with stunning irony.  Can’t wait to explore this book with you.

For Sunday, read Jonah chapter 1.  Don’t read any further 🙂   Let’s be surprised by the text as we walk through the next 4 weeks together.  Ask yourself Who is the main actor/character of the first chapter? and Where do you see irony in the first chapter?  

See you Sunday!
Pastor Mark

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Feasting on the Heidelberger: In One Big Bite!

Sunday, September 23rd, we conclude our Creeds and Confessions series with a tour through the Heidelberg Catechism: Feasting on the Heidelberger in One Big Bite!  

This catechism of the Reformation period is one of the most widely loved and engaged on a larger ecumenical circle of faith.  I think the main reason for it broad appeal is its personal and heart felt language.

It’s organization is basically three parts of Sin, Salvation, and Service.  Or another catchy way to remember it is Guilt, Grace, Gratitude.  It is divided into 52 Lord’s Days to parallel the 52 Sunday’s of the calendar year.  It’s format is a question and answer structure.  Embedded in the catechism are the Apostles Creed, The Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments.  It makes for a great Profession of Faith document.

So, here it goes.  I will give you the entire Heidelberg Catechism, all 52 Lord’s Days, and 129 Q&A’s in about 20 minutes.  That’s right – about 20 minutes.  Since the HC has so much personal character, it will be a personal presentation.

See you Sunday!
(here is a snapshot of someone’s notes from last week on the Canon’s of Dort.)

Pastor Mark

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Canons of Dordt: Why It Matters?

Here we go… We wrap up our Creeds and Confessions series over the next two more weeks by looking intently at the Canons of Dordt and the Heidelberg Catechism.  Both of these documents were born out of the rough and tumble period of 16th Century church history known as the Reformation.

This week we dive into the Canons of Dordt (not to be confused with cannons that fire shot put size, musket like metal through the air at ones opponent in war.)  However, these were serious matters to people of the Reformation and theological sparing and theological barbs were fired at one another throughout this time period.

The Canons of Dordt is the response of the reformers to the teachings of Jacob Arminius, later known as Arminianism.  The followers of Arminius’ teachings wrote up five points of doctrine known as the Remonstrance of 1610.  It focused on key disagreements on issues of Depravity, Atonement, Election, Grace and the Permanence of Grace.  The Canons of Dordt are the reformers rebuttal to Arminianism.

We are diving in deep this coming Sunday, make sure to bring your brain as well as your heart to worship.  We are going to worship through the 5 main doctrines of the Canons of Dordt this Sunday.  And either this week or next, conclude our worship service with Communion.  Why? Because these final two confessions center around our understanding of Grace.  Grace is grace because Salvation belongs to God alone!  Stay tuned!

See you Sunday as we walk through the Cannons of Dordt, almost like a tennis match.  Arminius serves it up and the reformers volley – five serves and five volley’s.

The picture associated with this post is from Castle Valley outside Moab, Utah.  This picture reminds me of the holy ground we will tread on when discussing matters of Salvation in God Alone.  May God bless us as we seek understanding of our faith in Jesus Christ.

In Christ alone,
Pastor Mark

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My Experience with the Wind and the Waves

A text for Sunday, September 9th, 2018: Romans 5:6-8, “At just the right time, when we were powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

“The day was August 3, 2011.  All through the night and continuing into Wednesday, the wind had been blowing at gale force.  The waves had been building for hours now.  It was one of those days where my sailing buddy is looking out his family practice window, and I’m looking out my church office window at the steady bend of the trees in the wind – and our minds begin to day dream about how high the waves must be on Lake Michigan.  Our hearts begin to flutter as we can feel the pull of the rudder and the wind in the sails, the splash of water as we cut through the waves, feel the speed of the our 16’ Cat (catamaran) as we fly over the water… we can sense these things even as we sit inside our offices looking out the window… When John and I connected about noon, we both had the same thing on our minds- how can we get down to the beach and out on the water…

It was a warm day with a powerful and steady southeast wind.  As we crested the dune on the walkway leading down to the beach we stared in awe at the size and power of the waves.  And the waves were cresting and rolling over as far as we could see – consistently 10-12 feet from depth to peak and there was no end to the whitecaps…

The thrill of giving it a try was too much for us so we rigged the sails and pulled the 16 foot, nimble and fast Cat down into the water…

When the wind and waves are this violent and prolonged water volume builds up along the beach-line and forms riptides as the water finds a way of escape back out the lake.  On this day, the riptides were strong…

A coast guard officer caught our eye and frantically waved us over, wanting us to come closer.  This is where the adrenaline really kicked in – I would describe the waves as madness.  As we neared, we could see what the people were so frantically pointing at… a teenage girl was quickly being swept past them in the riptide.  She was difficult to track, as she would disappear under the waves as they passed over her.  She didn’t look good, barely able to keep her above water when she would surface again.  After a couple times of her appearing and disappearing, she was already swept past the group on the pier trying to reach her…

And this is where I didn’t really think – I just jumped…”

Here is another text for this Sunday: 2 Corinthians 5:15, 17, “He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised to life again.  If anyone is in Christ, he/she is a new creation.  The old is gone and the new is here!”

This Sunday is our outdoor fall kickoff service.  Pancake breakfast begins at 8:45am!  Followed by a 9:30am worship service.  For an outdoor service we will have an outdoor message.  The message will tell of a true life story of a blustery day on Lake Michigan with my buddy playing in the monstrous wind and waves.  God placed us in the right place at the right time to risk a rescue of a drowning girl.  Little did I know that it would be me who almost drowned before it was over.  God has given me an experience I will never forget. And through it, has imparted some truth about his love for his world that I now understand more fully.  This coming Sunday, the rest of the story.

From death to life, in Jesus Christ,

Pastor Mark

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The King and Kingdom

Labor Day Weekend is here!  Every year this marks the end of summer rhythms and the beginning of the school year and the onset of fall.  I know – many of you are already engaged in school, classes, sports, etc, yet this holiday weekend always highlights a new season for me.

For the next two weeks, I am stepping back from our series on the Creeds and Confessions to focus on King and Kingdom: The Kingdom of God Level 400! (Sept 2nd) and My Experience with God and the Wind and the Waves (Sept 9th) for our pancake breakfast, fall kickoff, outdoor worship service.  We will finish out our Creeds and Confessions series with the Canons of Dordt and the Heidelberg Catechism on September 16th and 23rd.

So what is the Kingdom of God?  And who is the King?  Is the Kingdom of God literal or figurative?  Is it something that is real now or will it be realized sometime in the future?  And why does this even matter?  Does King and Kingdom actually affect my life today?

Good questions for a Sunday morning coming soon.  Give thanks for the gift of the summer season and all its blessings – it will be back again next year.  Here are some pictures of some local summer beauty – The Flatirons (by Woody Green), Royal Arch in Chataqua, Nymph Lake and Ouzel Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Royal Arch - nice.jpg   

See you Sunday,

Pastor Mark

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The Belhar Confession: Why Does It Matter?

As I am getting back in the saddle this week ramping up from a trot to a gallop, I revisited last week’s weekly post, where it reads, “CS Lewis writes about the unexpectedness and unpredictability in life.  He says, ‘For good as for ill one never knows what is coming next.’  Although this can be disconcerting to those of us who like to plan everything out and for everything to go according to our plan.  And when it doesn’t we become irritated or upset.  He goes on to say, ‘There is a brighter side to the same principle.  When we lose one blessing, another is often most unexpectedly given in its place.'”  WOW!

I didn’t expect these words to make such profound impact in less than a week.  I was fully expecting a hard and difficult 100 mile trail run in Leadville, CO this past week.  What I got was a DNF.  Its hard to look at a DNF, especially as driven and competitive as I can be.  And after so much investment and work towards completing this goal, it sure is disappointing.

But as CS Lewis says, “When we lose one blessing, another is often most unexpectedly given in its place.”  That is God’s grace!  While I carry a bit of sadness and disappointment from a goal not reached this past weekend, my heart is filled to overflowing today.  God’s blessings are being poured over me with power and regularity, like the waves that pound the ocean shore.  And when I think I’ve had my fill, God pours out some more.  You need me to tell you the ways?  Just ask me.

So here we go, back in the saddle ready to ride… I have a new motto now, Why would you run when you can bike?  Ha!  Sounds like a motto for life 🙂  Just keep pedaling I say.

Over the past couple of Sunday’s together we have covered the Creeds and Confessions: Why do they matter?  The first week we covered the early Christian Creeds emphasizing the importance and centrality of God in Trinity and the two natures of Christ – the Apostels, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds.  The second week we covered one of our three Confessions, the Belgic Confession, which affirms the central Christian beliefs, birthed out of the Reformation of the 16th Century.  This week we jump forward again to look at one of our Contemporary Testimonies, the Belhar Confession, recently adopted last year by Synod, our governing body.

The Belhar Confession is birthed out of the segregation and discrimination policy and practices of Apartheid in South Africa.  It is a powerful statement of belief by the Reformed churches in South Africa addressing God’s design of unity in diversity especially when it comes to race and socioeconomic differences in the church of Jesus Christ.  This confession packs power and passion as it is born out of much pain and suffering under the atrocities of Apartheid.  The Belhar Confession speaks contemporary gospel truth into our world context today: themes of unity, reconciliation, and justice.

This Sunday, August 26th, we celebrate our recent years with Sydney Yapoujian as our Worship ArtsPastor.  This Sunday will be Sydney’s official final Sunday in her staff role here at Crestview.  However, Sydney and Artine aren’t going anywhere, just shifting priorities of time and commitments at this time in their life together and Sydney/Artine will continue be a regular face in our continued worship expressions and fellowship/leadership at Crestview. We are so thankful for you Sydney!  And as you step away from your official role here at Crestview, we pray for God to bless you and Artine in this decision and pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we search and find the next person to step into this role for us at Crestview.

May the name of the Lord be praised,
Pastor Mark

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Unexpected Encounters with God

Welcome to Jacci Busch!  Jacci, Andrew, Deone and I have connections that go back to seminary days and Madison Square Church in Grand Rapids, MI.  So glad that she is coming to bring the message to our Crestview Community.  Jacci shares a passion for God’s word and the desire to follow Jesus faithfully and authentically.  Thank you Jacci for bringing us God’s word this Sunday.

This vacation time has had a steady diet of devotions from Dietrich Bonhoeffer that drop into my inbox from Bible Gateway… O my, an amazing interruption… as I sit here and right this to you, a young male moose has just stepped out of the woods right in front of me.  Wow!  Praise God for this wonderful sighting.

Where was I?  Bonhoeffer… well, just as I was unexpectedly surprised by this young male moose sighting, I am going to unexpectedly change my reflection to C S Lewis.  In a letter to a friend, C S Lewis writes about the unexpectedness and unpredictability in life.  He says, “For good as for ill one never knows what is coming next.”  Although this can be disconcerting to those of us who like to plan everything out and for everything to go according to our plan.  And when it doesn’t we become irritated or upset.  He goes on to say, “There is a brighter side to the same principle.  When we lose one blessing, another is often most unexpectedly given in its place.”

This seems to be a good way to embrace daily life.  In the midst of life’s up and down’s there is unexpected joy of an encounter with God in unexpected places.  It also seems that these unexpected encounters with God through nature, through others, through events, can only bring joy if they are recognized.  Lord, give us eyes to see you in the unexpected encounters you bring on a daily basis.  Turn our hearts and our inclinations toward you – bring us joy.

Some people have asked me this week how things went last weekend with the races.  Well… looking back on it, I’d say it went very well.  The 100-mile Mountain Bike Race was challenging this year.  Race day this year was warmer than normal and that may have contributed to the management of significant on and off cramping of my calf and quad muscles over the last 50 miles.  This was painful for me to work through, but the end result was just fine.  I finished with a respectable time.  The next day, the 10K foot race felt good on the leg muscles.

What this means is I have one final event to go to complete this crazy Leadville Series goal – the 100 Mile Trail Run.  I have never done anything like this before in my life and after this weekend, never will again.  A one and done for sure!  This Saturday at 4am I line up with 600 others to attempt a 100 mile out and back Trail Run within a 30-hour cutoff time limit.  The first 50 miles I have to complete solo.  At the 50-mile turnaround I am allowed to have a pacer with me for the remainder of the race.  A pacer will act as a ‘pack mule’ for lack of a better term; carrying water, food, clothing, lights, etc. and coaxing me along to the finish.

I again ask for your prayers and I ask that you would pray for my pacers as we attempt this goal.  My pacers are Dewayne and Joanne Niebur, Ryan DeGroot, Erik Newhouse, and Morgan Quist.  I ask for prayers for endurance, perseverance, and safety for me and the pacers as we run over rugged trails, mountain passes, ford a couple rivers, and ultimately end up at grandmothers house – Downtown Leadville.

See you soon, be back in the saddle on Tuesday August 21st.

Pastor Mark