Sunday December 15th, Advent week #3: The Conspiracy of Generosity. There is a beautiful story in the Bible about ‘seeing.’ When Hagar, an Egyptian servant of Sarah’s, is pregnant by Abraham to begin to build a family through Abraham – all of this sanctioned by Sarah who has been unable to bear children with Abraham. Sarah begins to mistreat Hagar after she becomes pregnant with Abraham. It gets so bad that Hagar flees. And while in the desert, an angel appears to Hagar and reassures her of the Lord’s blessing to her and through her child Ishmael, which means, “God hears.” And Hagar responds by giving the Lord the name, ‘The God who sees me.” And then names the well of this place, ‘Beer Lahai Roi’ which means, ‘well of the Living One who sees me.’ And then, crazy as it is, after Sarah does become miraculously pregnant with Abraham and she gives birth to Isaac, Sarah, now that she has her own family, tells Abraham to send her away. So they sent Hagar and Ishmael away from them into the desert – really banishing them from the Abraham clan to fend for themselves. And Hagar, soon is without food and water in the desert. She places Ishmael under a bush in the shade, wanders off about a bowshot away and says to herself, “I cannot watch the boy die.” Can’t imagine – and then God shows up, “Don’t be afraid. God has heard the boy crying. Lift up the boy, take him by the hand.’ When she opened her eyes, there was a well of water. Again, God sees and engages. God calls on us to ‘see and engage.’ For two weeks we have been challenged by God’s word to consider our anxiety, our worry… our preoccupations… our self focus… or hyper other focus (what others are doing or not doing)… our busyness… could it be, that all of these things are keeping us from seeing our neighbor in need? And once we actually ‘see’ our neighbor, keeps us from engaging? We will tackle two parables on Sunday – The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)and the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46). Both of them are calls of Christ to ‘see’ the needs of others and respond with generosity. Looking forward – we will celebrate communion together Sunday! And enjoy a church-wide fellowship feast after the service. Bring food to share! Unto us a Gift of God’s generosity has been given.
We might as well call this what it really is – an Advent Conspiracy. The Son of God coming to the world – as a baby! Becoming human! What? God dwelling with us in the flesh? Why would God do this? Definitely an Advent Conspiracy! Conspiracy is the action of plotting or conspiring… God has been plotting out his plan of redemption for the world ever since he created it… but not conspiring to harm, but to bless! A reverse conspiracy.
And how he chooses to make his entrance is unbelievable: a little known podunk town of Bethlehem. Mary giving birth miles and miles away from home in a cave, with an animal feeding trough as a cradle bed… One who is called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace’ chooses to come this way? This is an Advent Conspiracy!
We will explore together another facet of Advent together by looking at the story of Jesus and Mary/Martha from Luke 10:38-42. Both Mary and Martha are engaged in good things, yet, Jesus blesses one of them as ‘Choosing What is Better.’
We have already cracked the door last week in looking at both the Call of Christ and the Cry of Culture in our daily life by reflecting on each of these influences with the phrase Come and Worship! This week, we will reflect together on these influences in our lives through the phrase Choosing What is Better!‘
Our Advent worship season begins Sunday December 1st with a focus on returning to nativity. Several years ago a cookbook came out called Less is More… that’s the idea of Advent.
A return to nativity sounds like a refreshing way to reflect on Advent. In order to anticipate the coming of Jesus well, (remembering his 1st coming and looking forward to a 2nd return), preparation is of great importance. How are we to do that? What should that look like?
Scripture is filled with wisdom and guidance, mandates and divine callings, about these things. It definitely has something to do with less is more. It’s difficult to seek God, hear God, follow God well when we are bombarded by so many different voices, demands, and interests. Jesus ‘coming’ to our hearts and lives in greater measure will require intentional return to nativity. For 4 weeks we will focus on themes of less is more in relation to the stewarding of our worship, time, generosity, and devotion. Maybe by Christmas Eve worship together, our hearts will be better prepared for Jesus coming.
Text for Sunday is Romans 12:1-2. Give Thanks and prepare the way of the Lord, See you Sunday! — Pastor Mark
Happy Thanksgiving early! And welcome to Reverend Andy De Jong. Andy will be bringing a message on Sunday from Matthew 13:44-46 titled, The One Thing Worth Everything (The Parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl).
Give thanks for life and for the gifts of family and friendship. Give thanks for our loving God who provides everything we need for living. Give thanks for breath and health and everything else that comes to mind. Gratitude is a powerful testimony against darkness. So let God’s light shine through you as you gather with others. Give thanks with a grateful heart!
Here we are at the end of our Revelation series. Yet, this is far from the end. God calls us to deeper devotion and engagement in the activity of his Kingdom come. Revelation is couched in spiritual imagination and wonder. Yet, there is much practical insight for God’s people.
On Sunday, I will ask you to put on your spiritual imagination as the entire Book of Revelation will be expounded on in less than 25 minutes… Buckle up for a narrative, story telling ride, through the pages of John the Apostle’s visions from a prison cell on the Isle of Patmos.
The message will conclude with some ‘So What?’ conclusions. Why does this book and its ‘revelation’ even matter? Gearing up already.
See you Sunday – we will also celebrate the Lord’s Supper communion together!
Nine weeks ago we began this journey together into the first three chapters of the Book of Revelation. And this week we find ourselves with the words of Jesus to the church of Laodicea.
Once again Jesus uses the context of the church by integrating his specific revelation of himself, the fitting ‘word’ that is needed for them, even incorporating the geography of the area to call them to a deeper relationship with Him. The church had become ‘lukewarm’. They had become tepid. The region was known for its geologic springs that bubbled out of the ground. Yet, it was neither hot nor cold. So in a way, it was average – not hot enough to be used medicinally like hot springs, not cold enough to be of any refreshment. Looks like the church took on the characteristics of the surrounding landscape. God was calling them to be either one or the other, either hot or cold.
This is metaphorically fascinating in many ways. We, like the church of Laodicea, have a tendency, like any church of any time in any place, to take on the characteristics of the culture around us. Sometimes, this can be a positive thing to be culturally relevant and helps us connect well with the people around us. Sometimes, this can be a negative thing in that our set apart witness for Jesus becomes compromised.
How do we remain either hot or cold in our walk with God to remain vibrant? How do we keep our ‘saltiness’ and let our ‘light shine’? How do we keep our devotional character and our set apart status in Christ while being fully engaged with the culture around us?
Sounds like a sermon waiting to happen. See you Sunday,
What an encouraging letter! The letter to the church of Philadelphia is packed with encouragement – not a negative word in it! Fitting, since Philadelphia means the city of ‘brotherly (adelphos) love (philia).’ But not all was well at the church. They were being ‘hassled’ by the zealous temple leaders to the point of mistreatment. The leaders believed they were the ones who held the ‘keys to the Kingdom.’ Jesus encourages them to hang in there! And assures them that he is the one who holds the ‘keys of David.’ And ‘what he has opened – no one can shut!’
For a city that is prone to earthquakes where people are scared to live within the city walls, much less city dwellings for fear of an earthquake, Jesus assures them of security, stability and permanence in the City of God.
Jesus also promises that three things will be written on them and their clothes in the new Kingdom – a new name, the name of God’s city, and the name of Jesus. Can’t wait for this day to come – it will be my first tattoo!!!
Seriously, we will go deeper into the text and context and look for God to open up our hearts and minds to his word for us. Peace! A literal good word is coming to us on Sunday from Philadelphia!
Church #5 of 7: Sardis. Sardis – a city of wealth and fame. Things were easy for the people of Sardis – the cost of living was high, but the people of Sardis could afford it – living the life of luxury. The church of Sardis gets the hardest message to digest of all of them. No kudos. They had become sleepy/comatose. Jesus even calls them ‘dead.’
There is hope for them that will require ‘waking up!’ What caused their comatose situation? How did they lose their spiritual fire and fervor? As a follower of Christ, I am aware of the ups and downs of spiritual fervor. We will explore some possible reasons why the church had been lulled to sleep… the forces at work are not always from outside, they may have actively taken the ‘sleeping pills’ that led to their situation.
Again, not all is lost. Jesus words are meant to call them (us) back through remembering, repentance, and strengthening in a return to lively engagement in promoting God’s message and mission.
See you Sunday (Don’t forget we have Trunk or Treat this coming Saturday from 5-7pm at church.
This Sunday is a fun morning at Crestview Church – Worship at 9:30am, followed by a church wide Care Group time of connection at 10:30am, followed by a church wide brunch/lunch of fellowship. Bring a dish to pass/share – a salad, a casserole, a crock pot something, a dessert, something to add to the feast. If you are feeling frisky, bring two items to share :).
The message for Sunday is the over-the-hump message of our series in Revelation as we tackle church #4: Thyatira. Thyatira was a military outpost that protected the capital city of the region, Pergamum. It also had several flourishing trade guilds. The difficulty for followers of Jesus in Thyatira had to do with the trade guilds. Membership to be included in a trade guild involved engagement in pagan worship practices.
Think of the difficulty. Imagine you are a potter or a tanner. All your business connections are with people who engage in parties (worship practices) where things happen there that are against God’s call on your life to be ‘set apart’ and to give glory to God in your living practices. If your faith in God keeps you from engaging in these events and social gatherings, over time, you are excluded and your business ties dry up. Actually, it gets much worse than this – after a while you become a target for vandalism, ridicule, and scorn. And this kind of thing carries over to your family and your children. This is the kind of scenario the followers of Jesus faced in Thyatira: Economic hardship and social isolation. What would you do? Are there similarities in what you may face at work or school or in your neighborhood when it comes to your witness for Jesus? There was one more thing that was going on in Thyatira – an enticement to seek some ‘secret knowledge.’ This is a powerful ploy of Satan throughout history: If you engage in this or that you will gain some ‘secret knowledge.’ Sounds like the kind of thing that got Adam and Eve in trouble in the first place…
Text for Sunday is Revelation 2:18-29. Looking forward to Sunday: Worship, Communion, Care Group Connection, and a Fellowship Feast! Be there or be square!
Two down and five to go! The letters and messages of Jesus to the seven churches mentioned in Revelation chapters two and three are for the church of all ages – that includes us Crestview! Brothers and Sisters in Jesus, who have been washed by the blood of the Lamb, set free from the penalty and power of sin, called to be ‘salt and light’ in a broken world, agents of renewal and communicators of hope, armed with the Gospel of grace and truth – stand firm in the faith you have been given.
Our world is destined for renewal and complete redemption. And our great God is calling us to join him in this great work of his. That in the name of Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s power, we are destined to overcome. Victory over death and hell are already guaranteed and certain. We need only follow our Lord and King Jesus faithfully, with endurance and perseverance, wholeheartedly and in humility, finding our hope and strength in Jesus.
The message to the Ephesian believers (to us!) is this: Continue to pursue truth and ‘right-ness’ in all things and in speaking truth, always remember to accompany truth with love for one another.
The message to the believers in Smyrna (to us!) is this: In the midst of any challenge to faith in Jesus, hold firmly to the hope of the resurrection!
And this week, the message to the believers in Pergamum (to us!) is this: Beware of compromise! Romans 12 reads, ‘Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you will be able to discern God’s good, pleasing, and acceptable will for your life.’ The culture around us seeks to shape us into its images… Jesus confronts the subtle temptation to mesh the ‘un-meshable’ ideas, philosophies, and behaviors of the popular culture with the holiness and holy life that God calls us to in ‘being’ and ‘living.’
Over the next few weeks, the letters ramp up the challenges to be and live lives that are distinctive and set apart from the philosophies and religions of the popular culture. Read Revelation 2:12-17 in preparation for Sunday’s message. You may find it leads you to Numbers 22-25…