Pastor Mark's Weekly Email, Uncategorized

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

Pastor Mark's Weekly Email, Uncategorized

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

Pastor Mark's Weekly Email, Uncategorized

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

Pastor Mark's Weekly Email, Uncategorized

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

Pastor Mark's Weekly Email, Uncategorized

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

Pastor Mark's Weekly Email, Uncategorized

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

Pastor Mark's Weekly Email, Uncategorized

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