Pastor Mark's Weekly Email, Uncategorized

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  

Pastor Mark's Weekly Email, Uncategorized

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

Pastor Mark's Weekly Email, Uncategorized

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              

Pastor Mark's Weekly Email, Uncategorized

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

Pastor Mark's Weekly Email, Uncategorized

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.