Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Listening and Doing

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. James 1:23-24

Listening and Doing
James 1:19-27

James, the younger brother of Jesus, is zealous for a faith profession (words) that matches up with faith expression (deeds).  In this week’s text, James 1:19-27, he defines living out our faith profession looks like being ‘quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry’ and caring ‘for the widow, the orphan, and not being polluted by the world.’  These things bring about our salvation.

Now I don’t think this means that we earn our salvation by doing these things.  James isn’t promoting a works = righteousness kind of salvation.  He is after authenticity in our words and behaviors that demonstrate the human hearts response to God’s grace in Jesus Christ. It does seem true that if we were to engage in the behaviors that James promotes in these verses, we would ‘save’ ourselves much grief – the grief of hypocrisy, of criticism of others, and from our own rudeness, abrasiveness, condemnation and judgment of self and others.
In fact, if we practice what we profess in following Jesus, we will experience blessing and the culture around us will experience transformation as well.  James teaching goes to the core of what it means to be ‘salt and light’ in the world.  This emphasis of James is an echo of Jesus own words.  For example, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!…whoever practices and teaches these commands of mine will be called great in the Kingdom of heaven… Anyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise person building their life on the rock.  Anyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is a foolish one, building their life on sand.”
When our faith profession is lived out in faithful expression there is Kingdom transformation, for our own heart and life and for the world and culture around us.

James has a passion for followers of Jesus to be ‘in the world but not of it.’  We are to avoid ‘worldliness’ while at the same time avoiding ‘other worldliness.’  What does that mean?  How does that look?  It’s walking the line of being the world, but not of the world, engaged in everyday living under God’s Kingdom rule.  We avoid being only concerned about current earthly affairs, pleasure pursuits and selfish lusts, human honor and fame, a heart bent on selfish gain.  While at the same time, we avoid only being concerned with the inner spiritual world, that tends to live in the private spaces of solitude in the heart and mind, leaning always toward the ‘life to come,’ ‘pie in the sky when I die,’ being unconcerned or uninvolved with world affairs, being inattentive to the world’s present needs.  We live as Christ followers in the space of being in the world, but not of the world.  Christ followers are both world denying and world affirming.  This makes Christianity quite unique to other religions/philosophies of the world that tend to lean one way or the other.  We live in God’s world, called to avoid both tendencies to ‘worldliness’ and ‘other worldliness’ to pursue a life where God’s heart and our deep gladness in God meet the worlds deep need in life giving word and behavior. 
Message for Sunday: Listening and Doing in Three Parts, James 1:19-27.  

See you Sunday, see you soon – God’s Kingdom come and His will be done,Pastor Mark  

Morgan’s notes from last Sunday’s message…

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Source of Temptation

Source of Temptation
James 1:13-18

Sunday September 21st, we dive into James 1:13-18 with a message entitled – FAITH DOES: Source of Temptation – Born Identity.  James moves us from considering the impact of trials, tribulations, and challenges to our faith to considering the nature of temptations and their impact on our faith.  Temptations and trials are not the same thing.  They are different and impact our lives differently.  

Trials have the potential to grow our faith.  Temptations have a way of steering our faith into a ditch.  Trials are often events and realities that happen around us, to us, arriving in our life from outside happenings.  Temptations are often realities that we engage from desires that war within us.  Trials often are invitations to grow in faith.  Temptations are often invitations that simply need to be resisted.  Trails are an invitation to rise above the wind and waves of life… temptations that are engaged in tend to drag us under in their undertow.  

Scripture addresses trials and temptations in many different places from many different angles.  And James has his take on it too.  When it comes to trials and tribulations, it’s important to lean into our identity in Christ.  Is our identity rooted in our own sinful desires (born identity)?  Or is our identity in Christ (our reborn identity)? 

See you Sunday!
Pastor Mark  

Morgan’s notes from last Sunday’s message

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Testing Faith

Testing of Faith
James 1:1-12

Sunday we dive into the Book of James.  Already this week, James will challenge our common ideas of grace.  We know that ‘it is by grace that we have been saved, through faith – and this is not from ourselves, it is a gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.’ (Ephesians 2:4-9) Yet James says, ‘Faith (the receiving of grace) without works is dead.’  How are we to understand this? 

It has been an age-old struggle for people to understand the relationship between ‘grace and works’ when it comes to faith and salvation and the ‘good life.’  It also reveals the struggle we often have with understanding the relationship between the saving work of Jesus Christ and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.  

Among followers of Christ, it has been my experience that each of us tends to swing toward one side of the pendulum between ‘grace and works’ – emphasizing one belief or expression more than the other.  And thus, our dilemma.  If we swing toward grace we are in danger of making ‘grace cheap’ and downplaying the importance of works.  If we swing toward works we are in danger of engaging in a ‘works righteousness.’  

James is not attempting to swing us in either direction, even though it may seem he wants us to swing toward works.  Sometimes he is providing a corrective to cheap grace. Most of the time it is a both/and.  

I’m looking forward to exploring this relationship between grace, faith, and works on Sundaywith you and see if the both/and approach to grace/works doesn’t help us understand James’ challenging words for us.

Sunday we begin, James 1:1-12.  I invite you to engage.  Read the text before Sunday and ask: How can one have joy in the midst of trial and challenge?  How can one ask God for what they need and not doubt?  How does someone in ‘humble circumstances’ take pride in their high position?  How does a rich person take pride in humiliation?  How is it that one can persevere under trial?  

I believe a powerful insight into the answers are connected to our understanding of grace and works.  

See you Sunday,
Pastor Mark 

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

And So It Begins…The Book Of James

And So It Begins… The Book Of James

Sunday we intro into the Book of James.  It is believed by many that the author of James is Jesus younger brother.  This will add some ‘twists and turns’ for us in imagining how this reality plays out for Jesus younger brother as he becomes a leader in the Jerusalem church after Jesus’ death and resurrection.   James is known by historians as being zealous for righteousness and in his writing he pulls no punches.  He lands his powerful teaching straight to the jaw of believers.  He is known as ‘James the Just.’  So I am going to refer to him as ‘Justy James.’  I’ll explain that one further on Sunday.  

The NIV Study Bible says ‘The Book of James is intensely practical.”  That’s an understatement!  James, at every turn, encourages followers of Jesus to do what the word says, to give evidence of your faith through deeds.  This teaching of James created some trouble for some famous people like Martin Luther.  James’s strong emphasis on ‘Faith without Works is Dead’ messes with people’s understanding of grace.  Whether responding well to trials, praying fervently, controlling our tongues, cultivating wisdom and actions of peace, or using material resources to honor God, James emphasizes that ‘FAITH DOES.’  Strap on your seatbelt as James brings it to us straight.  Then unstrap your seatbelt and get moving – put your faith into action!

Also, notice the picture shown here of notes from last weeks sermon.  Morgan, our middle daughter has been doing this for years already.  As she takes in a message, she draws and takes notes – a live ‘sermon illustrator.’  I will share these from time to time as notes and images that may help bring the truth of God’s word to life – a reminder of where we were a week ago.

Peace to you in the name of Jesus, 

Pastor Mark    

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

The Power is Already in the Seed

The Power is Already in the Seed
The Gospel of Mark, ch 4

Crestview family, this week, we have a ‘tweener’ message between our series of Live Wide Awake (Summer 2020) and The Book of James (beginning September 6th – Nov 22nd).  This is a great opportunity to focus on a pointed emphasis of Jesus’ teachings on the Kingdom of God.    Jesus teaches about the Kingdom of God often in parables.  

Parables are short stories that open up a world of truth.  There is a concrete comparison in every parable of Jesus that isn’t a deep mystery to figure out.  Yet, every parable of Jesus about the Kingdom of God invites the imagination to wonder about its profound reality.  And Jesus teaches in parables knowing that some will understand and ‘get it’ and others will not.    

We will explore some truths about the Kingdom of God: What is it?  How do we see it?  Where do we recognize it?  How does it come into being?  How does it affect our everyday life?  Why is it important?  

Good stuff for Sunday.  Can’t go wrong with the Word of God.  We will be focusing on Mark chapter 4 where Mark weaves together a series of parables about the Kingdom of God and seeds.  One idea that will come through clearly is that the power of God is already in the seed.  And the seed will grow in God’s time and in God’s way.  Concrete comparisons can be understood from these parables about the seed while at the same time our imaginations can be encouraged to wonder about the reality of the Kingdom of God.

See you Sunday,
Pastor Mark  

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Live Wide Awake: Trust!

We are in a new Summer Series from Laura Degroot’s book: Live Wide Awake

Luke 11, Matthew 6

It has been good to see people at our outdoor worship venue on the grounds of Crestview Church the past two weeks.  Live streaming also went well from the feedback we have received.  Let us know if you have any other feedback for us on how we can further enhance the experience for those of you who are attending from home.  

This week we wrap up our summer series that highlighted Scriptures based on the main themes from Laura DeGroot’s book, Live Wide Awake.  Thanks to Laura for her engagement with us over the summer through her book, bringing a message in the series, several conversations with me, and her engagement with the Women’s Bible Study.  

As we conclude our summer series this Sunday, I will give a brief sweeping review of the themes we encountered and then dive into a passionate presentation of what causes me to Live Wide Awake. This will include Scripture that provides kindling to the fire that fuels my life on a regular basis and various quotes by other LIve Wide Awake kind of people that stimulate my faith.  

I couldn’t keep up in the writing of this week’s message with the speed of my mind and heart in preparation.  When God’s truth and salvation, life and light, come together in the human heart, there is an explosion of sorts… That is what happened for me this week.  To God be the glory.

Looking forward to Sunday already, with the intentional window of time set aside to be in God’s Word and presence with you.  In this time where there is confusion, wondering, struggle, and challenges, it’s important to ‘cling to what is necessary’ (Gregory of Nyssa, 4th Century).   

As we step into the Book of James beginning Labor Day weekend, James 1:2-3 speaks of trials.  The ‘testing of our faith produces perseverance so we might be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  What does that look like?  A preview of what is to come.

In Him,
Pastor Mark  

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Live Wide Awake: Fear?!

We are in a new Summer Series from Laura Degroot’s book: Live Wide Awake

Matthew 14

Thank you God for Colorado weather where it seems like the sun is always shining and the breezes are always blowing!  As council and staff, we praise God for the good start to our outdoor worship and live streaming this past Sunday.  Special thanks to Vince Huffaker for researching and pulling off our livestream seamlessly and with quality!  We are looking to improve the experience by making some fine adjustments to it week to week.  

We are in the home stretch with our summer series thematically structured on Live Wide Awake, a book by author and former Crestview member, Laura DeGroot.  This Sunday we will focus on Laura’s chapter, Fear Knots.  So for the follower of Jesus, which is it, “Fear Knot” or “Fear Not!”  Be good to explore together some things about the nature of fear and its place in our lives.

How much space and time does fear occupy in your day to day life?  What are the things that bring you fear?  What are your fear ‘factors’?  How does the reality of God, God’s promises, his constant presence with you by way of the Holy Spirit inform your fear?  

Fear is a fact of life.  Fear is real.  Yet, Scripture has some things to say about fear and the place and space it should have in our lives.  See you Sunday, August 16th, 9:30am either in person or via livestream.  Probably gonna be 75 degrees and sunny – bring a sunhat, an umbrella, or a beach towel and catch some rays… God’s word should shed light on whatever else is needed. 

Been reading Amos 5 and Micah 6… ‘Seek the Lord… act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God…”  The good Word for everyday, including today,

Pastor Mark