Just do it…but what?

Once again the national conversation is swirling about racism, profiling, protests, platforms, and more. People are choosing sides, hurling accusations, and getting very vocal about their beliefs, their rights, and their positions. This time it’s sparked by a short corporate slogan, “Just Do It.” Do what?

Clearly the corporate giant (Nike) behind this campaign has in mind “doing” some kind of athletic endeavor. But their slogan has developed a broader audience. People want to get on with life. They want to accomplish something. They want to persevere in adversity. They want to do SOMETHING.

It’s interesting to note that God is the “just do it” God. He’s not content to talk about, to debate, to analyze, and to procrastinate. He’s the God who just DOES it. He creates. He sustains. He intervenes. He gives. He redeems. He calls. He leads. He acts. In short, he “just does it.”

Along the way, he calls his people to action as well. Follow. Love. Give. Surrender. Forgive. Serve.

What is he calling you do to? What is the “next step” in your life? Maybe you’ve got a clear idea and you’re already “doing it.” Maybe you know, but you’re hesitating. Maybe you’re not even sure what those next steps are.

At Seneca Creek, we’re committed to helping you take those next steps.

  • Sometimes it involves figuring out WHAT that next step is. A great place to start is Rooted.
  • Sometimes it involves helping you TAKE that courageous next step. It could be serving, or forgiving, or healing, or leading, or growing, etc. See weekly teaching and serving opportunities.
  • Sometimes it involves encouraging you to stay on course, even when it’s hard. Jesus doesn’t call us to the comfort zone, but the construction zone (see message from August 12th).

God is a God who “just does it.” His people are called to “just do it.”

What is it he’s calling you do to next? What is the next step for you? What’s preventing you from just doing it?

-Pastor Mark

P. S. In case you missed it week, here are some sharable invites for families with kids and students.

When the government gets into the God business

I stumbled onto a fascinating article last week in which the current debates about religious liberties were held up to some historical comparison.  What I learned was a bit shocking.  (link to blog)

Apparently in the 19th century in the USA there was a strong movement to pass federal legislation to “protect” certain religious liberties.  There are parallels between the mood then and the mood now among certain Christian groups.  Then (as now) there were some calling for the federal government to enact laws that would safeguard their place in the public arena (translation: prayer in the public schools, Ten Commandments in public places, nativities displays on government properties, etc., etc.).  The legislation ultimately failed to make it into law in part because of the work of a Christian minister and magazine editor named Washington Gladden.

As the article points out:

“In his editorials, Gladden railed against the proposed amendment. The state was “not called to the inculcation or confirmation of religious truth,” he wrote.

Gladden invoked religious liberty – the same rhetoric President Trump and members of his administration have used to reassure modern evangelicals – to demand no special protection be made. Citizens should expect “equal footing for their faith, no matter what it may be,” rather than particular privilege.

Most boldly, Gladden argued that a religion that needed protection from government was a religion that had no reason to exist. He wrote on his editorial page,

If our Christianity is of such a flimsy texture that nothing but a constitutional amendment will save it, the sooner it is obliterated the better for the land.

Simply put, he insisted, religious people had to make their own case for their values. If they could not, they certainly did not deserve greater support. This was a controversial argument in what was largely a Protestant country, but other Protestants amplified it. Other Christian leaders came to see support for the amendment as a sign of weak faith.”

Gladden realized that true faith would thrive and survive without the artificial support of the state.  It’s an interesting perspective that should give us, the church, pause in this current climate.  If the gospel truly is the hope of the world, and if the followers of Jesus truly are empowered with the Holy Spirit, and if the church is on mission day in and day out, won’t that be far more effective than a piece of legislation?  As another writer pointed out, let them be suspicious of your beliefs, but jealous of your conduct.

Will your faith thrive without legislation?  Will the church shine like the light of the world?  That’s Jesus’ plan.  What’s our plan?

-Pastor Mark

P.S. – Our next Rooted Experience begins on September 11th. If you’ve been procrastinating or pondering, this is your moment. You can register here for a life-changing ten weeks that will help you connect with God, his church, and your purpose!

Ancient wisdom for our current situation

Do you ever think, “It would be good to read the Bible, but I’m not sure where to start”? May I make a suggestion? There’s a book in the Bible with one chapter for every day of the month. And it’s intensely practical.

I’m referring to the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament. No matter what day it is, just pick the corresponding chapter and read the short, pithy statements of wisdom. It’s ancient wisdom that rings with shocking clarity thousands of years later. It’s helpful to remember that proverbs are wisdom literature, attempting to summarize those truths which are generally true of God’s world and of people. They may or may not be true in your particular situation, but reading them WILL give you insight into true wisdom for life. And who doesn’t want to get more wisdom?

I recently jumped back into Proverbs and as the month came to a close, I was struck by some of the comments in the last few chapters. They seemed to echo much of the angst that is sweeping our nation in light of the decisions and conversations coming out of Washington. I urge you to check out Proverbs chapter 28 and 29. Here’s a sampling:

  • A ruler who oppresses the poor is like a driving rain that leaves no crops.
  • The rich are wise in their own eyes; one who is poor and discerning sees how deluded they are.
  • When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding.
  • By justice a king gives a country stability, but those who are greedy for bribes tear it down.
  • The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.
  • When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule the people groan.
  • If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials become wicked.

It would appear from reading these proverbs that unwise rulers are nothing new. Read these chapters and then join me in praying for wise leaders for our nation. Ancient wisdom for our current situation. The need could not be greater.

-Pastor Mark

In case you think you aren’t making a difference

Have you ever been in a season where you wondered if your life really mattered? Maybe you’ve reflected back and thought, “Wow, I squandered that part of my life.” Maybe you’re wrestling even know with the gnawing sense that you’re simply taking up space.

Could I share a story with you? Recently I spent some time with an old Marine Corps buddy of mine. We reminisced and laughed about the crazy and stupid characters and antics of our by-gone days in the Corps. Then my friend mentioned that in hindsight he realized he had wasted some of the best years of his life when he could have been making a difference in that season.

I had to set him straight. He really didn’t know the truth.

  1. I had virtually given up finding a church that I “liked,” and was complaining about it to him at work one day.
  2. My buddy encouraged me to visit his church, which ironically he rarely attended and dropped out of shortly thereafter.
  3. I visited that little church and met some guys who invited me to study the Bible and experience community together.
  4. That little group had an unimaginable impact on the trajectory of my life and faith. I was challenged to take my faith seriously, I learned how to really study Scripture, and I developed a love for God’s Word and his church because of that group. (It’s safe to say I would absolutely NOT be in ministry today were it not for that group.)
  5. My life after the Marine Corps was shaped by those relationships and experiences at that church. Which is ultimately why I ended up attending Bible school, and then seminary.
  6. At seminary I was invited to be part of the team to plant Seneca Creek Community Church in 1989.
  7. Over the last 29 years this church has had a huge impact in our community, and in the lives of thousands and thousands of people, quite possibly including your life.

So I told my friend that whatever else happened 40 years ago, his life back then was bearing fruit in unimaginable ways to this day. All because he was willing to invite me to visit his church.

Am I suggesting you invite your friends to Seneca Creek? Well that’s certainly a great idea, and I would recommend it. But what I’m trying to say is that often in the little forms of following God we have a long-term impact that we may never fully appreciate. So before you start thinking that your life doesn’t matter, remember that God is always working. We just may not be able to see it yet.

Stay faithful. And let God do his work through you.

-Pastor Mark

What if you could hear God’s voice?

Lily Tomlin once quipped, “Why is when someone says they talked to God we call it prayer, but when that person says God talked to them we call it schizophrenia?”

If you can wrap your head around the possibility of a God, especially a powerful, intelligent, loving God, then the idea that God may communicate with you becomes quite possible.  Furthermore, if you can go along with the idea from the Bible that God actually has a design/purpose/plan for your life, then it’s even more likely he may have something to say to you about your life.

But how would he communicate that?  And would you know it if he was communicating?  Is it possible you might just be listening to your own thoughts?  Or someone else’s thoughts?  Even if you pick up the Bible and begin reading, it’s possible to think God is telling you something specifically, when in fact it’s merely an instruction to a particular person thousands of years ago.

The good news is that you can develop the skill of listening to God’s voice.  You can grow more confident and comfortable sorting out his voice from all the competing voices in your world.  I’ve addressed this on a weekend teaching format here and here, but one of the best ways it to walk thru our Rooted Experience.  Part of that journey is learning and practicing in this exact area.

So if you’ve been wondering about hearing God’s voice, then I would encourage you to consider registering for our Fall session of Rooted.  It begins on September 11th and runs for ten weeks.  You can register here.  Or let me know if you’ve got questions.  We’ve already helped hundreds of people at Seneca Creek connect with God thru this powerful ministry.

And I can assure you, God DOES in fact have important stuff to say into your life.  I hope we can help you hear his voice and live out his purposes for you!

-Pastor Mark

P.S. If you’ve been thru Rooted and have experienced growth in your ability to hear God’s voice, we’d love it if you would share part of that story in the space below.  Thanks!

There’s a hole in the ‘hood

I returned home from vacation last weekend to discover that I couldn’t get into my neighborhood.  The main road was closed because a sinkhole had opened up and swallowed part of the road.  (I thought sinkholes belonged in Florida, but hey…)

It turns out the ground opened up because a 5-foot diameter drainage pipe collapsed under the road.  Apparently it had been going bad for years, but finally failed spectacularly under all the rain.  Several friends have wondered aloud why it wasn’t repaired earlier.  Great question.  We like to arm-chair quarterback in the aftermath of failure.  And truthfully, that’s not a bad idea.  We can often learn quite a bit by doing an “after action report” of the failures we witness or experience.

That’s precisely what we’ve been doing in our summer series, “Failing Forward.”  If you’ve missed out, you can catch all the previous talks here.

And if you’ve ever had a sinkhole of failure open up in your own life, or had a “hole in your ‘hood,” you’ll appreciate what we’re gaining from the fascinating (and sometimes tragic) stories found in the pages of the Bible.  So plan to join us in the coming weeks.  Because while we may not get to choose when failure happens, we DO get to choose how we can grow forward after the fact.  As a famous preacher once said, “Failure is often the back door to success.”

-Pastor Mark

Learning to recognize hunger

Would you recognize hunger? Maybe in the face of the person standing at the intersection holding up a sign, or in the desperation of the single mom digging thru her purse for enough to pay for the meager collection of groceries in her cart?

Food insecurity is a real issue for a significant number of people right in our community. We are called to address issues like this as part of living out the life of Jesus. Here’s a reason to celebrate. We accomplished something incredible together! Together we collected 335 bags of groceries for the local food bank, Gaithersburg HELP.

But we can’t overlook the deeper hunger either.

I’m referring to the spiritual hunger that affects a larger and larger percentage of our communities. The sad truth is that people are constantly exposed to all kinds of crazy imitation gospels that are really not the gospel of Jesus at all. After a while, they turn away. They don’t want anything to do with “Christianity.” And they continue to search for something—ANYTHING—to fill that longing in the deepest part of who they are.

  • They will attempt to fill that void with approval of others.
  • Or with accumulating more and more stuff.
  • Or with one exhilarating experience after another.
  • Or with indulging every physical appetite they can imagine.
  • Or with mind-altering substances.
  • Or with the “perfect” marriage or family.

But none of those will do. Because we’re made for more than that. We’re made for genuine connection with our Heavenly Father. The one who Jesus talked about. The one who sent Jesus. The one who calls us to follow in Jesus footsteps.

You might be able to recognize food insecurity. But what about spiritual hunger? Do you recognize is when you see the symptoms listed above? So my challenge to you is this: be on the lookout for spiritual hunger. And when you see it, be willing to offer the only thing that will truly satisfy.

That’s why week after week we offer the H.O.P.E. of Christ, the real good news (a.k.a. the gospel) to any and all.

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” – Jesus (John 6:35)

Together we can keep the “spiritual food bank” open 24/7, and reduce spiritual hunger in our communities.

-Pastor Mark

What I like most about summer

Summer is awesome for many reasons.  And yes, longer daylight hours, and being able to ride my bike without spending 30 minutes bundling up are some of the top reasons.  But another top reason may surprise you:

It’s summer fruit.  Tomatoes, nectarines, watermelon, peaches, sweet corn, plums, zucchini, cantaloupe, and more.  I can almost feel the juice running down my chin while I’m writing.  Who doesn’t like fruit, right?

I think it’s no accident that the Christian life is described as bearing fruit.  Really tasty fruit.  Run down your chin kind of fruit.

  • Love
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Goodness
  • Kindness
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness
  • Self-control

Can you imagine living with someone who was dripping that kind of fruit?  Who wouldn’t want to hang around for more, right?  Those are available “in season.”

God desires for you to bear that kind of fruit today.  This is your “summer season.”  If someone were to peruse the produce aisle of your life, what kind of fruit would they find?  Would it create a desire for more?  Would it produce a pleasant aroma?

Something to think about as we enter into summer.  Let your life overflow with the fruit of the Spirit.  (Galatians 5:22-23)  Make this the “summer” of your life.

-Pastor Mark

What to do when tragedy calls for action

You’re probably grateful (as I am) that there has been a change this week in the tragic border situation taking place in our country.  The separation of young children from their parents is devastating, no matter what you think about the legal issues involved.  However, there’s another tragic situation taking place right here in our community.  It’s called “food insecurity.”

That’s a nice way of saying “hunger.”  Yep, in the shadow of the capitol of the most powerful nation on the earth lurks hunger.  Young kids, who often look very much like those who’ve been seen on the news lately, come home to empty pantries.  They go to bed hungry.  They get the majority of their nutritional needs met thru programs at their local public schools.

But school is out.  And many families are hard pressed to feed themselves.  Parent(s) are struggling to meet the rising costs of living in this expensive county.

This is where it’s crystal clear HOW we can help. With the immigration mess it’s often not clear what average citizens can do to make a difference.  But when it comes to food insecurity, it’s quite clear.

If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. Isaiah 58:10

We are proud to partner with Gaithersburg HELP in their phenomenal work to provide temporary, emergency food supplies to families and individuals right here in our city and community.

This year Seneca Creek has set a goal of collecting 400 bags of groceries during the month of June to restock the shelves of this important ministry.  (That’s 100 more bags than last year’s goal)  As of the time I’m writing this we have collected 132 bags.  That’s one third of our goal.  Which means we have two thirds to go.  AND, we have just one Sunday left.

One Sunday to collect 268 bags.  Yikes!

By comparison, last year, with one week to go, we still needed 212 bags.  And we MADE it!

So I’m asking you to consider joining my family in bringing an abundance of food for those who are dealing with a scarcity.  I’m inviting you to be part of a church that takes action when the opportunity presents itself.  I’m asking you to help us make a difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable in our community.

212 bags.  I’m in for the first 12.  Will you commit to being part of the last 256?

Here’s a list of items that we’re trying to collect.

  • Low-sodium canned vegetables
  • Canned tomato products with no added sugar or salt
  • Canned fruit (in juice)
  • Canned tuna/salmon in water
  • Canned chicken
  • Canned chili
  • Canned beans
  • Dried beans
  • Nut butters
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa, buckwheat and other whole grains
  • Whole-wheat pasta
  • Rolled oats and plain instant oatmeal
  • Low sugar, high fiber cereal
  • Baby diapers
  • Baby wipes
  • Vegetable oil
  • Vegetarian items (soups, chili)
  • Baby food/cereals
  • Infant formula

And then let’s love our neighbors in practical ways this week.  I can’t wait to see how God shows up in this church!

-Pastor Mark

P.S. If you find yourself facing food insecurity in your own home, please contact our office.  We definitely want to help you while we’re helping others in our community.

P.P.S. If you need to drop off grocery bags on a day other than Sunday we are open from 9 to 5 Monday to Friday.  Additionally the building is open some evenings for scheduled events. Call ahead for details.

Power that doesn’t corrupt

(One ring to rule them all…and in the darkness bind them. – J.R.R. Tolkien)

The saying is all too true: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  The headlines confirm that every day.  But what if there was a power that DIDN’T corrupt?  What if that power was already in your grasp?

I came across just such a power recently in a book I was reading.  It was written in the form of a prayer, you know, along the lines of things like, “Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts…”  Here’s the quote:

“May [God] give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.”

Here is power to accomplish good things.  And we’re talking about good things that are prompted by faith, or allegiance to God and his kingdom.  This saying forces us to consider, “What good things is my faith prompting me to do?”  Take a minute right now to ponder that question.  How would you answer it?  Grab a pen and paper and jot down the top three things that come to mind.

This kind of power is almost the exact opposite of power that corrupts.  It’s power that restores, power that heals, power that gives life.  What if you could wield that kind of power?  What if you could dispense that kind of power?  What impact would that have in your life?  In your relationships?  In your career?

That power is available to you in the same way it was available to the person who wrote it.  His name was Paul, and he was praying that kind of power for people he knew; for people who would need that power.  You can find our more details about Paul and the people he was writing to in the book in the New Testament called 2 Thessalonians.  It’s found in chapter one of that book.

So maybe today, or the next time you’re facing power that has corrupted, you can just pause for a moment and call on the God of all power to dispense the life-giving power that Paul mentions.  You might even want to memorize this simple prayer:

So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.  (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

Pray it for yourself.  Pray it for your family.  Pray it for your boss, or your teacher, or your co-worker.  Pray it to unleash the kind of power that doesn’t corrupt but that instead brings H.O.P.E.  I know that’s how I’m praying for you today.

-Pastor Mark