What’s a human worth?

BoyWhen you see another person, what are they worth?  How do you decide (which we all do)?

  • When someone doesn’t meet our expectations, we can treat them as slightly less valuable.
  • When we accomplish something (thru whatever means), we can begin to believe that we’re slightly more valuable.
  • When we see someone who is caught in a cycle of (fill in the blank: addiction, relationship failure, lack of boundaries, cultural myths…) we start to move them down a notch on the value scale.
  • When we encounter someone who hasn’t learned or remembered what we know, they drop in value in our minds.
  • When we learn that the other person doesn’t think like we do, or vote like we do, we’re inclined to devalue them, and add value to those who do agree with us and vote with us.
  • And whenever our value goes up in our minds, or the other person’s value goes down, we are flying in the face of the real value of each person.  Because the truth is, we have value because we’re created by God, and for God.  Call it BGFG.

So when you look in the mirror, remember that your value is beyond calculation… Before you ever do or say anything. Nothing you do or say will change that!

Likewise, when the next person enters your field of vision, regardless of how they look, love, act, talk, smell, or treat you, they also have value beyond calculation.  And remembering that will definitely change the way you treat them.  And quite likely change the world in the process!

BGFG.

What’s a human worth?  Well God thinks a human is worth dying for.  Do you agree with him?  –

Pastor Mark

The wrecking ball of God

 

If you’ve been around Seneca Creek this summer you’ve no doubt seen the signs of construction.  Dumpsters, danger signs, and debris are everywhere.  And imagine my surprise when I returned to the office after vacation! 

The entrance to our staff offices was completely gone.  The lovely glass wall was replaced by a temporary wall marked with blue tape.  Drab, dull, and just a bit confusing.
But all this disruption is necessary if we’re going to make way for something new, something better.  Before we can build a space for children and students we have to bring in the wrecking ball and take out the old structures.  Demolition precedes construction.

I’ve observed that God often brings his wrecking ball into our lives.  Not to make life miserable, but to make room for something new.  And in order to accomplish that, often the old has to go.

  • The old habits that are woven into our life…yes some of them are truly addictions
  • The old hobbies that compete for the place that rightly belongs to God
  • The old ways of thinking that define who’s in and who’s out
  • The old views of God that need to be discarded and replaced with the real Jesus
  • The old values that are directed by self-centered thinking instead of other-centered.
  • The old phrases and comments that we use to dismiss entire groups of people
  • The old appetites for approval from someone other than God

When God’s wrecking ball smacks into old ways like these, we often complain, resist, or run for the door.  But in doing so we miss out on something new.  The prophet Isaiah records this profound statement:

See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.  (Isaiah 43:19)

The old ways are really nothing more than wilderness and wasteland, covered with a shiny veneer.  What new thing might God do in your life?  New hope, new relationships, new values, new habits, new joy, new peace.  It’s nothing short of a new life.  And that, after all, is what Jesus promises us in the first place.

The wrecking ball of God may not be such a bad thing after all.


Serving and growing together,
Pastor Mark

Make it rain

You can make it rain.  You don’t need to do a special dance or say a magic phrase.  Because you have a bucket. It’s called your life.  In your bucket are your gifts, your time, your heart, and your resources.
For two weeks this month I had the privilege of leading a team on a mission trip to Tanzania.  (Thank you to everyone who supported us with prayer and financial gifts.)  We left with full buckets.  For two weeks we turned them upside down. And we shook out every drop.  We held nothing back.  We left it all on the floor.  We made it rain.

In a place as needy as sub-Saharan Africa, our buckets could almost seem like a waste of time.  So little to offer when the problems are so big.  But for the hundreds and hundreds of men, women, and children we served, our buckets were a refreshing drink of much needed water.  And we left behind little pockets of green in a parched land.  We left patches of hope and health.

Look around you.  The world is parched.  Dying for life, and nourishment.  Your bucket is meant to be emptied.  To provide life.

Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.  – Jesus (John 7:37-38)

You have a bucket.  You can make it rain right where you are.  If rivers of living water aren’t flowing out of your bucket, maybe it’s time to ask why not?

-Pastor Mark

Maybe this is why God isn’t doing anything in your life

Henry Brown of KasCon , our general contractor (left) and me.

Last week we received our building permit from the city of Gaithersburg.  With it, the construction teams have descended on our building this week and are hard at work.  But did you know that God has applied for another building permit?
Drive past 13 Firstfield this week and you’ll hear some very different sounds.  The sounds of construction crews hard at work.  Removing old walls, replacing a 10,000 square foot roof, and moving us forward in our mission of unleashing new ministry space for generations to come.  They’re working under a building permit issued by the city of Gaithersburg.  That permit says, “You’ve got a green light to come on in and do the work that is outlined in your documents.”

And while we as a church applied for (and received) that permit, there’s another building permit that’s more important.  It’s the one that God has submitted.  To you.

You see, God is in the building business.  Remodeling, if you will.

Jesus famously said, “I will build my church.”  (Matthew 16:18)

And his disciple, Peter, put it like this:

…you also…are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood. 1 Peter 2:5

But God doesn’t barge into your life.  Rather, he submits an application…a request to build.  Complete with design specifications.  He has submitted a building permit application to you.  He’d like your permission to remove the old, rotting, decaying habits and thoughts and patterns and values.  And he’d like to re-make you into something new…into a new creation.  Someone who increasingly looks like the model – Jesus.

The student who is fully trained will be like their teacher. Luke 6:40

You’ve probably seen the building permit application recently.  It may look a lot like a passage of Scripture.  It may look a lot like a convicting message that keeps popping up in sermons, songs, and silent moments in your life.  And yes, it involves surrender to God and his will.

You alone have the authority to grant the building permit.  You have the authority to say, “Yes, you can come in and tear down that wall, replace that belief, install new relationships, hang new habits, and throw out old ones.”

The question is: Will you approve the building permit?  Will you give him the green light to come on in and do the work that is outlined in the document?  Will you let God re-make you into his design?

So that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Ephesians 4:12-13

-Pastor Mark

Why today is the best day to try something new.

 

We’re half-way through the year.  Tonight is like a Half-New-Year’s-Eve.  Tomorrow starts a brand new half-year!  What did you resolve to do this year?

I get it. My resolutions didn’t all work out.  But the great news is that this isn’t December.  It’s the end of June!  There are still six months to re-calibrate and restart the year.  Even if you’ve given up on becoming the person you thought you wanted to be this year…God has NOT.  His desire is to restore you to the person he created you to be.

Isaiah 43:18-19

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

No, we don’t perceive it.  But we can learn how.  So tonight, pull out your January resolutions.  Figure out which ones you still care about.  Put them on your calendar, and then do something RADICAL tomorrow (and the rest of the year).

  • When the alarm goes off
  • When the noise of day invades your sleep
  • When the demands on your time are queueing up before you even get up

In that moment, just have a short conversation with God.  Try something like this:

“Good morning, Heavenly Father.  Thank you for the gift of sleep last night.  And thank you for the gift of today.  Thank you that you’re bigger than any problems I’ll face today.  Help me discover what you have for me today.  Help me listen to your voice.  Help me reflect your grace and love into one person’s life today.”

Tomorrow is the going to be the beginning of the rest of your life.  Let God do a new thing.  Make 2016 the year you’ll never forget.

-Pastor Mark

P.S. One new thing you might want to try this summer is to help our PowerHouse ministry with their summer outreach project.  Here’s what Bob Attrill, our Children’s Ministry Director says:

“Our outreach for the summer in PowerHouse is, “Soles4Souls.” We are basically doing a shoe drive for the entire summer June 26th-Sept4th. Since 2006, Souls4Souls has collected and distributed around 26 million pairs of shoes to people in need. The shoes reach people in 127 countries around the globe and in all 50 states here in the U.S. My guess is most of us never really stop to think about what it would be like to not own a pair of shoes or at least own a pair that weren’t riddled with holes.

We are going to run with this in PowerHouse and ask kids to donate any gently used or new shoes they or anyone in their family may have. Can be shoes of any size or style. I’m guessing most of us have a pair or two that we don’t wear or are headed to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. I know I do.

So bring your gently used shoes anytime Sunday this summer and drop them off to help PowerHouse help Soles4Souls.

 

 

Yes, you CAN actually make a real difference.

food drive 2014

In all the madness taking place around our world these days, it’s possible to feel a bit hopeless.  And sometimes we can succumb to the belief that there’s nothing we can do that will make a difference.  But that’s not true at all.

You can actually infuse hope into this world, AND at the same time position yourself to receive blessings from God.  Here’s how.

Each summer at Seneca Creek we host a month-long food drive for local food pantries.  It’s a time when their donations drop off and their demand goes up.  Many families with food insecurity depend on free meals through the local schools.  But with school being out, that option is gone.  Can you imagine the feeling of going to the cupboard and realizing there’s not enough food for your family?  How difficult is that for any parent?  How discouraging?  How hopeless?

So for the entire month of June we’ve been collecting hundreds of pounds of food.  Actually, more like thousands of pounds.  And June is winding down.  If you’ve been meaning to participate, here’s your chance.  Stop by your local grocery store this week and pick up some of the items listed below.  Then bring them THIS Sunday morning and leave them at the collection table.  We’ll handle it from there.

Not only will you bring hope to families who are facing hopelessness, but you’ll find yourself being blessed by God.  Why do I say this?  Because it’s a principle spelled out clearly in the Bible.

The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.  (Proverbs 22:9)

Share your food with the poor, and God says you’ll be blessed.  It boomerangs right back into your lap. Not a bad return on investment!  It’s one of the simplest ways possible to ignite the H.O.P.E. of Christ in our world.  So join me and the rest of Seneca Creek by unleashing the power of H.O.P.E. this Sunday!

-Pastor Mark

Suggested food items include:

Fruits and Vegetables

  • Canned fruits and vegetables in an array of colors to provide a variety of vitamins and minerals.
  • Low-sodium canned vegetables
  • Canned tomato products with no added sugar or salt
  • Canned fruit (in juice)
  • Dried fruit (no added sugar)

Protein

  • Canned tuna/salmon in water
  • Canned chicken
  • Canned chili
  • Canned beans
  • Dried beans
  • Nut butters
  • Dry-roasted or raw nuts and seeds

Grains

  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa, buckwheat and other whole grains
  • Whole-wheat pasta
  • Rolled oats and plain instant oatmeal
  • Low sugar, high fiber cereal

Additional healthful items

  • Boxed (UHT) or evaporated milk
  • Vegetable oils (olive, peanut, etc.)
  • Tea and coffee
  • Vegetarian items (soups, chili)
  • Infant cereals
  • Baby food/formula

The one question that always works

image

It’s been a pretty rough week.  The news stories (here, here, here, etc.) are enough to cause even the most optimistic person to lose hope.  So what can we do?

  • When tempers erupt…
  • When violence destroys lives and families…
  • When senseless tragedies lurk around every corner…
  • When no one seems to know how to behave…
  • When fear replaces security and confidence…

I hear people throwing up their hands in disbelief and disillusionment.  But there’s something we can do.  As the church, as followers of Jesus, we can use the power of HOPE to bring transformation to people, families, communities and more.

This isn’t pie-in-the-sky thinking.  It’s pragmatic and powerful actions that embody the heart of the gospel.  We’ve been exploring this in our weekend series, “The Power of HOPE.”  And just last weekend we spent time learning about how to engage with our world by living out one key component of the gospel.

We begin with a simple question.  It’s a question that’s at home in casual conversations among friends, and also with random strangers.  It’s a question that fits whether the mood is dark and somber or light and optimistic.  In those moments when you’re at a loss for words, this question is all the words you need.  It goes like this:

How may I serve you?

And it’s straight out of Jesus’ playbook.  (Mk 10:45)

So if you are discouraged or disheartened about what’s happening in your world, may I encourage you to start to change things.  Start to bring genuine HOPE into your situation.  Start to harness the power of the gospel to transform lives.  Don’t go to sleep at night until you’ve asked at least one person this question:  How may I serve you?

Then watch as God begins to do his work.  In you.  And through you.

One simple question.  Will you try it?

-Pastor Mark