Blog Archives

How to make the most out of next week

Next week is often referred to as “Holy Week” in the Christian tradition.  Maybe you don’t have any tradition associated with it other than Easter eggs and family dinner.  But if you’d like to make it a memorable week, here are some practical suggestions.

(optional) Saturday, April 13

Begin a 10 day Lent reading program available for a small fee here.

Sunday, April 14, (Palm Sunday)

Re-read the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in Matthew 21:1-11.  Picture yourself as part of the crowd, cheering the long-awaited king who is coming to set you free.  If you missed the message in our current series on this event, check out the podcast here.

Consider inviting a friend to one of the Easter Sunday gatherings. You can send them this link.

(optional – start an 8 day reading plan here.)

Monday, April 15

Check out this thoughtful section on the meal Jesus shared with his disciples that last week.  It’s helpful to remember this is an event to be shared together as the followers of Jesus.  How has the community of faith shaped your understanding of Jesus?

Tuesday, April 16

Read Mark 14:12-26.  Consider setting a place at the table for Jesus.  Then imagine him joining you for a meal.  During that meal, he says to you what he said to the disciples about his body and his blood being for you.  Offer a prayer of thanksgiving.

Wednesday, April 17

Read Matthew 26:36-46.  We’re not the first to struggle with prayer.  Choose a time during the day when you can stop for 30 to 60 minutes and pray.  Instead of praying for yourself, try to listen for the needs of those around you.  What is God’s concern for them?  Join with God in that concern by praying his desires for those who come to your mind.  It’s okay if this is a struggle.

Maundy Thursday, April 18

Read Mark 12:28-31, and John 13:1-17.  “Maundy” Thursday is from the Latin word for “mandate,” or instruction. Jesus’ instruction or mandate to his followers is to do what he has done.  It is to love and serve one another.  Choose one act of service you can do for someone today, then go do it.

Good Friday

Read John 19.  How much would you do for a friend?  Allow the reality to sink in that Jesus death was for you.  He didn’t go grudgingly to the cross, but willingly, out of his great love for you.  Write a short prayer of thanksgiving to Jesus.

Saturday, April 20

This is a day of waiting.  Think of an area in your life where you’re waiting for something to change.  Sit in that space of not knowing when.  Imagine being in Peter’s sandals on that first Saturday.  Jesus is dead.  Hope is gone.  What’s needed is a miracle.  All you can do is pray.  Pray for God’s miracle where it is needed most in your life right now.

Resurrection Sunday

Read John 20:1-18.  The miracle has happened.  The clouds are giving way to blue sky.  Hope has returned.  The King is alive.  Join us for a victorious and joyous celebration at 8:00, 9:15, 10:30, or 11:45!

-Pastor Mark


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

It’s time to stop pouring gas on the fire

Yes, I’m talking about what everyone’s talking about.  The used-to-be-simmering-now-boiling-over conversation about racism and the legacy of racialization in this country.  It’s a full-fledged bonfire of emotions, history, sound-bites, hatred, and confusion.  What can you do?
I humbly offer the following suggestions as a way to stop pouring more gas on the fire, and a roadmap toward a better society and a better world.  My comments are directed at those who desire to be followers of Jesus.  If you’re not in that group, feel free to disregard my comments.

What to STOP doing: (because these actions make the fire bigger)

  1. Shouting – Honestly, does anyone like to be yelled at?  Has shouting ever changed anyone’s mind?  If you want an interesting exercise, check out who shouts at whom in the New Testament.  (Hint: Jesus never shouts at anyone)
  2. Hating people – I know the Bible says “hate what is evil, cling to what is good.”  (Newsflash: The rest of that passage will pretty much take the wind out of the hate-sails we’re hoisting…check it out here.)  The problem is that we seem to really struggle in the area of “hating the ideology but not the person.”  We end up shooting the messenger.  Which incites more hatred.  More gas on the fire.  That person whose ideas make you want to throw up, well that’s a person that was created in the image of God.  That’s a person that God loves enough to send his Son to die for.  That’s a person who is worth redeeming.
  3. Assuming – This may be the hardest thing to stop doing.  Because we’re wired to make quick assessments of everything around us.  Whether it’s the way someone else looks, dresses, drives, eats, votes, or speaks, we make assumptions.  We assume they don’t have the brain power we do.  We assume they have marginal literacy skills.  We assume that we know their motives, their heart, their history, and their intentions.  More gas on the fire.  There’s a better way…

What to START doing (these will actually illuminate the way forward)

  1. Listening – Not just listening to people who agree with me, but more importantly, listening to people who are different than me.  People with a different political affiliation, or a different skin color, or a different economic background, or a different country of origin, etc.  This means having an honest to goodness conversation.  Actually, MANY conversations.  We usually call that a friendship.  (This is the problem with “unfriending” everyone with whom you disagree.)  Jesus was friends with all kinds of people who held all kinds of beliefs, many of them diametrically opposed to Jesus own beliefs.  He even invited a tax collector (one of the most hated figures in his day) to be part of his inner circle of friends!  And I submit to you that you’ll get more useful and accurate information by sitting down and listening to friends who are different than you than you will ever get from listening to the news headlines.  I know that my own life has been enriched and transformed by the countless conversations (sometimes painful to hear) from friends who have spoken truthfully about their experiences, their beliefs, and their lives.  (Thank you to Harold, Dianne, Rosco, Nelson, Dwighd, Ricky, Tim, Wayne, Sonia, Bruce, Angela, Alvin, Warren, Uriel, Alex, Michael, Sohko, Mary, Jennifer, and so many more…)
  2. Understanding – We all have blinders and blind spots.  When we listen and begin to understand, those blind spots get smaller.  If we can’t articulate WHY that other person believes what they do, then we are only making assumptions (see list above).  If we don’t know WHY someone believes what they do, we succumb to what psychologists call the “fundamental attribution error.”  IOW, our brains will MAKE UP a reason for their beliefs/actions.  And usually the reason we settle on is this: they’re stupid.  Really?  We can do better.  You don’t need to AGREE with the other person, just understand.  Understanding is the path forward.
  3. Praying – I’m not talking about “pray and do nothing.”  I’m talking about praying first.  And last.  And in between.  Jesus himself calls us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  And he said that to people living under foreign occupation.  They couldn’t vote for anyone.  They couldn’t protest without facing execution.  They had no rights at all.  If we would spend half as much time praying for those we disagree with as we do commenting and posting about them, where would we be?  Pray for others to have an encounter with Jesus.  Pray for them to learn to love God and love their neighbor as themselves.  Pray for them to be concerned with justice for all.  Pray for God’s kingdom to come in their life.  Pray for them to see the errors in their own lives.  And then pray for yourself.  Pray for patience and wisdom.  Pray for the peace of God that transcends all understanding to guard your heart and your mind.  (see Philippians 4:6-7)  Pray for the fruit of the Spirit to be born out in your own life.  (see Galatians 5:22-23)  More praying, less posting.
  4. Speaking truth to power – There is injustice in our world.  In some places it is state sanctioned.  It other places it is woven into the fabric of the culture.  But just like the prophets of the Old Testament, we have opportunities to speak God’s truth to those in power.  It might be to a friend, a co-worker, a family member, an elected official, or a business owner. The truth is that God’s plans for humanity have been sabotaged by sin.  And the enemy of God has used every opportunity to build “dividing walls of hostility.”  But the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God to tear down every wall that separates and rescue us from the lies of the enemy.

The ideology that was represented by the “alt-right” movement in Charlottesville last weekend is the exact opposite of the kingdom of God that Jesus came to launch.  Jesus’ kingdom is inclusive of “every nation, tribe and tongue.”  And the church of Jesus Christ is called to be a place where “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, for we are all one in Christ.”

Jesus calls his church to be a light in the dark world.  Not a bonfire that rages out of control and consumes and destroys, but a light that shines brightly, illuminating the way forward.  So instead of throwing more fuel on the bonfire of racial turmoil, I challenge you to ignite the H.O.P.E. of Christ in this world.  I welcome your comments below…even if you disagree with me. 😊

-Pastor Mark