Taste and See

This week devo is by Pastor Courtney

Consider the command Paul gives in Philippians 4:8-9 to think on what is good, true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or praiseworthy. Each of these things has come from God.
This week I invite you to practice with a simple exercise based on Psalm 34:8:
Taste and see that the Lord is good… Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see— how good God is. Blessed are you who run to him.

 TASTE:

I wonder if you are at all like me. Sometimes, I get to the end of a meal (can you still call it a meal if it’s eaten while driving or if you’re standing at the kitchen sink?  But I digress…) I get to the end and I think, “I ate that so fast; I don’t even know if it tasted good!” Now don’t get me wrong, I love my food…in fact, my favorites are high in flavor. My all-time favorite is Thai food. It’s salty, sweet, hot…all at once.  It’s like a party in your mouth! 

Part of the joy of dining with friends is slowing down, savoring both the colorful company and the flavors of the meal. Yummy food is one of the simplest pleasures of this life! Imagine, the finest chocolate, melting slowly on your tongue. Don’t you want it to last? This is just how God feels about His time with you. He wants you to stay, to linger in His presence, just so He can enjoy you. You may be thinking, I’m no fine chocolate, no delicacy for God to enjoy. I challenge you to listen to God’s words to you. 

 My Child,
I love you with an everlasting love. I invite you to listen to me, even when you feel alone and deserted. I will whisper tenderly to your heart. I rejoice over you, I can’t help but sing over you, my love. Come to me, fair and beloved. You, yes you, are precious from head to toe, beyond compare. You are mine. I, the God of grace, pour my grace over you this moment. I am the God of love and want you to spend time today resting in the depths of my love for you. I am your Father; you are under the protection and shelter of my wings. Seek me, be still, be still and simply sit with me. I savor and delight in time with you.

(Taken from Song of Songs, Zephaniah, Hosea, Psalms, and Jeremiah.)

 PRACTICE: Take a few minutes and enjoy one of your favorite flavors; sipping your coffee, a piece of chocolate, a berry. Thank God for the gift of taste and His presence.

SEE:

An insight (yes, pun intended) from science:  having two eyes increases your angle of vision, helps you to judge depth and allows you to see 180 degrees. Simply put, having two eyes helps to expand your vision. I want to expand your vision, your vision of YOU.  One of the most beautiful reminders of God’s love is YOU.  Don’t scoff. Don’t be sarcastic. Re-read that line and let it sink in.
You, the Beloved Child of God, are a gift to those around you. You are noble in many, many ways. Your unique presence in your family and community is a gift to them. 

PRACTICE:

 Go outside and take a moment and look at a flower or leaf. Really look. Take in the depth of the color, the beauty of each and every petal, the detail of each vein in the leaf. You are this unique in the sight of your Savior. Now find a tree; see the brilliance of the fall colors, the many shades of green, gold, and red. God, who designed each one of these and called them good, designed you. Like the trees, your life takes time, water, patience, and careful tending by the Gardner in order to bloom. The Master Gardener knows just what you need. He looks at you and sees only your life perfected, through the blood of His Son.  In you He sees excellence.

Taste and see, my friends; and give thanks.

 

Piety is our epic heritage

Piety is our epic heritage

I know it is easy to assume that our church is rooted in the evangelical tradition. And in some ways, you are right to assume this. We are a church that is committed to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and his resurrection to our community, county, and into the whole world. But just because the feel of our church groups us with other evangelical churches, there is something deeper that has formed us. Our church, which is connected to a larger denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church, was formed with a very distinct culture and that culture is alive and well here at Marin Covenant Church. That culture is the culture of pietism.

What drew the first Swedish immigrants together to form the ECC in the late 1800s was not their love of liturgy, not their love of dogma, but their deep love for Jesus. In fact, it is their heartfelt devotion to Jesus that became the unique marker of this pietistic movement.

Being a pietist means that at the foundation of your Christianity is a heartfelt devotion to Jesus. It is not a rules-based faith, not even a doctrine based faith. It is a faith that is formed and shaped by an intimate friendship with the God of the universe.

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I love you to death

I love you to death

A dear friend and mentor of mine is navigating an incredibly difficult situation. His wife of 40 years has developed a degenerative disease that is impacting her ability to function. Her brain is fine, but her body is exponentially collapsing. And her deterioration has happened at such a rapid rate, that my friend has had to walk away from an incredible job, cash in some funds prematurely, and completely reorder his life.

As someone a bit younger, I am watching him navigate this. I have to admit that selfishly, I worry that I wouldn't be mature enough to handle something like this in my own family. But when I talk to him, he does share how hard it is, how much he is challenged by this situation, and how there is some suffering for him. But, all of his complainings are muted by his wife's suffering combined with his overwhelming love, affection, and commitment to his her.

You see, he is navigating this because his love for his wife has matured. His life is so wrapped up in the life of his wife, that whatever joys she experiences are his joys, and whatever sufferings are hers, he joins in. To sacrifice his money, resources, job, status, freedom for her sake to join in her suffering is a no brainer. And watching him do this has become a model for me, a model for me to make sure I am developing a mature love for my wife and the people in my life.  

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A Jesus Juke on Greatness

A Jesus Juke on Greatness

I know many of us long to be more deeply connected to Jesus, to live the full and abundant life that comes from walking in the Spirit, and having a deeper sense of calling and purpose by having our identities wrapped up in being a beloved child of God. This is the best stuff of the Christian life!

When you take all this love and affection that is poured out over us and combine that with our sin nature, powered by our ego and pride, it is easy for us to get off the rails.  

Many of us who have been around the church a while have found incredible ways to cover up our pride and ego. We are all about the humblebrag. But the humblebrag is not a new invention; it has been around since the first disciples. In fact, this passage comes from the disciples doing just that, laying down the humblebrag.

Who is going to be the greatest?  

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He who began a good work is faithful . . .

He who began a good work is faithful . . .

"Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

The more and more that I have reflected on this verse, the more I have found that I am of two minds.  

On the one hand, I am so thankful that He who began a good work in me is faithful to carry it to completion. God is not done with me yet! God is building me into something incredible. God is paying attention to me and has not abandoned me. He has not given up on me or figured that I am not working the work. I am under construction, and he will get the job done! Praise God!

On the other hand, God is not done with me yet! That means that God has work to do in me. And this work is brutal and challenging. Scripture compares this work in process as refining. Refining is a process where metal is put under extreme heat, and in the process, the impurities and imperfections are burnt away, leaving just the precious gold. I want to be pure gold, but I don't want to endure the fire.  

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Moving from dutiful to devoted in our walk with Jesus

Moving from dutiful to devoted in our walk with Jesus

ENCOUNTER: Try and memorize Matthew 22:37-38

If you have been around the church for any length of time, you are probably aware of the greatest commandment; to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And for bonus points you probably know the second which is like it; to love your neighbor as yourself.

We throw around this verse as well as the word love so much that I am afraid we have become inoculated to it. We have made the idea that God loves us, that we are to love God, and love others into a simple summation of our faith. But that is not how it should be.

We see throughout scripture that God actually has warm hearted emotion and even passion for his people. The passage of scripture I preached on this last week highlighted this reality. It is because of his kindness that he saved us. This is the truth: God is warm hearted in his affection toward you and me. He loves loves you.

And because God is a relational being, he longs for that affection to be returned.

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Waiting for God and Weeping for What is Not Yet.

Waiting for God and Weeping for What is Not Yet.

This weeks devotional is by Pastor Jeff

This week’s sermon took us to John chapter 11 and the account of Jesus interacting with Mary and Martha in their grief and confusion over the death of their brother Lazarus… whom Jesus loved. You can link here if you want to watch that sermon, but the main focus on our time in that text was considering the question, “What do we do when we are in the middle of waiting for Jesus and wondering what in the world is going on?

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Embrace your lingering disappointment

Embrace your lingering disappointment

I know I just preached a sermon where I pushed a little hard to get over your disappointment with God for not coming through in ways you hoped or desired. In fact, I even went as far as to say that if you have disappointment with God, then the story you are using to inform your faith is too "you" centric, and not properly Jesus centric.

While that may be true in a theological paper, we are human being with a wide range of emotions that impact our complex relational interactions. And our walk with Jesus is no exception. Again, that is why I love the whole counsel of scripture. We not only have some hard teaching from Jesus, but we also get a peek into the prayer journal for the people of God, the psalms. And many of the Psalms are prayers of lament. Lament is an expression of sorrow or regret. And Psalm 22 is a model of this sort of prayer. Many commentators have divided this Psalm into four parts, and this is a helpful map for our prayers towards God, especially when we are in a season of lament or disappointment.

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#HerToo - Seeing Bathsheba and Standing with Her in Her Story

#HerToo - Seeing Bathsheba and Standing with Her in Her Story

This weeks devotional is by Pastor Jeff Mazzariello

“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” - Psalm 82:3-4

I preached this week on Psalm 51: King David’s confession, repentance, and expectation of God’s generous forgiveness. It is a stunning proclamation of God’s willingness to keep engaging his people with truly Amazing Grace.

But David’s Psalm is in reference to the account of David and Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11 and 12) and that story is a difficult story to process (as many ancient stories can be) as we consider Bathsheba and how she was victimized. On the one hand, we want to celebrate the good news of confession and redemption when we (like David) sin, but we must not miss what this story also communicates about the devastating results of sin.

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Making all things new : Life in Christ

Making all things new : Life in Christ

MAKING ALL THINGS NEW: Life in Christ

What a joy it’s been to dive in God’s Word with you! As promised, we want you to feel free to send us questions that arise as you read through the scriptures. Submit any questions to us here: grow@marincovenant.org

This week we looked at Rahab and seemingly fearless act of faith. If you missed the sermon, you can find it by clicking HERE.

Though she's lived a hard life and has only heard about God and God's power, when Rahab encounters the people of God (the spies sent by Joshua) she proclaims that she has faith in YAHWEH, the One True God. With this faith her life changes; something new has begun.

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We become what we worship; fools

We become what we worship; fools

In our house, we were duped by the fun and seemingly lightheartedness of the Disney channel's lineup of family comedies. The favorite in our house was "Good Luck, Charlie." Like many other Disney shows, the kids are brilliant and clever and their parents, particularly the dads are complete morons.

As a family, we laughed together at the light-hearted comedy. We were thankful that there was something on the TV to watch. But over the course of a month or so we saw a change happen in our kids. They began to mimic the kids on the show and slowly, but surely, we, parents were the idiots. And, just like that, the Disney channel is off the air in our house. :)

This is a light-hearted example, but one that has deep ramifications. Think of the people you look up to and admire. Without even realizing it, your life has begun to mirror theirs. If you are not aware of that, both the good and the bad of that person will begin to infiltrate your thinking and your world view.

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My story and the Story of God

My story and the Story of God

This week’s devotional is from Pastor Jeff.

(We are doing our Summer in the Scriptures Reading Plan together again. It started on Monday June 17, but you can join in anytime! Let’s do this! Here is the link to the plan in PDF format.)

ENCOUNTER: Read Jesus words in Luke 24:13-32

“They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’” - v. 32 (NIV)

Here is the truth that I wanted you to hear last Sunday in my sermon: The story of our lives is always to be understood and interpreted in light of and as part of the larger story… The Story of God.

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Can't have the remodeled bathroom without fixing the leak!

Can't have the remodeled bathroom without fixing the leak!

Everyone I meet with longs for God's best for them, the long to be the person that they are designed to be, they long to live in freedom! This is precisely what we have been preaching about over this last month. IT IS FOR FREEDOM THAT CHRIST HAS SET US FREE!!

While this is our heart's desire, we self-sabotage. So, if we are going to live in freedom then we must be free to do some of the scary work to clear the decks for freedom to happen.

Imagine you want to remodel your bathroom. It is only old and dated and the time is now! Most of us would like to simply knock out the shower and put in a new sink, paint the walls and call it a day. But in the process, you discover there is some mold. Our instinct is to look the other way and put the new furnishings in and paint over the mold and hope it goes away.

Everyone who knows anything about bathrooms knows that covering the problem with some new paint and furnishings just pushes the problem down the road and that problem will be exponentially more substantial when you are forced to deal with it. The correct way forward is to expose the mold, all of it! To find the leak and fix it! And then to put everything back together, usually at 4X's the cost. :) At least you now have a remodeled bathroom with everything in working order ready to be used for the next 15 years!

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God Has Given You an A+

God Has Given You an A+

God Has Given You an A+

If you think back to your days in grade school you most likely fell into one of two categories: the students trying to catch up or the students trying to stay ahead. As Christians we can fall back into one of those categories, always thinking that there’s never enough we can do to make up for our past mistakes or we are constantly trying to do something to gain and keep God’s approval. Truth is, through Christ, God has already given you an A+ in the class of life. Because of the freedom that Christ has given us Christians already have an A. The lies that Satan tries to sell as truth (failure, judgment, and condemnation) have been washed clean by the blood of the lamb. We come in with a 4.0 gpa. There’s nothing we can do to make our grade better, and nothing we do will make our grade worse. 

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The only thing that counts . . .

The only thing that counts . . .

I am not how this became important, but there is something in our core being that needs to compare ourselves to others. We know we are doing a good job by being better than others, by being further down the road than others. And we find peace when our tribe affirms us, our convictions and our lifestyles.

We do this in regards to politics, to health, to education, and especially to religion.

Christians have not been immune to this sort of judgementalism and self-righteousness. Strange since the core of Jesus' teaching is selflessness, humility, and love. Do not judge, lest you be judged. But we just can't help it!

But, if we are going to truly live into the freedom that Jesus has purchased for us, then we have to let others be free along their journey as well. It is this tension that is the core of the Christian community. It is this tension that is startling to the world and affirms our faith to those around us. They will know we are Christians by the way we love one another.

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How is Jesus revealing himself to you?

How is Jesus revealing himself to you?

I think Easter is such an incredible day of celebration, and this last Sunday did not disappoint. I loved being together with my church family, leaning into this incredible theological and transformational truth. And the more I reflected on Easter, the more I longed to be more aware of the living God, the resurrected Jesus, in my life and in the world.

So many of us long for this to be more and more real in our lives, but most of us seem to miss it. It is probably because we are waiting for a sign from God, an unmistakable guide post, voice, or vision to confirm the reality of the resurrection. We think the incredible stories scattered throughout the scriptures are normative.

While those stories still may be normative, our timing is all messed up. Over the course of an entire life, God maybe shows up in a crazy and clear way once or twice. And those guys made the bible. For the vast majority of the people in the scriptures and in the world, Jesus reveals himself in more subtle ways over longer periods of time.

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How to take Sabbath

How to take Sabbath

ENCOUNTER: Read Jesus words in Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

BE REFLECTIVE:

Last Sunday, at the end of my sermon on Pursuing a Life of Calm, Peace, and Rest, I left you with the challenge of considering God’s command to honor a Sabbath. “Are you serious?” was a common theme of the feedback that came my way. I also heard, “Maybe that works for other people’s lives, but certainly not mine.”

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Working toward restored relationships

Working toward restored relationships

After my sermon on Sunday I have been wrestling with the message I preached. I love how much Jesus loves us, and I long to know that in the depths of my being. I can get my head, all day, around the idea that God loves me and when I sin, he forgives me, and when I betray him or ruin things, that he not only forgives me, but restores me. He restores our relationship, and restores my calling, allowing me to continue to serve Him and His Kingdom.

But what has given me pause this week is that this selfless love, this love that works towards restoration that we long to receive, MUST be directed towards those people in our life who have betrayed us, wronged us, broken us. This is master’s level love. This is what it means to not simply love others as we want to be loved, but to love others the way Jesus loves us.

So here is the hard work. Who in your life has wronged you? Who has broken relationship with you? Who have you closed the emotional vault on? Who is that person? _______________________________

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Everything takes time!

Everything takes time!

My dream is to be fit like Brad Pitt. :) Truthfully, I would just like to be fit enough to feel good in my clothes, and be able to do active things without feeling like I am going to have a heart attack. Both the moderate attempt at health and the advanced attempt at health only happen with intention.

All growth only happens with intention. And even more than intention, is time and effort.

Think about a goal that you have had. Why haven’t you accomplished it? Usually it is because you got bored, didn’t see results fast enough, or you lost the will. Whether it is losing weight, playing an instrument, or mastering a skill, going from dream to accomplishment takes effort and time.

The exact same thing is true in our walk with Jesus and our pursuit of godliness.

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