April 29, 2011
When I was young I used to be afraid that three things would happen if I really gave my life to the Lord. I thought I would have to live a celibate life, wear black shirts with white collars and be sent to Africa. One day when I was nineteen and wrestling with the celibacy issue, my Catholic Godfather recommended that I consider becoming an Episcopal priest so I could get married someday. His suggestion helped expand my thinking about what it means to be a priest of God.
Years later one of our dear friends married a Catholic man, and I shared in their ceremony in his church. I couldn’t help but laugh along with some of my friends who saw me walk down the aisle in the robes of a priest.
Today, Kristina and I are in Cape Town, South Africa. After three flights, one of which was 15 hours nonstop from Atlanta to Johannesburg, we are staying with Floyd and Sally McClung. I will be speaking at a conference for the leaders of their All Nations church planting network which works in many southern African nations.
One by one, I have found that things I have feared lose their power when I trust the Lord. Jesus does not sentence us to a life of boring confinement, or of reckless abandon. Our Father in heaven wants us to be free from the fear of man and the fear of death. When we obey his word we are sometimes led into situations which we would never expect or chose. I continue to discover that obedience to God does not bring punishment, but blessing.
Kristina and I would appreciate your prayers that we will be bold and effective as we preach and teach about Christ and God’s kingdom in the days to come.
David Stockton is starting a new teaching series from the book of Exodus this weekend at Living Streams in our Saturday night and Sunday morning services. I’ll look forward to giving you a report from our trip when we get home in two weeks.
Love in Christ, Mark
PS. Prawns have little to do with this message, but I just had to put them in somewhere because they are just incredible here!~ Kristina
April 20, 2011
Here is a video on Freeing Your Wife to be all God has Created her to be.
I hope you enjoy it.
April 14, 2011
We are approaching Palm Sunday and passion week. These special occasions remind me of a dramatic picture of the work of Christ hidden in the first seven verses of Leviticus 14. People who had been healed from infectious skin diseases were told to bring two birds, some cedar wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop to the priest. One of the birds was killed and its blood was poured into a clay pot with water. The live bird, the scarlet thread and the hyssop were dipped into the blood of the slain bird. The person to be cleansed was sprinkled seven times with the blood that dripped from the hyssop. Then the live bird was released to fly away.
There were reasons why the Lord called for this type of offering. Everyone has infections sooner or later. These infections are outer signs of the reality that we all have been infected by sin. An innocent bird was sacrificed to show God’s people the cost of their sin. The bird that was dipped in the blood and released provided a vivid illustration that we too have been released from our sin now that we are covered by the blood of Christ.
Jesus Christ died for us, not so that we can go through life feeling guilty, but so we can be released from the grip of sin and fulfill our God given destiny. If you see a dove fly by wearing a peace of scarlet yarn like a necklace, remember that you too have been released from sin so you can fly freely.
There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
April 7, 2011
My sermon this Sunday is called “Prepared by Suffering” from Hebrews 5:7-10. I realize that this is not a title that will fill most of you with joyful anticipation; yet this message may help you in the long run, more than anything I have taught in a long time.
This passage contains insights about how Jesus was prepared by God through suffering. He grew in intimacy with his Father because he learned obedience through what he suffered. He did not suffer because he was a sinner, nor do I think this passage is talking about his suffering on the cross. Jesus knew how to pray with great intensity when he faced heart-rending issues in life. He learned how to listen to the Father and gain wisdom through suffering. If we can understand the humanity of Jesus and how he related to his Father in heaven, it can help us as we struggle in the trials we face.
God can seem distant when we are suffering. Yet suffering is part of all of our lives sooner or later. Suffering can be a character-building, teaching tool that produces compassion and wisdom in our lives; or suffering can be a frustrating, confusing, destructive force that alienates people from God.
Jesus suffered in many ways before the passion week that led to the cross. I’m hoping we can learn from these Scriptures how Jesus processed suffering and was prepared by suffering, so that we too can mature as sons and daughters of God.
As the sun shines brightly in our beautiful valley, I hope the Son of God will shine his light brightly in your life.