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 🙂

Freeing Your Wife

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.

Sunday Preview ~

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.

Sunday Preview ~

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.

When we were first married, Kristina never complained that we had six men living with us at Solid Rock, our discipleship house. She didn’t think it was strange that the men came and joined us for the second week of our honeymoon, or that I left two days early to speak at a church. We were one big family serving the Lord together. One day, a few months into our marriage, I was talking to my dad on the phone. I explained to him that Kristina did the cooking, cleaning, and laundry for the men in our house while we worked in construction. He began to yell at me, “If you don’t make your wife stop doing the laundry for those bums, I’m going to personally come up there and throw them all out of that house!” I got the message. From then on the guys did their own laundry.

Years ago, Kristina and I were hunting in the desert on foot. When I suggested that we split up to cover more ground, she asked, “What should I do if I run into those men who passed us?” Two ornery looking men in a pickup truck had gone by us on a dirt road.

“My dear, you are wearing camo. Your hat band has an eagle feather on one side and a deer antler on the other side. You have a .38 pistol and a knife on your belt. You are carrying a 12 gauge shotgun. I think those guys are going to be more scared of you then you are of them!” With that we split up and headed out into the desert.

We were at a home group one night where everyone was briefly sharing their life story. When it was her turn, Kristina told the group how much she loved to work for the church, quilt, sew, deliver babies, fish, and hunt. Not exactly the typical combination of interests for most ladies. As she finished talking about our children and her life, I was struck by what she didn’t say.

Kristina didn’t say much about our son Matthew’s death. She didn’t mention that she and her little brother were put in Juvenile Hall when her parents had been arrested after a drunken bar fight. She didn’t say she had been abused as a young girl when her mother was put in a mental institution, or that her dad had committed suicide. She didn’t mention we had lived in rented houses with no savings for years when we were first married.

She was not trying to conceal these things, but she knew that they did not define her life. She had been chosen by God to be a servant of Christ. She loves the Lord and really enjoys life. She understands that persevering through grief and hard times goes with the territory when you follow Christ.

Kristina often gets calls from friends with health problems, family issues, and pet crises. They are not asking for sympathy. They want her practical wisdom about the challenges they face. She knows how the world works, because she knows the One who formed it. The pain and problems of life shape our character, but they do not define us. A true disciple can overcome grief, abuse, or neglect and have a fruitful life. I know, because I’m blessed to live with one. Her life is a testimony to me of the transforming power of Jesus Christ.