Sunday Preview

September 26, 2013

My sermon this Sunday is called, “The Blessings of a Radical Disciple.” We know that Jesus told us that we have to pick up our cross and follow him if we are going to be his disciples. There is a significant sacrifice that every believer is called to make as we follow Christ. There are also great blessings that God has for every one of us who become disciples of Christ. Acts 3 begins with a miraculous healing of a lame man at the temple gate Beautiful. As a crowd of people are drawn together by the rejoicing of the man who was healed, Peter preaches to them.

In Acts 3:17-26, I can see at least five blessings Peter mentions that God gives to every disciple who turns to him. I want to challenge you to look closely at these verses and see how many of these blessings you can identify. I would like to have a little contest and see who can identify these blessings before you hear this message. Send me an e-mail at mark@livingstreams.org by Saturday 5:00 PM, and list the blessings you see in these verses. If you can see what I can see, I will thank you. If you can see more than the rest of us can see, we will honor and bless you as well.

Sunday Preview

September 19, 2013

It is common for people to read the New Testament and wonder why we don’t see as many miracles happening today as they did in the book of Acts. The book of Acts contains highlights of thirty years of apostolic ministry, by over twenty leaders, in many nations. There are spectacular miracles recorded in Acts and there are still miracles happening today. By taking a closer look at the miracles recorded in Scripture and contemplating the messages given by the apostles, we can gain great insights into how God can work in our lives today.

Our new sermon series is called, A Radical Disciple. This Sunday I will focus on the miraculous healing of a lame man in Acts 3:1-16. This man was lame from birth. It was not his fault that he was crippled. He was a lowly beggar, but he was chosen by God to receive a powerful miracle. His healing did not only impact hundreds of people who knew him at the time, this miracle is still impacting people today by revealing the healing power of Jesus’ name. It is vital for us to know what the Lord can do, because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

David’s Sermon Preview

September 12, 2013

There are a number of quotes or phrases that get my blood pumping. When Mel Gibson’s character William Wallace says, “Every man dies, but not every man truly lives,” I want to do something lively. When I read Martin Luther King Jr.’s letters from a Birmingham jail, every fiber of my being wants to do justice. In the passage of Scripture we will be looking at this weekend (Acts 6-8) a few phrases jump off the page and stir my soul: “Men full of the Spirit and wisdom,” “the number of disciples increased rapidly,” “The word of God spread,” and “many…became obedient to the faith.” Those bold phrases sum up what I believe this church is to be all about. (My only exception would be to add ‘women’ to that first phrase.)

The cry of my heart is to be able use these phrases to describe what Jesus is doing in our city. I hope it is, or is becoming, the cry of our hearts, as the Lord is knitting us together, to be the light and salt in our day. Many have gone before us. Many have worked hard and answered the call to be salt and light in their part of the world, in their part of history. Now it falls to us. Who are we going to be? What will we be remembered for? Are we salty? Are we shining bright?

What follows chapter 6 are the stories of Salty Stephen and Radiant Phillip. One was so full of the salt of Christ that he was stoned to death by the same people that crucified Jesus. His martyrdom sparked the spreading of the gospel to the entire western world. The other was so full of the light of Christ that he was able to spark revival in Samaria, in Ethiopa, and (most importantly) in his own home.

Let’s get excited about seeing how Jesus can use our lives as a spark in our world and our time.

Four years ago, the elders of Living Streams suggested to me that I take a sabbatical. The idea sounded interesting to me at the time, but I wasn’t sure how practical it would be for me to be away from our church for three months. I didn’t want Living Streams to lose people or momentum. I was basically too insecure to take our elders up on their gracious offer.

A year later an infection got into my heart, destroyed my mitral valve, and almost killed me. I had to take a couple of months off to recuperate. Our church did fine in my absence. We have a great group of pastors and leaders who all stepped up and covered my ministry responsibilities. Living Streams has been a great church when I have been in crisis over the years.

Our elders were persistent with their counsel. Once or twice a year one of them would ask me when I was going to take my sabbatical. In April I got a serious eye infection that grew worse, in spite of prayer and the best medical attention I could find. After my eye was lanced, and then medicated for a couple of weeks, it started to heal. Once it healed, I was ready to take the sabbatical.

At the end of May, I said good-bye to Living Streams for the summer. We stayed in Phoenix for a couple of weeks, and then Kristina and I headed for California. We took care of our son Phil’s three children for ten days while he and his wife Moriah went to Machu Picchu, Peru. We then stayed in Terra Linda with my mother who is eighty-eight and still going strong. In July we headed to McCloud, at the foot of Mt. Shasta, for two weeks of trout fishing, biking, kayaking and swimming.

We spent a few days in Bodega Bay with our family. Phil Zito took Kristina and me fishing one day. Phil and I were in kindergarten when we were sent to the principal’s office for getting into a fight with each other. While we waited in fear for the principal to show up, we prayed for an earthquake to come and save us from his wrath. Phil asked us to pray after dropping anchor on this trip, and two minutes later Kristina hooked an 18 pound salmon. It was five hours later before we prayed again. Then I caught a 20 pounder.

I visited lots of churches in Arizona and California this summer. Several of the churches had thousands of people; a couple of them had less than a hundred people. The most powerful time of corporate worship I experienced was in the smallest church of all. There were about forty people in a simple building in McCloud present. I got caught up in their worship. It felt like God was present in clouds of glory.

I also had some great times of personal worship and prayer sitting on grassy hillsides in Marin County. Under an oak tree, the Lord gave me clarity for my ministry for this next season of life. A condensed report is that I’m going to stay focused on the people and ministries we serve. We also had a lot of hikes, meals, and fellowship with long-time friends in California. Our lives are rich because of our friends.

Of everything I experienced during this sabbatical, one thing has been the most meaningful to me. I finally started writing a book that I have procrastinated over for a long time. I’ve had many people tell me that I should write a book over the years. I’ve started to write several times and never gotten past the first page. The book is a simple memoir about the blessings and battles I have experienced the last forty-four years. My working title is “Into the Desert.” I don’t know how the Lord will use this book of stories, but it’s been a relief for me to finally get them down on paper. I no longer feel burdened because of running away from the Lord’s assignment.

We had some trials on this sabbatical. Family life is messy, and we have a big family. Yet, I’m thankful to have the men in my life with the wisdom to insist I take this break. I’m also thankful for those of you who are part of this story of my life and ministry. Your love and friendship brings Kristina and me joy, and makes our lives a blessing.