Matthew 10:7-8

"And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give."

Sunday, February 13, 2011


I have talked in previous posts about how I desire this year to learn to love people like Jesus did. If I want to be able to fully realize the potential of living in God's kingdom now, I must continue to strive to be more like Christ. I am far from perfect, but with His constant grace to help, I am gaining ground. One of the areas I am gaining ground in is to learn how to have a heart for the people who either don't have the same views I do and even opposite beliefs. If I am going to be honest with myself, you and most importantly God, I must admit that I have come to realize that there was a time, not too many years ago, when I was more like the proud pharisee who prayed something like, "God, I'm glad I'm not like that guy over there." One example would be instead of praying for people who were constantly in trouble with the police, using drugs, getting drunk all the time, or constantly being vulgar, I would look down my nose at them and think something like, "Yea, you'll find out one day what God thinks of how you live. It may be too late, but you'll find out." What a hypocritical judge. Calling myself a Christian with a pretty flippant attitude towards the very people that Jesus would be hanging out with today, drawing them in with His love and His ways. Helping them to become His disciples.

God has continued to soften my heart even in the last couple of years and I am thankful that He has. My desire is to be more like Jesus and if I ever need to repent of something, then let it be so. It is because God is willing to be kind to us that He will bring us to repentance. (See Romans 2:4) One of the things that God has been gently showing me is that instead of being critical towards those who don't share my beliefs, there is now a willingness in my heart to have compassion for them and pray for them with the understanding that if there is anything in their life that needs changing, that is God's job. He doesn't leave that to me. In some cases maybe it is my heart or attitude that needs changing. I heard a teaching not long ago by someone who I really respect, who said that one of the biggest problems with Christians is that we expect people who don't know Christ to live up to our expectations. How can we have that attitude towards someone who doesn't know Christ? Who does yet to understand the teachings of Jesus. The apostle Paul constantly warned against having such an attitude, because at one time we were one of those who didn't have Christ in our lives either. Paul teaches us to be patient and caring to the unbeliever instead, which leads me to ask a question. If we are to have compassion and pray for the unbeliever, how much more should we be praying for our Christian brothers and sisters who rub us the wrong way, or may even be struggling with sin. I used to be "one of those" who would look at a brother's sin and think, "Wow, and he calls himself a Christian," when I had issues that needed dealing with myself. The old casting out the speck when their is a plank in my own eye routine.(Matthew 7:3) I think we are more guilty of this than we realize, at least I was.

Can I drop a couple of names as examples to show you what I'm talking about? Two men who at one time I spoke of in some not so nice ways, but now am allowing myself to REALLY understand that Jesus loves them just as much as He loves me. Maybe I better be more concerned about my own day to day life and leave theirs up to Him.

Up until and shortly after he took office, I was pretty critical, and looking back now, was pretty judgmental at times of president Obama. How dare I. Many of us Christians, especially the conservative Christian tore this man apart. How dare we. Shortly after Obama took office is when I think God said, "Ok, Mark, you have grown in many ways, but you must continue to grow in all My ways. If you really want to be a man after My heart and have the faith of Abraham, (something that I began praying for about 5 years ago) then you must continue to learn better of all My ways," and believe it or not, I think He used the president of the United States as a new teaching point for me. I began to see how many, who say they are Christian, using everything they could against this man. I remember pictures being forwarded on the internet with a caption stating how Obama refused to put his hand on his heart for the national anthem. How we would soon be a Muslim nation very soon if Obama was elected. How Obama was never seen going to church. How he would shut down the rights of Christians. Do I need to go on? All of those things came from "reliable" (cough, cough) internet sources, or conservative radio talk show hosts who we tend to listen to more than we do the teachings of Jesus. I used to listen to those "conservative" talk show hosts, too, before realizing that hateful remarks came out of their mouths just as much as the ones that they accused of being full of hate, not to mention immoral words or behaviors. Little by little, God in His kindness showed me that if I would spend more time with Him instead of them, that it would be far more fruitful and heart changing.
Instead of being critical of the president, my heart started to go out to him. That doesn't mean that I support all of his policies and ways of thinking, but that isn't any different than it was with president Bush, either. (By the way, I remember a lot of hateful remarks coming from the more liberal Christian towards the character of president Bush, so nobody here is off the hook.)

Over the past week, I've told my wife that I think it's time to speak out in defense of president Obama. Not that he needs or wants me to, but I believe that for those like me who want to be as much like Jesus as we can, that there is something that can be learned here. It bothers me greatly that this week I have only heard one Christian getting excited about some of the great remarks that President Obama made at the National Prayer Breakfast, which by the way I know of many who splashed on the internet as to how the president did away with days like this; yet here he was speaking at one of the events that he supposedly cancelled. Go figure. In his comments he speaks of praying. He quotes scripture. Refers to the importance of the Bible and talks about a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. He even mentions having to deal with so many people who question his faith. That one really hurt when I read it. Having my faith called into question would pierce my heart. Anyway, why don't we spread those comments around the internet? Why do we enjoy rather going for the gossip? Listen, if we put our faith where our mouth is, we need to pray for this man and support him as a brother. It doesn't mean we support everything he does as president, but as far as the man, we need to love him and desire for him to be the man and leader that God wants him to be, which is no different from the same desire for you and me. I encourage you to read Obama's remarks(click on this link) at that prayer breakfast. It brought tears to my eyes. It is not my job to pretend to know where he is at in his walk with Christ. It is only something that he and Jesus need to work on. Again, no different than you and me.

Can I bring a sports figure into all of this? Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers. This man created his own mess indeed. He got caught. Many of us, myself included, have skeletons in our closets (which we hope will remain there) maybe haven't been caught. Maybe some of us have. Whose sin was greater? Ben should have known better, indeed, especially after going through the sex scandals before, but he didn't. I felt the NFL was right in suspending him. He needed to be accountable for his actions. I was one of the ones who was really hoping the Steelers would have traded him before the season started, or just sent him away. My disgust for him turned to dislike. Then reports started coming out that Big Ben had recommitted his life to Jesus Christ. That he realized the need to bring God back into his life. "It's a calming feeling when the Lord runs your life," Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.(click on this link) "And it's something I've always known as a church person, but I've never really believed it." Ben was also quoted as saying, "I think it's coming home---being gone for awhile and coming home." Instead of being hopeful and prayerful, many Christians laughed that off at just his way of wanting to be off the hook and forgiven. Really? Is that what Christ calls us to do. Our job is to love and pray. What is going on in Roethlisberger's heart is between him and the Lord. It is the Holy Spirit who will work on Ben. If he has found forgiveness through Christ then should we not also forgive and rejoice? I have instead continued to see, mostly from those who have a great dislike of the Steelers in general, some pretty disparaging things about Ben on the internet. Brothers and sisters, this needs to stop. I am not fond of the New York Yankees either, but when I see that Andy Pettitte, or Joe Giradi are believers, then I better pray for my brothers. It doesn't mean I have to root for the Yankees, but I better pray that they are blessed in everything they do. (Except against the Cleveland Indians, or the Pittsburgh Pirates, of course!!!) I pray that Ben Roethlisberger has found his way back to God and I feel the need to defend him. Again, not because he needs me to, or wants me to, but because I feel there are things that need to be addressed and can be learned.

I've dropped two names. Those of Barack Obama and Ben Roethlisberger. Just two, but how many others like the president and Ben do we treat the same way? Maybe as you read this you are one of the ones who have already learned to be lovers of men and women in the way that Jesus is. Praise God for that. If we want to truly be like Jesus, then we hate the sin, but love and pray for the man or woman, just like Jesus did. And if you can't love the man or woman just yet, at least start with the praying part. God will love your heart, reward your efforts and help you with the rest.

"We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love everyone of you has for each other is increasing." (2 Thessalonians 1:3,NIV)

Remember, God looks for the treasure in people. It is that treasure that we must also dig for. In doing so we will build up the kingdom and increase its borders!


I love you guys,
Mark S.

Monday, February 7, 2011


I hope today finds you well, my friend. I hope this day finds you excited about God. He is excited about you and ready to lead you into some pretty amazing adventures. You might even find yourself sailing on the seven seas. Ahoy!

If you haven't read "Breaking Ice for Open Waters," you really need to. I wrote it just about 2 weeks ago. This is pretty much a follow up to that post which is very significant and will help you understand better what I saw in church a few weeks ago. Today, however, is about what I saw in church yesterday which I think is huge for the body of Christ. In "Breaking Ice for Open Waters," (click on either link) I speak of seeing a large ship...... breaking the ice and opening up the waters for other vessels that will follow. That type of ship is, of course, called an ice breaker. Many of these ships are huge and powerful. They are not the fastest ships, but are steady and forceful. The bow of the ship is forced up onto the ice where it is then pushed down and crushed beneath the weight of the ship. That is just a quick review of what my previous writing was all about, but there is a whole lot more to it. The Holy Spirit was showing me God is looking for the ones who are willing to be 'ice breakers' during the unsettled times that are going on in the world around us. Please read it. This is one of the most significant visions the Lord has given me yet. It calls for action now..........not sometime later.

Yesterday during praise and worship my mind was reminded of that ship. When I looked up towards the front, I could see two sides going up from the bottom of the ship and WE WERE IN IT. We were IN the ship. I did not see any other detail about the ship other than we were in it, and the worship team was right in the front, which I also see as being very significant. I didn't even see an engine, but we were moving. We weren't doing anything in our own power to make the ship move, but it was moving. Somehow I knew that the power to run this ship was being generated by our praise. It was kind of like being at a sporting event where they put the crowd-o-meter on the jumbo-tron and the louder the crowd screams the more the power there is hopefully put a charge into the home team. Well, yesterday, the way we were lingering and desperately worshiping God, this ship, this ice breaker was completely fueled.

The spiritual significance of this is incredible. When I saw the first ice breaker a few weeks ago I saw it to mean that God was looking for each one of us to become like those ships. Calling for us to be steady, always ready to press in. Ready to cut, not so much through ice, but through places that have become darkened in order to allow the light of His glories to shine through places of confusion, despair and where people are just wandering around like they are lost.

Oh my dear God, as I just typed those last words the spoken words of Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem came back to me. (Luke 19:41-44); Matthew 23:37-39; Luke 13:34-35) Even now I am hearing the Lord say to us. "The time has come. The time has come to stop the play of keeping one foot in the world and wanting to hold onto her pleasures, while at the same time hoping to see the manifestations of My glories. That won't work. I need you completely walking in the ways of My kingdom. There is much work to be done. Night has settled upon the land. Darkness is all around her. Are you coming? The time has come to put an end to this darkness and evils. Are you coming? Are you boarding? Stay or go, the choice is yours, but you must decide for the time to push off is now. Are you in or are you not? The choice is yours. I desire you as a father desires to have his children at his side. The choice is yours."

I'm trying to collect my thoughts. I wasn't planning on that happening and I had to stop and walk away after writing the above paragraph. I feel that the Lord is now telling me to wrap this up quickly. To finish my thoughts about yesterday and go. To let my remaining words be few, so here they are:

God is wanting us to individually be willing to start breaking the 'ice' and each one of us carries within the ability to do much harm to the evil principalities of this world. However it is when we join the belly of the ship........being surrounded with the holiness of praise and worship and pushing into spiritual places....working together as one, that we will move forward with such steadiness and force that strongholds will fall. I saw yesterday as a message not only for our church, but for churches as a whole. It is a message for churches to decide if they are in or not. Together great accomplishments are within our grasp. All for His glory. I found it also no coincidence that after I got home yesterday afternoon that I read on Face Book these words from a friend who attends another nearby church that has been desperate for more of God, "Gateway Church, holy smokes!!! Literally!!! Something incredible blew through there this morning! Off the hook God!!! Keep it coming!!
That led one of his friends to respond how that sounded like the way it was at her church yesterday morning.

God is!

In closing, sometime this week I encourage you to read the account of how a great victory came to king Jehoshaphat and Judah because of obedience and seeking of the Lord. This will be in 2 Chronicles 20. I was going to write about this today, but I feel God is telling me no.....not now. I think He just wants you to stop and listen..............for Him.

......."Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever." (2 Chron. 20:21)

As always, treat everything I write with much prayer.

Go now with God.
Mark S.