Pastor Mark's Blog - The Crux
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Pastor Mark

Increasing the awareness, understanding, and application of Christ's death and resurrection.

"We are always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body." - 2 Corinthians 4:10


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Four Reasons Why Jack Graham is Wrong on His Pro-life Position
July 8, 2019

In my 15 years of pastoring within the Southern Baptist Convention, I have both seen and been involved in controversy. Not that I seek it, but rather, if a pastor is going to be faithful to the Gospel, controversy will inevitably follow.   So, brouhahas and hullabaloos are just par for the […] [READ MORE]

A Connect Card Question on Sex Within Marriage
January 22, 2017
We encourage church members to let us know they are coming to corporate worship by filling out a connect card. We also use it with first time guests. 

There is a place for comments and/or prayer needs. Here is one of the questions I received:

"Assuming two people are married (one man and one woman), are there certain sexual acts that are sinful? Example: oral sex, anal sex (pretty sure that one is sinful), etc., etc., BDSM?"

That question and another one regarding 1 Corinthians 5 engendered a one-hour discussion among the elders. 

I wanted to have a consensus before I answered. 

We should always go to the Bible for our questions. So, what does the Bible say about certain sexual acts within the context of a married man and woman?

Answer? Not much! The Bible was never intended to be a sex manual for the married. So, a pastor would be wrong in simply giving his opinion or answer solely based on their own experiences or preferences. This is true of many questions a pastor receives. 

However, there are some important principles from the Bible that speak to the question. 
Is there any prohibition in the Bible regarding certain kinds of sex within marriage? The answer is no. 
Are there any kind of sex acts within marriage that are unhealthy and therefore unkind to do with your spouse? The answer is yes. But that answer is tricky because that can also depend on the act and depend on the spouse. To be unkind is a sin (Eph. 4:32).

The marriage bed should be held in honor since it is sacred (cf. Heb. 13:4). It would be unkind to force or pressure any kind of sexual activity with one's spouse if he or she does not desire to do so. 
Each spouse should have the freedom to say, "I would like to __________," and each spouse should have the authority to say "I would rather not __________."
So, in general terms, I think the guiding principle is if both spouses are okay with any kind of sex among themselves, with the desire to please the other, all sexual activity is good.

There should also be a sense of fullness, and wholeness, and satisfaction and peace within the spirit of each spouse after sex. If that is not there, that could be a warning sign that healthy, holy sex is not evident. 
I hope this helps. 

Yours for fulfilling our mission,
Pastor Mark

It Was Not A Silent Night
December 7, 2016
A Christmas Poem: It Was Not A Silent Night

It was the night before Christmas

And throughout the church house

Children were stirring, as was each spouse

The gathering was filled with songs of great glee

With lights, candles and imitation greenery

Some gathered in angst for their family was rife

With drama, distress, and many a strife

Some felt the same but put on a good face

And betrayed the truth, leaving no trace

Now the time came for the pastor’s soliloquy

Anticipation filled each heart, as did sentimentality

He waxed eloquent of Jesus’ person and ministry

Of how faith is rooted in historical authenticity

Onward he showed proof from the faith’s own enemies

From Tacitus, Josephus, and Suetonius you see

For they wrote against the faith, but in God’s providence

Showed there was no myth, just more evidence

Of the Christ who came, not in fabled lore

But as the fulfillment of prophecies from days of yore

Yet during the sermon the pastor also did say,

In derision of the culture’s sway

“Santa Clause does not exist anyway!”

Children wept and some parents did glare

Others were happy and shot no flares

And although there were no blows nor physical fights

To be sure, it was not a silent night

For the truth did pierce the spirit of the age

And took a swing at the season’s fat-bellied sage

But more is needed for the Kingdom’s cause

And that is to crucify this fairytale Santa Claus

For when affections are stolen, those made for Another

God brooks no rivals; and shares his glory with no other

Because of Jesus’ blood we should be on a great quest

To vanquish what diminishes his glory with no rest

You can still have the gifts and you can still have the tree

But gather both family and soul to Jesus’ Nativity

For he alone is worthy and only he can satisfy our thirst

And this occurs when Christ, in everything, is first  [READ MORE]

Why People Oppose the Doctrine of Election
September 28, 2016

Are You Feeling Down? 6 Pulls Out of the Pit
September 15, 2016

Are You Feeling Down? 6 Pulls Out of the Pit

This devotion is for Christians in a dark place. Sometimes it has been called being in “the pits.” The psalmist called it “the pit” (cf. Psalm 40; 88; 103). Here are five pulls out of the pit if you are in it, or you can use them to help a friend or family member. These pulls are based on 1 Peter 5:6-11.

1. Seek more humility. Use the feelings of being down to move you to pursue humility. Humility is the only channel through which God’s anointing, blessings, and power flow. Do not misunderstand: we are not talking about insulting yourself more, or groveling in self-pity more, or worshipping your wounds more. Replace that unhealthy focus with a genuine pursuit of humility. And what is humility? Humility is properly placed confidence. Our confidence should be in the mighty hand of God. We are not God. God is God. So, have faith in Him; meditate on his attributes. If we do so, God promises, “I will exalt you at the proper time.” His timing is always perfect. He will lift you up and out of the pit. “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6).

2. Throw your anxiety on God. Make a mental list; tap a list on your phone’s notes app; text it to yourself; email yourself; or go old fashion and write down the list of things that are bothering you. Then go to God with the list. Name them one by one. Throw the things that are causing you to be anxious at the feet of God in prayer. The word picture of verse seven in the original language is like heaping your personal items, such as coats and clothes, upon a beast of burden. God’s yoke is easy; His burden is light. And the wonderful reason why we should throw our anxiety on God is this: He is anxious for us! “…casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). 

3. Be serious about your thoughts. Bad things can happen while in the pit. We are vulnerable. This is why we need to make right decisions. We must be sober. Much is at stake in how we respond to our despondency. Our decisions while in the pit can adversely affect our spouse, kids, job, church family, and friends. Do you see the pathway out of the pit? This is no mere psychobabble. Seek humility by placing your faith or confidence in God. Throw your anxiety on God instead of seeking other things to dampen your feelings. You cannot be sober with your thoughts if you are not sober. Avoid drunkenness and illegal drugs. Avoid abusing prescription drugs. Be serious about your thoughts because our thoughts precede what we do, and there is a devil that wants to get to your mind in order to destroy you. “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). 

4. Stand against the devil. Instead of retreating more; advance more. Instead of backing off your worship participation, Bible reading/meditating/memorization/study, and service, increase them. I confess there have been a couple of times when life became so vexing that I cussed at the devil. I threw every foul word I knew at him. Have you ever been there? However, there is a far better way. We should stand against the devil and his demons, those who both whisper and shout lies to us, and invoke the Name that is above every name, the name of Jesus, and resist them with orders to leave. The difference between cussing at the devil and taking Christ’s fair Name against him is like the difference between a snap ‘n pop and a nuclear bomb. Go with the nukes. Meditate on how Christ stood against the devil in Matthew 4:1-11. Use what Jesus says in verse 10 of Matthew 4 in your stand against the devil. Go look it up. “But resist him, firm in your faith” (1 Peter 5:9a).

5. Remember: you are not alone. Everyone falls into the pit. Everybody. Often our spirits are dispirited by living in a world that rejects our values, accuses us of bigotry, while tempting us to join their suicidal pursuits. But we must remember that we are part of a local church family where we love one another and sympathize with one another and encourage one another. We are part of Christ’s body, the local church. How can you receive the church’s love, sympathy, and encouragement? Get connected in small groups. Take the initiative. Be a friend first. Find what true fellowship is all about. Have you tried and did not seem to connect? Find another group. Biblical fellowship is partnering together in order to fulfill God’s mission. Sometimes fulfilling that global mission comes with darkness. Anybody can socialize, only the church fellowships, “…knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world” (1 Peter 5:9b). 

6. Rest in God’s meticulous (detailed) providence. The darkness is not the end for you, child of God. The darkness is for a little while. God brings you through the darkness, not just to the darkness. His grace is sufficient for you in all things and that includes the pit. But it may be that you believe God’s dominion is not over the pit. Do you really believe that? If so, there is no hope for anyone! Is there a space in the universe that does not belong to God? God works all things to the good of those that have been called by Him (cf. Romans 8). So, praise God for the pit. There are things He is teaching you in the pit that you and I would not get unless we were in the pit. So, sing in the pit. Worship God because of His power to weave both good and bad for our good. Listen and meditate on these life-changing, mood-altering verses, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:10, 11). 

I close with the words of the world’s greatest worship leader, King David, who knew something about the pit:

“I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the LORD” (Psalm 40:1-3).     

Yours for fulfilling our mission,

Pastor Mark


Behind The Music: Jason Kelley as New Worship Leader
June 18, 2016

Sometimes God answers a weak prayer you have long forgotten.

Just a few months after God called me to FBCTC in 2009, tragedy struck. A nine-year old boy, Montana Lance, hanged himself in a bathroom at Stewart's Creek Elementary School in The Colony.

The entire community was in shock.  

It was at the prayer vigil held in our sanctuary where I first heard Jason Kelley speak, sing, and lead worship. The fact that he has a gifted voice was obvious, but what struck me most was the anointing of God as he led in a time of trauma, grief, and loss. Jason is a humble man of God and in the next six years I would hear him again in different venues.

But I recall praying that first night I heard him singing, “Lord, that would be great if we could have him; can we?”

But it was not God’s time then and I forgot that weak prayer until recently. 

A few months ago, Jason and his family started to visit our church. We had a few lunches together. Monica and I had a date night with Jason and Jessica. He told me that he was hungry for the Word and wanted to be fed.

I can’t tell you how important that is in a person’s life.

I remember during those conversations he told me of his concern about being expected to serve because his plate is full with being the Executive Director of Metro Relief. He said almost every church they have attended he ends up being asked to serve in a bunch of places and this is also true of Jessica. It’s a difficult position for a couple that has six children and is already burning it at both ends in kingdom ministry.

I told him, “There are seasons of ministry. Maybe the Lord is leading you here and for a season you just need to sit and soak up the Word. Don’t think we’re going to ask you and your wife to serve everywhere. I usually don’t say this to potential members, but we don’t need you. ”

Weeks later, he and his wife Jessica and eldest daughter Emily ended up taking the Membership Class, which is held for potential members to hear our mission, theological commitments, church covenant and how we do ministry. The class is required for membership. 

Most people who take it sign the church covenant immediately following the class. We offer it quarterly along with others classes we call Basic Training. However, the Kelleys did not turn in the membership covenant. I always make sure to tell people to seek the Lord and that the class is not like a sales meeting where I’m trying to “close the deal.” I tell them to feel no pressure and that they can turn the signed membership covenant in later at any time or not at all.

In fact, I also tell each class that we want to do our best to the Lord to ensure they are indeed lambs and not goats or wolves. (Lambs love that kind of language from shepherds; goats and wolves do not).

On Monday, May 30 and Tuesday, May 31, I felt something that surprised me. I had not had such a feeling in quite a while. My spirit was filled with a unique joy and freedom. I thought to myself, “Man, this feels really good!” There were no circumstantial reasons to stoke that feeling. I was not taking any medications or illegal drugs either. J 

I thanked God for it, but I also wondered, “Lord, how long is this going to last?” 

The elated feelings continued for the rest of the next day, Wednesday, June 1, and in that evening, just before the adult Bible study, Jason gave his and Jessica’s and his daughter Emily’s signed membership covenant. When I received them I did not think of any correlation between the two. 

The very next day, Thursday evening, June 2, I was in the Word studying when Halton Pecoraro, who has been serving as our worship leader, came in and told me that Friday, June 17 would be his last day. He told me about an excellent job opportunity over at the Worship Initiative.

I was surprised and did not see that coming. I was happy for Halton and Nikki as a young couple but also perplexed about who our next music/worship leader would be!

I thought to myself, “Maybe this is what God was preparing me for so I can trust Him for this important transition time.”

The next day, Jason agreed to meet me at Panera’s. I told him about Halton’s resignation. 

He said, “Wait a minute. I gave you our membership covenants on Wednesday and Halton resigned the next day; yesterday?” 

I said, “Yeah.” 

He said, “My wife’s gonna’ laugh at this.”

I said, “I can’t believe this, especially after all that we have talked about, but I’m asking you to prayerfully consider whether God is leading us to minister together. Would you pray about being our worship leader?” 

He agreed and after several days he told me that God had affirmed this call and direction not only in his heart, but also in Jessica’s heart. 

So, here we are, six years later. 

In our church and for this church, this transition could not have been any better nor healthier. Halton has served well and we are grateful for him. I am sad to see him move on yet I am also very proud of him and look forward to the kingdom opportunities for him at the Worship Initiative. 

Jason was not looking for this but it seems God has brought us together. I forgot years ago about my feeble prayer, that God would give us Jason, a humble leader of worship for seventeen years, a gifted vocalist, songwriter, guitar player and praise band leader. 

But may we all be encouraged to pray more because our prayers, whether or feeble or fervent, are to a God that is meticulous in His providence.

Be sure to greet and welcome Jason, Jessica and their six children! 

Yours for fulfilling our mission,
Pastor Mark [READ MORE]

The Tree is Bent Over at Bent Tree Bible Church
May 5, 2016

What Motivates Us During Difficult Days?
March 14, 2016
Listen to this fantastic chapel message from Dr. Alan Tomlinson of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary! It will encourage your heart to continue in your faith, despite great difficulties. He's preaching from 1 Peter.

There's more meat just in his introduction than entire messages that are out there!

It is well worth your time; share it with someone else! Only about 35 minutes. 

Pastor Mark


Elders' Statement of SCOTUS Gay Marriage Decision
July 1, 2015

Elders’ Statement on Recent Supreme Court Decision - Sunday, June 28, 2015


On Friday, June 26, 2015 in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States held that gay marriage is a constitutional right in all 50 states.

Today, the elders stand before you to respond to this historic decision of the court.

According to God’s Word, which is the Bible, God created man and woman, the first of each being Adam and Eve. God made them both in his image, with distinctive characteristics that form a wholesome and holy union in marriage.

Mankind has been distorting, perverting, and violating God’s law and God’s purpose for marriage ever since Adam and Eve sinned. This is nothing new.  

So, in one sense, the Supreme Court’s decision is ordinary, just another mile marker on the highway to hell for most of the people in our nation and the world. This is tragic and it saddens us.

For any Christian who supports the court’s decision, either by placid silence or passionate celebration, they blaspheme the name they bear. Their faith should be held in question.

It is not loving, nor Christ-like, to support behavior that destroys people.

In another sense, the court’s decision is extraordinary, especially in its judicial activism. The court has become a second legislative body. The foundation of our democracy has suffered a significant blow.  

So, how should we respond as a church?

We should not respond in anxiety or panic. We should not fear, because God has not given us a spirit of fear.

We must continue to love all sinners by speaking the truth in love. Doing so is not hate speech; it’s love speech. Jesus Christ died for sinners and that includes homosexuals.

How should we respond as a church?

With God’s help, we should continue to shine the light of Christ. We will continue to share the gospel with all people. We should continue to look and long for the soon return of our coming King.

We should also mourn and pray and fast for a third Great Awakening in our country. We should mourn all sin, and flee from it, whether it’s lust, pride, gossip, slander, lying or the other thousands of sins.

We will continue to keep our eyes on Jesus. With God’s help, we will stand for the truth of his word. We will continue to make disciples of the nations.

No matter what a court or corporation or a culture says, the true definition of a marriage will never be redefined because marriage is God’s idea. His word never changes.

The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. So, be a servant worker. Be bold. Be loving. Be sacrificial for the sake of God’s kingdom. Have an answer for people who ask why you are different. Vote for candidates that share biblical values.

It is a great day for prophets and the people of God to be salt and light in a dark and dying world.

So, as we leave, go in the peace and power of the Holy Spirit.  [READ MORE]

We are One: Addressing Controversial Issues
June 4, 2015

On Sunday, May 31, FBCTC voted on a unanimous recommendation by its elders to change their governing documents related to three controversial topics: marriage, sexuality, and abortion. The elders of the church have either been personally affected by these issues, or have helped others find healing with each of these issues […] [READ MORE]

Are You Satisfied With Mud Pies?
June 30, 2014
In his book The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis, the former atheist, Oxford and Cambridge scholar, and pal of J.R.R. Tolkien writes:

"It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

A very practical way to gauge this satisfaction with mud pies is worship attendance. I'm not talking about those who are unchurched, de-churched, or under-church but those who are church members. 

Thom Rainer argues in an article that the number one reason for the decline in church attendance is that church members do not not go church as often as they used to.  

Collectively, we may be in violation of Hebrews 10:25. We may give lip service to agreeing that Jesus is coming soon - but when given another opportunity to worship as a body we suddenly call upon "legalism" to our defense for non-attendance - or we simply want to do other things. 

Are you unconvinced?

Take another listen to Lewis:

"Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairytales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years."

Our world has changed so rapidly in the 70 years since he wrote those words - they are even more poignant and insightful to our plight than Lewis could have imagined.

However, this issue is actually nothing new. The apostle John warned about it 2,000 years earlier: 

1 John 2:15, "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

May God break the enchanting spell of worldliness over us.

Fighting for your soul and your satisfaction,
Pastor Mark

Dr. Ben Awbrey: Coming April 13 to FBCTC
March 28, 2014

Dr. Ben Awbrey was my Professor of Preaching at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary both for the Master and Doctoral degrees. 

I will be forever in debt to his great influence on my life and am excited that he has agreed to come again to our church. Dr. Ben preached my installation message five years ago at FBCTC. He's coming back to a much more healthy, God-glorifying, Bible-saturated, Elder-led, Spirit-filled, Great Commission fulfilling church! 

He received a Doctor of Theology in preaching from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and earned a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He did graduate work at Talbot Theological Seminary and earned a Bachelor of Science from Central State University.

Prior to coming to Midwestern, Awbrey served as a pastor in Oxnard, Calif., and as an adjunct professor of preaching at The Master’s Seminary in Panorama City, Calif. Prior to that, he pastored in Oklahoma and Louisiana.

Awbrey completed his dissertation on the expository preaching of John MacArthur.

He and his wife, Lisa, have two children: Eric and Lauren. Awbrey has written two books on preaching: How Effective Sermons Begin and How Effective Sermons Advance.

The following video gives you a taste of his passion and approach to preaching God's Word. Mark your calendars for Sunday, April 13th. He will be preaching from God's Word.


Update from the Philippines
February 24, 2014
From pastor Wally:

Good morning.  I hope your saturday will be as good as mine was.  
It is 10 pm here. Today we had an easy day from a work standpoint. This morning we worked on our paperwork getting all of it in order. We have been surveying each home site and deciding what materials are needed there. So far we have 229 homes on our list.  Of those we still need to visit 45 of them and take pictures.  We probably also have another 50-75 additional homesites to go to that we don't even know about yet.
The people here are super hospitable. They all want to serve us something when we come by. they are so appreciative of everything we do it is unreal.  The people have nothing they work all day just to put food on the table and provide their meager living.  They have large families.  The homes we are building and/or rebuilding are about 10 X 10 in size and anywhere from 6-10 people live in them. 
Yesterday we had an AWESOME time!!!! The Captain of the Barungai took us out on an outrigger canoe to see some of the hardest hit areas.  We rode that skinny little boat for 20-40 minutes down the river to the sea.  Then when we got to the lace we had to hike through the jungle to see some of the places.  Jake and I were going nuts it was sooooo cool. 
the children here have started taking our hands and putting them to their foreheads. It is a sign of intimate respect. Usually reserved for aged family members, political leaders, or the priesthood.  
the girl are all eyeing Jake. Evidently he looks pretty good to them. I am going to have to check his suitcase before I send him home. There may be one or two hiding inside. 
They are small enough to do it too.  Jake and I really like the Philippines.  We are among the tallest people here. It is really weird not having to look up to everyone.
Well today was the greatest.  The local IMB missionary and a couple of local pastors have developed a witnessing tool especially for the Philippines and we got to go with a local Baptist church as they used this tool to witness and disciple.  
It is a multi lesson discipleship program.   The first 5 lessons are the Gospel. Lesson 6 is about baptism and they go on for about a year of study. We purchased a case of Bibles and they hand out a Bible to each person who genuinely seems interested.  
Tonight we went out with the local church and it was wonderful. The team that Jake went with saw two pray to receive Christ and my team almost did too. It was so cool to watch this little Philippine girl (about 22) speak and preach to the two women in this little house. One woman had prayed to receive Christ two weeks ago and had already been witnessing to some of her friends. The other woman is someone we met on the beach and asked if she wanted to come and learn more about Jesus. 
In the process of the lesson, the woman began to ask about her sins and when she was told that Jesus had died for all of her sins, she wept. I mean really wept.  
there is so much more to tell, but I am getting tired, so I will go to bed so I can get up and go to church in the morning. 

Why We Put 1,404 Blue and Pink Crosses Outside Our Church
January 23, 2014

Why did we put all of those blue and pink crosses on the church lawn?

1. Because abortion is the number one moral issue of our day.

Whether it’s saving the dolphins, eagles, dogs, cats, or concern over civil rights (at least people live to speak about their “rights”) slavery or war or the hungry or whatever the moral issue, none rises above the rights of babies to live.

Consider the following: 

  • Approximately 3,300 children are killed by abortion every day in the United States. 
  • Americans kill 1.2 million unborn children every year.
  • The World Health Organization estimates between 40 and 50 million children are killed around the world by abortion, approximately 125,000 every day.

2. Because 1,404 Denton county residents had an abortion in 2012.

Each cross represents a life. As with all of our sin, God will grant forgiveness and healing to anyone who will turn from their sin and ask Him for forgiveness and healing. We have women in our church that have had abortions and they also have found healing through Jesus Christ. Contact us for help and counseling if you have an unwanted pregnancy – 972-625-1322. We are here to help you!

3. Because each little life deserves to be remembered.

4. Because each little life deserves a memorial.

5. Because the community needs to be aware of this issue.

6. Because we were willing to risk blow back.

7. Because we have people in our church that care deeply about this issue.

Do you? What does your church do to address this issue? Does your pastor address this issue from the pulpit? We have a Sanctity of Life ministry team that would love to help you with ideas and assistance to begin your own team that increases awareness, understanding, and ministry to hurting people. Contact the church office.  

8. Because we want to stir discussion throughout the community.

Both a fellow student and a teacher to my fourth grade son, Jett, asked him why our church put up the crosses. He told them why. I also hear some of our students have experienced some blow back for standing for the unborn. Salt and light in a degenerating, dark world.    

9. Because abortion reveals our racism.

Black babies and Hispanic babies are killed at two to three times the rate of white babies.

10. Because abortion reveals we hate the disabled.

More babies with certain disabilities are killed than born when discovered in the womb.

11. Because abortion clinics are strategically located where young minority women and poor women are most likely to live.

12. Because Roe v. Wade does not stand in stone.

If William Wilberforce can stand against slavery and see the abolition of it in England, we have the hope of seeing abortion reduced and eradicated in America. What he did was comparable to dismantling the cell phone industry today. Sound impossible? Nothing is impossible with God. If God’s people voted for candidates that share biblical values, abortion would be largely gone within two generations.

I would love to hear your comments!

Yours for fulfilling our mission,

Dr. Mark L. Richardson
Lead Pastor 


12 Psalms to Memorize for 2014
December 30, 2013
Let's do this together!

I have picked twelve psalms from God's Word to memorize for 2014.

Each psalm is to be worked on for memory, word for word, for the month. More importantly, they are to lead and guide and feed on for our souls and for prayer.  

Monica and I will be working on these together and with our family. I will also attempt to quote some or all of the psalm on Sundays. 

The number in parenthesis indicates the number of verses...yeah, I know...I went easy on you...and me! 

January: Psalm 1 – The Godly Man (6)

February: Psalm 13 – A Prayer for Help in Trouble (6)

March: Psalm 23 – The Lord Our Shepherd (6)

April: Psalm 29 – The Voice of the Lord in the Storm (11)

May: Psalm 47 – God is King of the Earth (9)

June: Psalm 70 – A Prayer for Help Against Persecutors (5)

July: Psalm 93 – The Majesty of the Lord (5)

August: Psalm 100 – The Psalm for Thanksgiving (5)

September: Psalm 113 – The Lord Exaltation of the Humble (9)

October: Psalm 117 – A Brief Psalm of Praise (2)

November: Psalm 121 – The Lord is Our Keeper (8)

December: Psalm 130 – Hope in God’s Forgiving Love (8)

"Now to Him who is able to keep you from stubling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time, and now, and forever. Amen." 


Spiritual Warfare: 6 Keys to Victory
October 31, 2013

Spiritual Warfare: 6 Keys to Victory

I've used this teaching to build up church planters, pastors, and evangelists while in Africa. It was received well and I thought it good to post it on Halloween this year. Halloween is an occasion to celebrate the devil's demise!

Please feel free to use it for your own study as well in helping others walk in the freedom and abundant life Christ died to give us. 

1.  Everyone belongs to one of two kingdoms: the kingdom of Satan or the kingdom of God. Col. 1:13-14

One of the reasons so many churches are dying in America is due to unregenerate church members. When active, open, rebellious sin like gossip and division and insubordination is left unchecked in the body, it grows like a cancer. This is why Jesus told the church how to deal with sin in the body (see Matt. 18).

“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, [14] in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

  • Satan’s kingdom is described in Galatians 5:19-21

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, [20] idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, [21] envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

  • God’s kingdom is described in Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Make sure you are in God’s kingdom by repenting of sin and place your faith only in the work of Jesus Christ through the cross and resurrection. You progress in your Christian walk the same way you received Christ: in brokenness by faith in His Word by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Affirmation: “In Jesus, I belong to God’s unshakable kingdom.”


2. Jesus Christ conquered the forces of darkness and put believers in position for spiritual warfare. 

  • Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. 1 Jn. 3:8b

The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.

  • Jesus came to render the devil powerless. Heb. 2:14 

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,

  • Jesus has sealed the doom and judgment of the devil. Rev. 20:10

And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

  • Jesus has been given all power in the universe. Eph. 1:19-21; Phil. 2:9

These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might [20] which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, [21] far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,”


Our Strategic Position:  “In Christ”

  • We are complete, or abundantly supplied in Him. Col. 2:9   

For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,

  • We are seated with Him and share in His authority. Eph. 2:5-7

“even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), [6] and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, [7] so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

  • We are victorious with Him. Rev. 12:11; Rom. 8:37

"And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.

“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” Rom. 8:37

Affirmation: “In Jesus, I already have victory over sin and the powers of evil.”


3.  Though defeated, Satan and the kingdom of darkness still seek to destroy the lives of Christians. 1 Pet. 5:8; Jn. 10:10

1 Peter 5:8 - Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Main Weapons of the Enemy: 1) Deception, 2) Doubt God's Word, 3) Deny God's Word; 4) Distraction; 5) Discouragement, 6) Defilement.

 The Spirit-filled Believer’s Powerful Protection 

  • The Sovereign Hedge of God. Job 1:10

Job 1:10 - "Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.

  • The Angels of God. Ps. 34:7

                  Psalm 34:7 - The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.

  • The Whole Armor of God. Eph. 6:11

             Ephes. 6:11 - Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.

  • The Hand of God. Jn. 10:29

John 10:29 - "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.

  • The Prayer Ministry of Jesus Christ. Lk. 22:31-32; Jn. 17:15

Luke 22:31-32 - "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; [32] but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers."

Affirmation:  “Only by God’s permission does Satan have access to me and I must continue to pursue holiness and faith.”


4. The world’s values, sinful desires, and demons are the three main ways the Devil attacks us. 1 Jn. 2:15-16; 1 Pet. 2:11; Eph. 6:11-12


Walk Daily in the Power of the Holy Spirit:

  • Confess your sins. 1 Jn. 1:9

1 John 1:9  - If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

  • Surrender every area of your life to God. Rom. 12:1

Romans 12:1 - Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

  • By faith, claim the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Eph. 5:18; 1 Jn. 5:14-15

Ephes. 5:18 - And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,

1 John 5:14-15 - This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. [15] And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.

Affirmation: “Through the Holy Spirit we can resist the world’s values, sinful desires, and strategies of the Devil.”


5. Through the armor of God and faith every believer can be victorious in the daily warfare. Eph. 6:12-17


Before Paul tells them how to fight spiritually in Ephesians 6, which is the best known passage on spiritual warfare, He teaches them the doctrine of election and of the Trinity first. He wants them grounded in doctrine before teaching them about spiritual warfare.

If you are in Christ, God the Father predestined you to believe. He chose you before the foundation of the world and wrote your name down in the Lamb’s book of life before the world began! (see Eph. 1; Rev. 13). God the Son purchased your salvation. God the Spirit sealed you until the day of redemption. 


Putting on the armor of God is putting on the Lord Jesus Christ!


God’s Armor                                         Jesus Christ

Belt of truth                           He is the Truth. Jn. 14:6 –“I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

Breastplate of righteousness       He is our Righteousness. – Jer. 33:16, “The LORD is our righteousness.'

Shoes of peace                        He is our Peace. Eph. 2:14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups one

Shield of faith                         He is the Author of our faith. Heb 12:2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author of faith

Helmet of salvation                  He is the Captain of our salvation. Heb. 2:10 “It was fitting the captain of their salvation..

Sword of the Spirit                   He is the Word of God. Rev 19:13 “His name is called The Word of God.”

Affirmation: “With God’s armor, I am able to withstand any assault from Satan.”                


6. God uses His people to plunder Satan’s kingdom. 

  • Through the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8; Eph. 6:18

Acts 1:8 - but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses

both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."

Ephes. 6:18 - With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,

  • Through using our God-given authority. Lk. 10:19

Luke 10:19 - "Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you.

  • Through using Christ’s name. Lk. 10:17; Acts 16:18

Acts 16:18 - She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!" And it came out at that very moment.

  • Through using God’s Word. Mt. 4:3-4; Heb. 4:12

Matthew 4:3-4 - And the tempter came and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." [4] But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.' "

Hebrews 4:12 - For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

  • Through fasting. Mt. 17:21

Matthew 17:21 - "But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."


Affirmation: “God has given me all I need to accomplish His purposes against the forces of evil.”




Did You Hear What We Did Last Sunday?
May 21, 2013

Most of you know that a miracle happened this past Sunday: I preached for about 15 minutes! More amazingly, afterward, we released the church to go and reach out to people that have visited the church recently from about 11:15am to noon.

Yeah…that’s out of box! Can you imagine how a typical local church would respond?

But we’re not a typical church.

We had families that took visitors out to lunch. We also had people take to lunch some of our seniors who have difficulty physically getting around. And we also had people take our regular attenders to lunch who have not made a commitment to membership.

And we had a gift for each person going to visit and asked our people to go to our website and click the Touch12 graphic in order to fill out a report form.

We did this crazy event for several very sane reasons:

1. Reach the unchurched.

This is a great time to find the unchurched home! Where are the unchurched on Sunday mornings? Well, they are definitely not in church.

2. Mission fulfillment.

The Lord Jesus Christ said , “Go, make disciples of all the nations.” We must be reaching others for Christ. Our mission statement puts it this way, “We exist to building believers who reach others for Christ.”

If a Christian or local church is not reaching out, but only feeds or is overly concerned about self, something is really wrong.

God is a going God. He did not and does not preen about in His attributes in the cosmos. He goes and does so in the person of His Son, Jesus. He came to seek and to save the lost.

With the help of God, we will not be mere keepers of the aquarium but fishers of men.

3. Touch12.

We have launched a 2-year initiative to touch 12,000 people with the gospel. If every family of our church shares the gospel with one home every two months, in two years we will meet our goal. We thought some of our members were a little behind so we wanted to help them catch up.

4. Hell is real.

Jesus spoke more about hell than He did heaven. If that’s true, do you have the mind of Jesus? Does your life convey the same concern for those who do not know Jesus in a saving way?

5. Avoid becoming delusional.

We also did this to help make sure we heed James 1:22: But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”

We condemn ourselves as delusional if we play simply play the church game by turning church into a social or civic club.

Monica and I, along with our four sons, took a family of five out to Texas Roadhouse. They have a Roman Catholic background and have been visiting on and off for about a year.

Here’s what the husband emailed to me today:

“Thanks for lunch on Sunday.  My family enjoyed that very much.  I look forward to getting to know you better, becoming a church member and get more involved in church activities.  I feel I need to give back to the community since God has given me so much and hoping I can do that through the church activities.”

That’s cool.

Finally, we ended the day with a church family forum, formerly known as a business meeting. Our people actually look forward to them now when in the past they were fraught with havoc. We've been intentionally re-shaping the theological and philosophical culture of the church and continue to do so.  

When you have 14 different presentations of singing to the Lord and dancing to the Lord, intertwined with brief reports and updates, along with testimonies of the visits that occurred earlier in the day as we gathered in a sanctuary full of people around tables eating a meal together, I can see why our people look forward to the family forum.

My, my, my…how things have changed for the better to the glory of God.

May God continue to make us a normal, New Testament church, in an American spiritual landscape where normal looks radical. 




Sex Questions from High School Guys Answered
April 6, 2013

Overview: We just completed a three-week emphasis on sexual purity with our students. I led the high school guys and asked them to write down any questions they had. I thought it would be good to share them with you, as well as my answers. Their questions were excellent and candid.   

1. Does pornography, lust, and masturbation make a person "one flesh" in any way (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) with such 'digital concubines.'

(The question precedes a term I coined, "digital concubines," which I use in the discussion on pornography)

I think in an unnatural, fake, superficial or synthetic way it can create some type of tie or bond with the person. But I don't think it's the same bond or tie that is created through the physical act of sex but it may indeed create a type of unclean bond.

Plus, there could be other consequences, such as the desire to find her again digitally or physically, i.e. on the web or in real life.

The image of her could also be burned into your mind. It could lead to having the image return when you have sex with your wife. You do not want that to happen. You want to be able to give yourself fully to your wife and vice versa.  

Read 1 Cor. 6

2. I have had sex and I just recently became a Christian. I would like to be forgiven but I don't feel like I deserve it. Could you help me understand?

Don’t feel so bad about not understanding God’s forgiveness. It is not of this world. I’ve seen people who have been in the church for over thirty years not understand, including church staff and their wives.

God’s forgiveness is taken for granted by many – do not be one of them.

But what is true of you is true of all of us who have sinned. We do not deserve it! This reality is what makes God’s grace, love, and forgiveness so amazing.

God grants forgiveness when we confess our sin to Him (read 1 John 1:9), and are so broken over our sin that we want to do whatever it takes to make it right.

For example, the Bible records an incident regarding a crooked man names Zacheus and when Jesus came to his house. After the man’s encounter with Jesus, he was not just sorry for stealing from people. He told the Lord that he would repay them four-fold. In response, Jesus said, “Salvation has come to this house.” Judas was sorry for selling out Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. But he did not repent. He hung himself.

There is a sincere sorrow for sin that leads to repentance and life, and there is a superficial sorrow for sin that leads to no repentance and therefore death.

3. How do you suggest to fight porn?

I suggest you fight something greater than porn; and that is lust. You may never ever look at porn again, and feel good about yourself. Well, congratulations. But actually, the problem is not porn. The problem is lust. And the penalty for living a life of lust is the lake of fire.  

By the way, porn is not just a problem with guys. 

Twenty percent of churchgoing women are addicted to pornography, according to a poll of more than 1,000 people by Sixty percent of the women who participated in the poll said they struggled with lust. So, how do we combat it?

a. Understand the gravity of the sin of lust. Read what Jesus said about it in Matt. 5.

If we continue to walk in it, we will be thrown into hell. Hate the things that cause you and your your loved ones harm.

b. Memorize Scripture related to lust and/or purity.

Why? Because the mind is the gateway to what we do. It is the control center.

ReadPsalm 1; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Job 31:1 ; 1 Thessalonians 4; Colossians 3:1-4; Ephesians 6:10-20.

c. Avoid times and places where it is easy to fall prey to it.

Avoid internet surfing late at night. Do not be lazy. Go to bed or do school work. Read the Bible.

d. See women as subjects not objects.

In other words, that’s someone’s daughter. That is someone’s sister. She may be one’s future wife.

Would you like your daughter to be treated like that? Would you want her to take her clothes off for others to see? Would you like your sister to be treated like trash? Used and abused? How about your own wife? Would you like your wife to be pictured naked for all to see? Would you like your wife videoed having sex with other guys?

No; you would not. You would also want to do harm to those that do.

Then why would you support such actions for the sake of sinful pleasure?

e. Think about the rewards for avoiding lust. 

Think about the benefits here. No guilt, no shame, no negative consequences in relationships.

Think about the benefits hereafter. You will have rewards from the surpassingly rich treasuries of God Almighty! Nothing on earth compares to the glory that will be revealed nor the rewards that He will pull out for your faithfulness. 

4. Is it possible to masturbate without lust, just for the feeling?

I think it is possible until the age of about 12, but then it gets less and less probable. I cannot say it is impossible, just not likely and here’s why.  

Thinking about sex leads to arousal. This type of thinking usually leads to lustful thoughts about someone: what you would like to do with her and what you would like her to do with you. That’s lusting when it is not your wife.

5. What/how do we help if someone we know wants you to have sex.

Tell them you want to glorify God with your body. Tell them you are saving yourself for your future spouse. Tell them about the life-changing effects of having sex before marriage. Tell them about the possibility of pregnancy. Tell them about sexually transmitted diseases. Tell them about AIDS. Tell them about God’s judgment on immoral people. Tell them that the seven minutes of sexual pleasure will actually lead to damaging the relationship in the long run.

You cannot misuse what God has created and think there will be no bad consequences.

6. How can one look forward to sex in marriage without falling to prey to lust?

Value, prize, and glorify God for His plan of sexual pleasure in marriage. But avoid getting into the mechanics in your mind for that can quickly lead to lust.

7. How can I recognize and fight the strategies Satan is using to tempt me to lust? (strategies besides porn).

See answers to number three for they are basically the same. Satan uses basically three channels to tempt us: 1) the world, 2) our flesh, and 3) demons.

We bear the image of God in the very core of who we are. Satan wants to deface, disfigure, and defile that image. Sexual sins go to the very core of who we are.

Satan preys on the natural, physical instincts to have sex. He also uses contempt that men have hidden in their hearts, or long forgotten, for their mothers or sisters. He uses pockets of hatred still in the soul for fathers or brothers and can distort it into sexual immorality on different levels. He uses selfishness, pride and self-exaltation in men to degrade women. Avoid them like the damnable plague they are. Fight them all with what Christ fought them with. Go to battle with the word of God.  

8. I have a friend at school who is a brother in Christ and is dating a non-believer. Should I talk to him about it? How? What do I say?

Yes, you should talk with him about it, and warn him. If a believer dates a non-believer it may, and most probably will, eventually end up like hugging a buzz saw. That does not end well.

Show them 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be bound (literally, ‘unequally yoked’) together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God.”

Show them the different statements of connection in these verses: “partnership,” “fellowship,” “harmony,” “have in common,” “agreement.” These are essential to a healthy relationship. God’s apostle, sent to teach us God’s will, uses these devastating questions to clearly tell us not to be hooked up with non-believers, whether through a mild form of partnership in dating or in the greatest, intimate, deepest bond of marriage.

9. Can you still be seen as “pure” even if you had sex?

Great question! I would say it depends on who is doing the “seeing.”

If it is God doing the seeing then, yes, yes, and a thousand times, yes! Otherwise, nobody is going to heaven. The blood of Jesus alone cleanses us from all unrighteousness. Read 2 Corinthians 5:21. The gospel is not just for unbelievers; it is for believers as well. We meditate on the cross and go to God again and again and again in repentance and faith.

If it is a mature Christian doing the “seeing” most would affirm God’s perspective and tend to have the same. Mature Christians tend to have the heart and eyes of God. They see things from His perspective. This should serve as a reminder of God’s mercy and grace and power to those that have had sex before marriage. They should also consider renouncing.

Renunciation is a powerful dynamic in God’s kingdom. When we not only confess, but also renounce our sin, that is, we formally disown it and disavow it in God’s presence and then in brokenness ask God to take back the ground we gave to the devil in our minds, our spirits, our emotions, our souls, indeed, even in our bodies, and replace it with God’s Holy Spirit – healing comes at a level I cannot fully understand nor explain.

But immature Christians may tend to see the reality that you have lost your virginity. You cannot get it back. It is gone. This is also true and should serve to all who read to keep pure before marriage.    

Most people without Christ are not interested in purity even when they claim to be so. They have the perspective of the world and cannot discern spiritual matters because they do not have God’s Spirit. Read 1 Corinthians 2. 

I want to say thank you to the high school guys. It was an honor to be with you and have some great discussion on this topic. I love you guys.

With you in the paradoxical pursuit of becoming who we are in Christ: holy,
Pastor Mark


Reflections on Four Years at FBCTC
April 4, 2013

Reflections on Four Years at FBCTC

My heart is stirred with deep gratitude.

The church has been very loving and supportive of Monica, our four sons, and me. It is amazing to see how our sons have grown and changed in these four years. The same is true of the church itself. It is in a much better place spiritually.

You have often refreshed our spirits through prayer, cards and gifts and words of encouragement. These have sustained me and I thank God for the friends we have made.  

I am grateful for how you have put up with my frailties and weaknesses and idiosyncrasies. I want to be a better lead pastor and ask that you would pray to that end according to God’s Word. 

I also praise God for the church’s courageous faith in God. You continue to amaze me. In these last four years I have seen you give both sacrificially and over-abundantly; fearlessly go to multiple nations; bring hope and healing to the broken-hearted; exercise true love through discipline, trust God for budgets; meet multiple benevolent needs; build a new foyer and renovate a majority of our facilities; overwhelmingly adopt a new constitution and bylaws that better reflects the New Testament pattern through eldership; and you supported me when I went to Kenya, Uganda, and India, training around 5,000 church leaders in total.

Uh…that’s a lot in four years!

This doesn't include the fellowship, baptisms, and other ministries we have shared together on many different levels.

We have sweat, bled, cried, and rejoiced through it all.  

To God, and God alone, be the glory!

On behalf of Monica and my family, thank you church! We love you and look forward to see what God will do with us in the years to come, should He grant it.

Yours for fulfilling our mission,

Pastor Mark [READ MORE]

God Replaces Bad Apples with Good Ones
March 21, 2013

God is giving our church some seriously gifted new people!

I meet almost weekly with a newer member who is a veteran in mega-church ministry. Don’t hold it against him but he’s a Californian with Texas ties. He served on two mega churches in California as well as on staff at FBC Euless. He also served as the Director of Placement for several years at Dallas Theological Seminary.

I appreciate his insights and wisdom so much. He’s not about power-grabbing. He has disgust for men his age who do. He also doesn’t want to cruise in his later years - nor does he want to be pampered. No; he is not a ‘yes’ man either. He wants to make a difference in this city and the world for the Kingdom. That’s the kind of older men God is giving to our church. That’s the kind of men I respect.  

This past Tuesday your pastors met a couple that visited many area churches, as well as our church. The husband is the former Pastor of Seniors at Saddleback Church in California. You may have heard of their pastor; his name is Rick Warren. Their little church averages about 20,000 on a typical weekend. He was over 50 groups of seniors. Do you think he may know about what a church should be and do?

After I read his resume, I told him with a smile, “I’m sorry but we are looking for quality people.”

He told us they want to join our church. They gave me a check from a foundation to the church with the following words in a beautiful card:

“We were drawn back to FBC because of the following attributes:

‘You are Bible-based, you are a praying church, you are a friendly and loving church. You are full of mercy and grace. You are mission minded, concerned for our youth and seniors. You have a servant’s heart and a sense of humor. We finally feel at home and happy to be a part of the family.’

Good apples for bad apples; thank you Lord!

Yours for fulfilling our mission,
Pastor Mark 


Feel Like Something's Missing In Your Christian Walk?
January 25, 2013

Feel Like Something’s Missing in Your Walk with God?

Perhaps you are a church-going Christian. Maybe you've been a Christian for many years, or you're a new Christian. But, regardless, you feel like something's missing in your spiritual walk. There's a healthy emptiness and longing that has you wanting more of God. This post addresses what might that be. It's something that a NBA star practices.

He is one of the NBA’s greatest players. He averages over 29 points per game. But Carmelo Anthony has not shot the ball as well lately. There reason for this may surprise you. He’s fasting.

According to Melo, he has been fasting for the past 15 days, which could definitely explain a little lack of energy. Via NBC Sports:

“I usually do it to get some clarity in my life and spiritual reasons,” Anthony said after going for 27 points and seven boards as the Knicks snapped a three-game losing streak with a 100-87 win over the New Orleans Hornets. “But I’m done now….

“It’s a long story, man,” he said of his fast. “I haven’t had a good meal in about two and a half weeks. No meats, no carbs, anything like that. So I don’t know how I was out there competing at high level. It’s been some games this past week where your body just feels depleted out there and you’re trying to find a way to get some energy.”

“But I surrender, I’m done. I’m going to get some food right now.”

Now I don’t know if Melo is a Christian or not. I pray that he is, and if not, that he will come to know Jesus through saving faith.

But here’s an NBA star. He’s a millionaire. It’s his job to stay healthy and to perform at a high level. But he’s fasting to get, as he says, “some clarity in my life.”

God knows the church needs some serious clarity in its collective life in America.

God is on a cleaning mission. God has been purging. It has left some people wondering. Some confused. Some see exactly what God is doing. He’s been refining. And I don’t think He’s done yet. I know He’s not done with me.

This a challenge to Christians everywhere: take control of your spiritual life. Tell you time where to go. Tell your food where to go. Let us not be lazy. Pursue God for your own joy and spiritual vitality. This is a call to recover an ancient church practice: fasting.    

Here’s why and how to fast :

1. Jesus expected his followers to fast. Matt. 9:14-15; 6:16

I have heard some preachers/teachers say that Christ never commanded fasting. But what does it say about our understanding of what Christ expects of us when He assumed we would fast?

Matt 9:14 ¶ Then the disciples of John *came to Him, asking, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?" Matt 9:15 And Jesus said to them, "The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast (italics added).

2.  The first mention of fasting in the New Testament is found concerning Jesus. Matt 4

3. The first mention of fasting in the Church regards missions and appointing elders. Acts 13:2; 14:23

Missions:Acts 13:2 While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Acts 13:3 Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

Appointing Elders:Acts 14:23 When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

4. There are multiple reasons to fast.

a. To seek God’s guidance – Judges 20

b. To seek deliverance or protection – 2 Chr 20

c. To express repentance and the return to God – Jonah 3:5-8; Joel 2:12-13

d. To humble oneself before God. Ps. 35:13

e. To express concern for the work of God – Neh. 1:3-4

f. To minister to the needs of others (Is. 58:6-7).

Some think fasting tends to focus solely on introspection, not so. This passage is the most extensive in all of Scripture on fasting and emphasizes fasting for the purpose of meeting the needs of others.

g. To overcome temptation and dedicate yourself to God (Matt. 4).

h. To express love and worship to God. Lk. 2:37

You may think fasting is only about dire circumstances and great troubles. But the Bible says that fasting may be an act of sheer devotion to God. Look up the passage and see what Anna was doing.

5. There are various types of fasts.

a. A supernatural fast.

40 days and nights of no food or water (Deut. 9:9; 1 Kgs. 19:8). Please do not try this or you will die.  

Deut 9:9 "When I went up to the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the LORD had made with you, then I remained on the mountain forty days and nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water.

1 Kings 19:8 - So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.

Matt 4:2 And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.

b. A partial fast is a limitation of the diet but not total abstinence from all food (Dan. 1:12);

Daniel 1:12 - "Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink.

A couple years ago I was on a partial fast and someone heard that I was fasting. This church member saw that I was at lunch with another member and chided me for eating. When you fast, expect stupidity like that. There’s always someone looking for ways to bring you down. Ignore them.  

c. An absolute fast avoids all food and liquid, even water (Ezra 10:6; Esther 4:16; Acts 9:9);

d. A private fast (Matt. 6:16-18). Jesus is addressing the heart and motivation.

Matt 6:16 ¶ "Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites {do,} for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. Matt 6:17 "But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face Matt 6:18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees {what is done} in secret will reward you.

e. A national fast. 2 Chron. 20; Neh. 9; Esther 4; Jonah 4

You may think, “There’s no way our government would call a national fast!” But did you know that Congress proclaimed three national fasts. Presidents John Adams and James Madison each called on all Americans to fast, and Abraham Lincoln did so on three separate occasions during the war between the states.

Do not give up hope church!

f. A congregational is a corporate call to the redeem to be involved in fasting (Joel 2:15, 16; Acts 13:3);

g. A regular or scheduled fast that God commanded under the O.T. where every Jew was to fast on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29-31).

h. Occasional fasts that occur on special occasions as the need arises.

How to Fast

1. Prepare yourself spiritually.

The very foundation of fasting and prayer is repentance. Unconfessed sin will hinder your prayers. Here are several things you can do to prepare your heart:

 - Ask God to help you make a comprehensive list of your sins.

 - Confess every sin that the Holy Spirit calls to your remembrance and accept God's forgiveness (1 John 1:9).

 - Ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit according to His command in Ephesians 5:18 and His promise in 1 John 5:14,15.

 - Surrender your life fully to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Master; refuse to obey your worldly nature (Romans 12:1,2).

 - Meditate on the attributes of God, His love, sovereignty, power, wisdom, faithfulness, grace, compassion, and others (Psalm 48:9,10; 103:1-8, 11-13).

 - Do not underestimate spiritual opposition.

2. Prepare yourself physically.

Fasting requires reasonable precautions. Consult your physician first, especially if you take prescription medication or have a chronic ailment. Some persons should never fast without professional supervision.

Physical preparation makes the drastic change in your eating routine a little easier so that you can turn your full attention to the Lord in prayer.

 - Do not rush into your fast - Prepare your body. Eat smaller meals before starting a fast. Avoid high-fat and sugary foods.

 - Eat raw fruit and vegetables for two days before starting a fast.

 - Avoid drugs, even natural herbal drugs and homeopathic remedies. Medication should be withdrawn only with your physician's supervision.

 - Limit your activity.

 - Exercise only moderately. You may have to stop exercising on prolonged fasts.

 - Rest as much as your schedule will permit.

 - Prepare yourself for temporary mental discomforts, such as impatience, crankiness, and anxiety.

 - Expect some physical discomforts, especially on the second day. You may have fleeting hunger pains, dizziness, or the "blahs." Withdrawal from caffeine and sugar may cause headaches. Physical annoyances may also include weakness, tiredness, or sleeplessness.

The first two or three days are usually the hardest. As you continue to fast, you will likely experience a sense of well-being both physically and spiritually. However, should you feel hunger pains, increase your liquid intake.

3. Put yourself on a schedule.

For maximum spiritual benefit, set aside ample time to be alone with the Lord. Listen for His leading. The more time you spend with Him, the more meaningful your fast will be.

Engage in Divine Reading

Divine Reading, also called lectio divina, is an ancient practice of the early church, described by Origen in about 240AD.

This practice is also called “dwelling in the word and is a way of reading, praying and meditating on scripture with the expectation that God is present and that He can be heard through the text (maybe that is why it’s called the Word of God!). This devotional reading of scripture can be traced back to the Desert Fathers and other early church leaders, and was given special prominence by St. Benedict.

There are four basic steps involved in lectio divina.

Read. First is the lectio, or “reading/listening.” This stage cultivates the ability to listen deeply without distraction. The selected scripture should be read more than once with the option of using different translations and a variety of readers (especially in a group). The listener is encouraged to identify any word or phrase that stands out or “shines.” Even in familiar passages something new might catch the reader’s attention. This is done in deliberate silence and with great patience.

Reflect. Next is meditatio, or “meditation.” In this step the listener dwells on or “chews on” (reminiscent of a cow regurgitating its food) a specific word or phrase asking for God’s help in letting His Word become flesh.

Respond. The third step is oratio, or “prayer.” While the whole exercise can be considered a prayer of scripture, this segment emphasizes a prayer of contriteness. The listener prays that God will shape him or her through the text.

Rest. The final stage is contemplatio, or “contemplation.”This is the silent response the reader has to God’s magnificent presence. It is a time of resting in the midst of the Living Word.

4. End your fast gradually.

Begin eating gradually. Do not eat solid foods immediately after your fast. Suddenly reintroducing solid food to your stomach and digestive tract will likely have negative, even dangerous, consequences. Try several smaller meals or snacks each day. If you end your fast gradually, the beneficial physical and spiritual effects will result in continued good health.

5. Expect results.

If you sincerely humble yourself before the Lord, repent, pray, and seek God's face; if you consistently meditate on His Word, you will experience a heightened awareness of His presence (John 14:21). The Lord will give you fresh, new spiritual insights. Your confidence and faith in God will be strengthened. You will feel mentally, spiritually, and physically refreshed.

John 14:21 "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself. 

If a professional NBA player can do it, you can do it child of God! Since Jesus assumed His followers would fast and pray, let us do so.

For the sake of our own souls. For our spouses and family. For the body of Christ. For the lost. For our country. But above all else, for the glory of God.

Come join us this Wednesday as we close out our month-long focus on fasting by seeing the 5 Main Benefits of Fasting. 7:00pm in the Sanctuary!

With you in the grip of God's grace,
Pastor Mark

Four Lessons from 2012 for 2013
December 31, 2012

Four Lessons in 2012 for 2013

1. Praise God for His provisions!

God rewards faithfulness to His Word.

The psalmist penned this about the words of God, “Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward” (Ps 19:11).

The reward(s) come in different ways: physical, spiritual, emotional, economical, etc. Sometimes they are seen by all; other times the prize is personal. Sometimes they are given here on earth; others are held back until the great Day.

As you look back this past year, consider making a list of God’s provisions and turn it into a time of praise and gratitude and glory for your great God!

2. The mission matters.       

Matt 28:18-20: And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

These words are priceless to us.

As Dr. T said on Sunday, the local church is not a social club. We are a new class of humanity: Jew and Gentile made one in Christ. (BTW, listen to Dr. T’s message; it’s really good).

Our existence is due to God’s miraculous and merciful power. The church family is more important than our physical families because the church family is made special by God’s calling, redemption, and glorification.

“Building believers who reach others for Christ.” Those words summarize the reason why we exist as a local church. It is a memorable summary of the Great Commission.

With all of our weaknesses; with all of our limits; with all of our mess-ups; with all of our fears: may His mission be our mission more and more.  

So let us avoid what distracts many a local church from fulfilling our mission. Buildings, budgets, bottoms, personalities, and programs are important but may they never drive what we do. Those things serve us and the mission – not the other way around.

May the one single driving force of the body of Christ be this: that we want His name glorified among the neighborhoods and the nations! We do this by loving one another and serving one another and sharing the life-changing message of the gospel.

May we hold one of God’s favorite words close to our hearts and minds: “Go.”

And “Go” we did in 2012! Seventy-four unique members went to Zimbabwe, India, Kosovo, Guatemala, Kenya, Canada at a cost of $122,336. These trips totaled 425,140 miles, or seventeen times around the world at a cost of $122,336 – and this during a building-renovation project! If you do not know, that’s unheard of for a church our size. This does not include our local outreach initiatives.  

This glorifies God and is one mark of His hand on us.

  • Let’s go from success to significance.
  • Let’s go from keepers of the aquarium to fishers of men.
  • Let’s go from being in-ward focused to being outward-focused.
  • Let’s go from processing our lives through our own little worlds to processing life through God’s eyes and His big universe.
  • Let’s go from no gospel spreading to more gospel spreading.
  • Let’s go from some gospel spreading to significant gospel spreading. 

And why do we do this?

We go for the glory of His name. We go for the sake of the lost. We go for the sake of our own joy.

Give yourself in pursuit of His purposes this new year.

For the next year, may God build our community groups more into intentional conformity to the mission.

3. Stand on God’s Word unashamedly.

2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

2 Tim 3:17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

2 Tim 4:1 I solemnly charge {you} in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:

2 Tim 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season {and} out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

2 Tim 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but {wanting} to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,

  • Even when others do not understand when you do.
  • Even when others get it when you do.
  • Even when others assign evil motives when you do.
  • Even when others see your heart when you do.  
  • Even when others fall away when you do.
  • Even when others join you when you do.
  • Even when others insult you when you do.  
  • Even when others encourage you when you do.
  • Even when others reject you when you do.
  • Even when others fully support when you do.
  • Even when others do not give help when you do.
  • Even when others assist when you do.
  • Even when God seems long gone and all you hear is the sound of a solitary cricket.
  • Even when God backs you up with Red Sea-like demonstrations.
  • Even when you question whether it is worth standing on God’s Word.
  • Even when your heart beats like a warrior when you do.
  • Even when you get vindicated.
  • Even when you do not get affirmed.   
  • Even when it’s hard. Even when it’s easy.

May God help us to continue to stand on His Word and speak the truth in love to one another.

4. Be more accustomed with God’s ironic processes.

1 Cor 1:22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom;

1 Cor 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,

1 Cor 1:24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1 Cor 1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

1 Cor 1:26 ¶ For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;

1 Cor 1:27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,

1 Cor 1:28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,

1 Cor 1:29 so that no man may boast before God.

God likes to do things backwards to our ways. He likes to take our way of doing things and turn it upside down. Then He shakes. And He shakes omnipotent hard.

God prefers to use weak people, not strong people. He brings people on His team that we would naturally not figure to be in the line-up.

Take Paul, for example. If I’m sending my apostle to be a light for the Gentiles in my redemptive plan, I’m not letting him get jailed! He cannot go anywhere and preach. The bad guys thought they had him and his gospel stopped. But man cannot stop the God in heaven who does as He pleases.

Take suffering, for example. We ask Him to get painful things out of our lives. But He has greater plan for those things.

Now, I have saved the best for last:

2 Cor 12:7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself!

2 Cor 12:8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.

2 Cor 12:9 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

2 Cor 12:10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Do not miss the nucleus of Paul’s understanding of New Covenant life and ministry. It is power through weakness. When weak, then strong.

Really, who talks like that?

The idea is foreign to us.

But humility is the channel to God’s Almighty power and provision. Paul says the Shekinah glory cloud of God dwells on those who boast about their weaknesses.  

Meditate on this past year and consider this paradoxical principle of God's kingdom.

May God help us to both understand and embrace His ironic ways.

With you in His grip of grace,
Pastor Mark

A Christmas Poem: the Church Rises
December 25, 2012
This is for my church, with others, I pastor,
Called by Jesus Christ, and He is our Master:

On the night before Christmas we remembered

Of bloody back and brow, we considered

The mystery of the universe, that God became man
Of Deity in diapers, how could we understand

Yet at the least we know it to be unique
And of this mystery we refuse to critique

Only wonder at the depth did God go
For sinners such as us, that He would want to know

We who were vile, defiled and shamed
Now cleansed and clean to the glory of His Name

Yes, now children; we are His body and His bride
Called out of darkness to reign at His side

But men and devils so hard they did try
To bring us down low, never to rise

They questioned motive, manner and every word
Meetings to plot, with others they did confer

But God they did not, and in their quest forgot
That the First Baptist Church is blood-bought

And so we went forward in faith and strength
Shocked to see others go to such great lengths

To stop the advance of this church's mission
Lies and liens they were commissioned

The obstacles came in variegated shapes and sizes
The depth and breadth did stagger and surprise us

But when a church is going the way of God
To resists its advance is foolish and odd

For Jesus said, "A Church I will build
I want my house full and and I want it filled

With a people who tremble at My holy Word
Who have a passion for My glory to be heard"

So you went with God's Word, affirming pastors or elders
Kissed Roberts' rules good bye, no more helter skelter

And we still take the Gospel here and there, to neighborhoods and nations
On street corners, in homes, alleys and stations

Forward we continue with no fear or compromises;
By His grace and for His glory; this church rises.

Merry Christmas Church Family! We rejoice at what God did this past year and have a prayerful sense of anticipation for the next. Happy New Year!

Pastor Mark

For Monica: Our Love Rises
December 20, 2012

Our Love Rises

Weary of the chase, worn from being let down

Searching for a queen to be my crown

Wanted a woman with beauty and belief

When I first saw you my spirit found relief

God was calling and we were falling, no stalling

Together we were walking, much we were talking

Deep in the third watch of night

Of things perhaps trite, but feeling it felt so right

I asked and you said yes, not a guess

But we did not know of future’s tests.

Past regrets, uncommon pain and shame

Can this be healed in the power of His Name?

I was distant, you were with fears

We were trying hard but fell did many tears

Words fail to fill the next line and verse

We took one another for better or for worse

An avalanche of cold, too much to comprehend

Evil was bold, we had to learn on Him depend

The turn was ours to bleed and burn

But our love rises with a deep-seated yearn

Though now vanquished by cross, struggles still come now and then

A reminder of the call to trust in Him

They are souvenirs of the soul, of longings to be more whole

Of distant feelings, still in need of healing

And it comes from the power of God’s mighty hand

As He brings us along according to His plan

Turning darkness to light and death to life

For the good of our souls by the glory of His might

On this day I celebrate our love anew

And what God has done, with children too

For I recall that first night, the chance I could not miss

The night we danced, the night we kissed

Yes, for you my heart still beats desire, and I will tend the fire

With a prayer that God will continue to take us higher.

Happy 20th Beautiful,


India Project Report
November 20, 2012

Praise God for all that He is doing in India! Wow!

I'm still trying to process all that I saw on the trip and in that great nation.

For example: I've never been to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; never saw children begging before; never saw a bomb-sniffing dog in the corridor leading to the plane in Chicago (headed for Abu Dhabi) before; never had to pull the curtains on the van to block the windows out of concern for safety before; never saw the macro effects of polytheism on a culture before; never saw so many cows walking down urban streets nor worshipped before; never told to not witness to people in certain situations due to security before; never told to quickly move into the hotel because of a security concern; never had to go through a security checkpoint with X-ray machines to enter a hotel;  never preached to over 3,000 people before; never helped lead the Lord's Supper to that many people before; never saw diet Pepsi used because juice was not available for the Lord's Supper; never spoke with a man from Saudi Arabia before; never been so close to a head-on collision before; never saw so much trash; never been in a city of 20 million; never saw slums that have 5 million people; never saw a bat in a hotel before; never saw so much rice prepared for so many people; never saw the Gateway to India before; never been in the Taj Hotel before, a place where terrorists killed over one-hundred people; never heard of a 73 year old minister baptize 1573 with his own hands (which took 10 days); never saw a horse-drawn shrine before; never been in the number one country for vehicle fatalities; never saw a camel walking down an urban street before; never saw so many swastikas; never saw such earnestness on the faces of God's people observing the Lord's Supper. 

I think that covers most of the never-befores.  

Thanks to pastors John and Wally, and thanks to James Barfield for filling the pulpit and preaching God's Word to God's people. You are gifts to the body. 

To those that prayed and helped me go I want to offer many thanks. The Lord will reward you greatly because He supports those who are pursuing Him and His kingdom.

Here's an overview of what our team of seven both saw and did to the glory of God in conjunction with our on-the-ground coordinator, Benny Matthews, of Alpha Ministries:

 - Trained and encouraged over 1500 church planters and pastors.

 - Preached to crowds of 3,000-5,000.

 - Witnessed nationals baptizing new converts.

 - Distributed Hindi Bibles to the pastors and church planters.

 - Saw a local Hindu mayor and her husband be prayed for and receive a Bible.

 - Awarded bicycles and motorcycles to worthy pastors.

 - Distributed bags to participants.

 - Distributed saris to female participants.

 - Listened to accounts of miracles by Indian believers.

 - Heard accounts of persecution.

Perhaps the most moving, apart from seeing the children beg on the streets of Baroda and Mumbai, was witnessing what the church leaders ask baptismal candidates both when they come forward after the preaching and just prior to being baptized in the lake.

The church leaders say to the candidates, "We call heaven and earth as witnesses this day. Will you continue to follow Jesus even if they kill you?" And after an affirmation from the candidate, they follow with these words, "Will you follow Jesus even if they beat you?"

This is why the church is growing in India, even in areas of persecution. They understand the Biblical meaning of baptism. America's version of Chrisianity is watered down (pun intended). I look forward to sharing some more in the coming Sundays.

Again, thank you to all who prayed and helped me go. God will bless you.

Yours for fulfilling the mission Jesus gave us,
Pastor Mark

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