On Wednesday, February 14, 2018, our country was again shaken to its core by another mass school shooting. Some pastors are reluctant to speak-out in the pulpit because the issues around gun violence are so politicized, but in this message Pastor Mark tackles them head-on. While there is no panacea to school shootings, there are things we can do (and should do) as citizens and Christians, but nothing will get done if we don't find ways to talk to each other across the political divide and focus on solutions. For Christ's sake, we all need to come together and act.
Your story matters. What happened to you matters. How you got through it matters. And whether or not you share these things matters. In this message, Pastor Mark explains that your story might be the key that God uses to unlock someone else's story, helping them find their way to a new beginning.
Some people live under the false assumption that everything is the will of God. This can lead to some pretty horrible claims, like when Jerry Falwell said that 9/11 occurred because of pagans, abortionists, feminists, "the gays and the lesbians" and the ACLU. And it's not just the extreme examples that create confusion, but also when well-meaning people say, "It must be the will of God," in response to tragedy. What do we do with such claims? In this message, Pastor Mark insists that the way we talk about God matters, and give us tools to more deeply and critically reflect on this topic.
"You're being transferred." "I want a divorce." "You have to get sober." "The test results are positive." "I'm sorry, she didn't make it." Words like these force us to take journeys we don't want to take. In this message, Pastor Mark explains that Mary and Joseph were forced to be refugees after the birth of Jesus, and suggests that this unexpected and undesirable journey helps us better navigate our own.
The Christmas story, as narrated in the Bible, teaches us that following Jesus is risky business. If we are not able to deal with our fears and step-out in courageous faith, then we will never experience the fullness of God's joy. In this message, Pastor Mark uses the story of Joseph to illustrate this point. While there is something for everyone in this message, it will especially connect with step-parents, foster-parents, and adoptive parents.
How do you respond when someone mistreats you? Do you vindicate yourself and strike back, or choose the higher calling of grace? Joseph's response to Mary, when she tells him that she's pregnant and the child is not his, gives us an inspiring alternative to the retaliation that often injures our relationships. Check out this message to see how.
In this message, I reflect on how God's choosing of Joseph to be Jesus' earthly father reveals important values for those seeking abundant life. If you want to find real joy this Christmas season, you have to learn how to forget yourself on purpose. (This is the first message in a four-week Advent series.)
We have so much to be thankful for, but take so much for granted. In this message, Pastor Mark explains that if we are intentional about cultivating an attitude of gratitude that our life will drift into negativity, entitlement, and greed. Then he offers four practices that can lead to a conversion of the heart.