One Lord

Today I am enjoying time with Cambodian pastors as I teach and share insights, encouragement, and resources with these Christ-followers and Christian leaders.  The siblings-in-Christ who reside in a land sixteen hours ahead of my home share the same passion; namely, to know Christ and make Him known.  While we live in different lands and speak different languages, we share the same core beliefs based on the inspired word of God.

A couple of years ago during a tour of the "Holy Land," fellow Rabbit Creek Church members stood with my wife and me in an ancient cathedral and sang the words of "Amazing Grace."  As we did, fellow Christians began to sing the same hymn, yet in a different tongue.  As we Alaskans sang in English, they as Koreans, sang in their mother language.  I count that as one of my favorite times of worship.

As a teenager, I spent some time in Australia.  While there, I (a Baptist) received Holy Communion from a Catholic priest.  It was, to my surprise, "real" wine.  The wine told me the same story as did my familiar Welch's. 

I have preached in Baptist, Methodist, and CME churches.  I have prayed with preachers, priests, deacons, nuns, and wanderers.  Through it all, Jesus connects all of His followers under the love-of-God-sized banner of Grace.

Ephesians 4:4-6 (NIV)
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.


Show Up

This weekend dozens of Rabbit Creek Church teenagers will gather in homes across our city for an event known as Discipleship Now, DNow for short.  They will gather for games; food; maybe a bit of rest; and, as the event title suggests, discipleship. 

Nearly three decades later, I still recall weekends dedicated to the same purposes.  As a student, just as ours will this weekend, I joined with other FBC Arlington teens for games, food, a bit of rest, and discipleship.  While I cannot recall the subject material, I do remember the purpose.  We gathered for relationship-building and spiritual growth.  While neither was a guaranteed outcome,  the mere act of attending made good results possible and even likely.

A few years later as I mentored under my pastor, he assigned me the task of creating a document that would accompany his teaching for people who were exploring church membership.  I took thorough notes as he taught.  A particular phrase he used caught my attention each time.  He would ask each inquirer to share their ideas on what they thought were the most important aspects of church membership.  Upon graciously hearing their answers, my pastor would say, "The number one key to church membership is showing up."  He went on to explain how being present leads the way to engagement and faithful service.  Yet he was intentional in communicating that it all starts with showing up. 

To this day I echo his conviction on that matter.

When you commit to showing up for worship and Bible study, the life-change is not guaranteed; but the mere act of attending makes good results possible and even likely.

My calendar shows me that March 24th is the next upcoming Sunday.  Find a church.  Find your church.  Show up.  Results may vary.  But, the mere act . . .


God Who Goes With You

Thank you to my friend, Chris Gonzales, for writing today’s post.
- Mark

Deuteronomy 31:6 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the LORD your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.

At our Small Group tonight we discussed the question: “When have you felt like God was not present?”  This question is deep and will likely call upon some of the most emotional and poignant times in our lives. My wife and I remembered a period of time after Jeremiah was born, with the medical challenges and all that comes with a preemie, when the pressure and stress seemed as if it was going to break us. The story is long and it is hard, if not impossible, to convey the emotion, sadness and the brokenness we each went through together and alone. 

Though, it is really unnecessary to give the specifics, as I am sure the mere mention of a time of brokenness brings to mind a similar time for you.

Unfortunately, we know, as we see in John 16:33 “…You will have suffering in this world…” But there is hope! And it is found in the promises of God as we read in Deuteronomy 31:6.

During small group, as we spoke of our dark times, we all spoke of how in those moments we found ourselves completely reliant upon God. I recalled the feeling of realizing my need for God, of clinging to God. I could see myself sinking in the world and holding to God as if it was the last knot at the end of my rope.

These times we have faced are (and will be) difficult, but true to God’s promise He never left me. God carried me through the tough times and because of them I am a stronger Christian now and I am better able to serve Him in this broken world.

I do not know all of the struggles you have faced, or will face, but I can promise you that God does. God knows the worst of this world and Jesus understands the depths of pain beyond our comprehension, but they have also conquered over sin and death. As it says in Romans 8:31If God is for us, who can ever be against us… therefore . . .

Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the LORD your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.

In Him,
Chris Gonzales


Ash Wednesday

Tomorrow evening from 6:30 - 7:30 our church family will gather for our Ash Wednesday service.  You may wonder about the meaning of Ash Wednesday and/or why we are offering such a service.  The answer is 46. 

Ash Wednesday occurs 46 days before Easter.  Subtracting Sundays from that number gives a count of 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. 

Forty, commonly found in Scripture, here represents the 40 days of fasting that Jesus practiced in the wilderness.  He prepared Himself for His purpose. 

On Easter, followers of Christ celebrate a great victory - the great victory of Christ.  The victory over sin.  Jesus gave His life for your sin and my sin; He rose from the grave; we celebrate.

Yet.  Is it wise to celebrate without knowing, really knowing, the reason for which we celebrate?  We need a reminder.  Ash Wednesday serves as that reminder.

Mark, in his gospel, records John the Baptist's famous phrase, "Repent, and believe the good news!"

Ash Wednesday reminds us to repent.  God calls us to confess our sins, which He is faithful in forgiving.  We confess and acknowledge the grace of God in forgiving us.

Join me on Ash Wednesday in confessing sins to God and thanking Him for His forgiveness.