The Visible Disciples
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
If you are a disciple of Jesus, then “You are salt. You are light!” He does not say, “Perhaps you might be salt someday,” or even “You will be light,” but “You are salt, and you are light.” The implication is that the disciples (even before they get much of an opportunity to nurture the beatitudes within themselves or to do anything meritorious) are called into their identity by Jesus in a moment. When the Son of God says, “This is who you are,” his words echo in human beings with as much generative unction as they did in the unmade cosmos on the day he said, “Let there be light!”
Similarly, the disciples do not possess saltiness; they are salt. The saints do not merely radiate light; they are light. So the message of Christ to his disciples is not, “You are salt and light. Now go do something.” His message is, “You are salt and light. Now go be who you are and see what glory comes of it!” Why salt? Because salt cleans, purifies, preserves, flavors, heals, and relieves pain. Salt extracts what is bad and enhances what is good. The saints on the earth are the visible expression of the detoxifying love of God. Why light? Most simply, because God is light, and he shares his identity with us. So of course the saints are visible! Could it be otherwise?
Antioch Leadership Institute
We are half-way finished with the first semester of our Antioch Leadership Institute. It is a blessed privilege to equip these emerging leaders as we approach the fulfillment of the great commission, the salvation of Israel, and the consummation of all things in the return of Jesus. As we gathered with our student body (consisting of over 30 students and interns) at our last chapel service, we worshiped through song, declared our faith with the Nicene Creed, read Paul’s letter aloud from Ephesians, received the Lord’s Supper together, and interceded on behalf of our nation. Kyle Robillard, an ALI student, charged us from 1 Corinthians 3 not to waste our lives but rather to persevere in faith, laying hold of the rewards the Father has for us in the age to come.
Awaken the Dawn and Awake College Tour
Our main annual conference, Awaken the Dawn, is approaching. This year’s event (may it be a Christ-exalting-catalyst, not a mere event) proves to be a convergence of the missions and prayer movements; for it is all a Jesus movement. Prior to the event, we plan to join with YWAM and other national missions ministries to tour the college campuses of Virginia and the East Coast. Along the way we will host open-air worship gatherings, proclaim the eternal gospel, and appeal to all in our hearing to follow Jesus.
Spring is coming, but not quickly enough for our little ones and our garden beds! Owen started Suzuki violin training two months ago, and he loves it! He just learned his first song entitled “Concerto in E.” It is a very aptly named tune written by his teacher featuring the E string (and only the E string haha!). Owen also plays chess now and since our last letter has played me at least once daily (truly!). I am happy to say that I believe I see in Owen the definite emergence of a Kazmier chess dynasty. Owen grows a pound a day and an inch a week, or seems to anyway! He is very interested in punching, kicking, wrestling, yelling, throwing things, and pretending to play football for Alabama and Notre Dame alternately in the hallway.
And then there’s Olivette. She trots around the house pushing her baby (swaddled in pink) in the back of a metal dump truck, hiding cars and coins and Lincoln logs in whatever outfit she has on (we find them later when we change her), and chirping like a little bird! She screamed for joy when she dropped spinach seeds into the soil last weekend, and I’m fairly certain she thinks about horses and babies and puppies all day long. She has also learned to pout and makes frequent use of this new and exciting expression throughout the day. We can’t count the kisses she lavishes on us!
As always, thank you for your prayers and partnership! May He speak well to you.
Grace and peace,
Mark, Elena, Owen and Olive
Prayer Furnace Fourth-Year Anniversary
This January marks our fourth year as a ministry. By the grace of God alone and to the glory of God alone, here is a snapshot of the remarkable past four years at the Prayer Furnace:
- 16,578 hours of an open prayer room in Fredericksburg
- 132,626 hours of worship and prayer in Fredericksburg
- 198 interns
- 318 students
- 2,912 hours of evangelism
- 13,354 people equipped at our events
- 14,120 hours of training and teaching
- 20,800 meals distributed to those in need
- 91,550 dollars given to the needy
HALLELUJAH!!!! We have done this together!!!!!
CSS and ALI
“Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers. . . While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”
This January Mark and a team of dedicated staff at the Prayer Furnace will launch a new biblical leadership training school under the headship of the College of Sacred Scripture. They call it the Antioch Leadership Institute (ALI), and while the CSS will continue to offer classes and diploma opportunities within the context of a community of worship and prayer, ALI will do so with a more focused two-year leadership training curriculum. CSS and ALI students will participate in the same required core-curriculum classes as well as a chosen practicum track focus (i.e. Worship, Missions, or Apostolic Leadership). After two-years of this holistic educational training (which includes outreach, discipleship, and service to the poor of our community), ALI students will apply for commissioning into a two-month field placement assignment to serve either in this nation or the nations abroad, a facet specific to ALI only. Currently, we have 15 full-time students enrolled!
This winter marks another milestone for the Prayer Furnace. After years of prayer, we have felt released and even charged by God to add a congregational expression to our Prayer Furnace community. To this end we have begun a Sunday morning gathering. This past Sunday was our first service, and already I feel the happy effects of the presence of God in the midst of the saints like a potent balm for my soul.
This past fall Mark and I directed an adult, non-residential internship called the Immersed Internship. Our precious group was beautiful in its Kingdom variety: a missionary family moving to India, a woman from Ghana, a woman from Tennessee, and a married couple with four children from our region. The testimonies of these individuals bear witness to the remarkable simplicity of the transforming love of God in Christ.
The Lord spoke to Mark and I while traveling with our children to hike the Colorado Rockies for our 10th anniversary that the coming year would be a year of wine, a year full of the joy of the Lord. We have felt a sure increase! A new height of joy marks our walk with God, our love for one another, our love for beautiful Owen and Olive, and the glorious tasks He has prepared for us to walk in before the ages past. Owen and Mark are spending much time beating the cold by playing “hallway ball,” a variation of indoor soccer, and chess (at least a version of chess which basically consists of Owen destroying all of Mark’s pieces with a single pawn)! Owen counts to one thousand and reads simple sentences. He is bold in faith, confident in the love of God, tender and compassionate in heart, fierce in battle (just ask Mark after one of their wrestling matches!), and sometimes seems to grow an inch overnight! Olive is dancing the winter away, eating her weight in dark chocolate with Mama, staying up late to watch old Cosby Show reruns, and getting into all manner of mischief around the house. She loves effortlessly and would put her small arms around the whole world if she could. Mark and I are so grateful for our babies. The most hyperbolic language imaginable would merely understate how deeply we love and enjoy our children. Consider then how Abba God feels about us!!
Thank you all for your continued support. We love you. Pray for us!
Grace and peace,
25 September 2012
John to the seven churches that are in Asia [modern Turkey]: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
I write to inform you of a door the Lord has opened for me to minister in the nation of Turkey. Tomorrow I will join a small leadership team from the Fredericksburg Prayer Furnace already stationed there. The purpose of our trip is to wash the feet of the saints in Turkey and to join them hand and heart as they labor for historic revival in their nation.
In addition to the objective certainty I feel in my spirit as regards my own participation in this journey, the Lord also confirmed his invitation to our team subjectively by two powerful dreams. In one dream, travail in prayer came upon our community for the release of revival amidst temporal judgments in Turkey. We shouted, “Istanbul, Istanbul, Istanbul,” as the travail increased, and we knew (from the rest of the dream) that Turkey was a key to God’s redemptive purposes in the earth as a nexus between Europe and Asia. In the second dream, a baby was rescued during an earthquake in Turkey. The Lord then asked the person dreaming, “Who will take over my house of prayer in Turkey?” Several months later an earthquake did in fact rock Turkey, and the headlines stated that an infant had been rescued from the rubble. If the dream had not hooked us already, the headline certainly did.
Our first destination will be Antayla, Turkey where we will minister to and connect with church leaders serving in Turkey at a gathering devoted to 100 hours of continuous worship, prayer, and intercession. I will lead worship during portions of this gathering.
After this we will travel to another Turkish city to strengthen the hearts of longtime missionary friends and their church (because colleagues of these friends were martyred for Jesus relatively recently, we have chosen not to disclose their names or their city). Our purpose in this city is to minister to the saints and to impart courage through the scriptures.
Please also pray for me, for our team, for power through the Holy Spirit to impart life and hope and endurance to the saints in Turkey, for an open door for the gospel, and for my precious family while I am away from them.
Thank you also to those who partnered with our team in the giving of finances to make this trip possible.
To Be Meek
The word ‘meek’ has degenerated into a slanderous descriptive in the English language these days. The reason for this is simple: meekness, or the quality of being meek, is misunderstood as weakness. In fact, the opposite is true. Meekness is the definition of true power; it is power constrained; it is freedom from self-preservation.
Consider Jesus before Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, during the early morning hours of his trial.
Pilate questioned him again: “Have you nothing to say in your defence? You see how many charges they are bringing against you.” But, to Pilate’s astonishment, Jesus made no further reply.
As Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate he had the power within himself to instantly undo the bonds of every atom in every molecule of this Roman man’s body. He had the power (as in Isaiah’s day when a single angel killed 185,000 men of the Assyrian army) to call legions of angels to his aid. And yet he is silent.
Jesus is utterly free from self-preservation. He knows where he came from; he knows where he is going; he knows there is a cross before the crown. This attitude astonishes Pilate. This attitude of meekness, of power constrained, always amazes and astounds the world. Jesus exhibits a wisdom fundamentally contrary to that of natural men. Again and again, he trumps the worldly wisdom of self-preservation with the divine wisdom of self-sacrifice.
We must resist the temptation to think this wisdom makes Jesus ‘nice.’ Jesus is not nice. So often in our culture to be nice is to be obsequious, and to be obsequious is to be weak. An obsequious person manipulates through ‘niceness’ in order to secure a desired gain. Jesus is never obsequious. He asks his Father, and his Father gives, and the gift is nothing short of the nations. He obeys his Father, valiantly and lovingly, not sycophantically. Therefore his silence before Pilate is heroism, the furthest thing from cowardice. In that instant, our salvation hung not on the words of Jesus but on the vacancy of the air in Pilate’s chamber when Jesus made no defense and numbered himself with transgressors. So all the redeemed can say, “Your meekness has made me great!”
TheCall and Awaken the Dawn
It would not be possible to review the remarkable events that unfolded over the six days of Awaken the Dawn and TheCall this past May. Know that God was worshiped, the real Jesus proclaimed, bodies were healed, hearts were encouraged, and the church repented on behalf of the nation for abortion, racism, division, sexual immorality, and pride. Some of Mark’s assignments included leading worship, teaching on God’s purposes for Israel, and leading prayer during TheCall. Mark felt particularly strengthened through the new relationships he fostered with leaders of the body of Christ in America.
You can access free Awaken the Dawn archives here.
You can access free TheCall Virginia archives here.
College of Sacred Scripture/Internships
The commencement of our fall classes and internships is just a few weeks away! This fall we are also exuberantly launching the Stand By Night internship, coinciding with the launch of the Night Watch in our prayer room. We rejoice to say that our God will be corporately sought, adored, and petitioned day and night, six days every week quite possibly for the first time in Virginia’s history! This is a sign and wonder in our generation.
Pray for Brandi
If you are not connected with our local ministry, you may not have heard about a serious car accident on July 8th which left our friends Brandi Sawyer, Anna Sawyer and Emily Sawyer injured. Anna and Emily are mending well. Brandi has been in a coma since the accident. Her level of responsiveness has gradually increased. Brandi has been transferred to a rehab facility in Richmond. Our community has rallied beautifully to tend the Watts and Sawyer families while keeping vigilant in corporate prayer in the hospital’s chapel. If you are interested in hearing the updates, you can access a dedicated facebook page.
We love our children! Owen frequently prepares food for the family (he is especially fond of the serrated knife) and Olive has the two cutest lower front teeth imaginable, so she is starting to partake. Selfishly, I hope she never grows another tooth, but I know that would make future mastication (and maybe other things) difficult.
We are recording a full-length album Brand the Sky, to be released next year. Download a free single we recorded called Your Blood Has Brought Me Near.
We have the fortunate opportunity to go with Mark’s nuclear family to hike in the Rockies for a week this August. The trip coincides with our 10th year anniversary, a milestone of God’s faithfulness to uphold covenant. Our love ages like good wine.
Grace and Glory,
To begin, here is a poem Elena wrote about the resurrection and rebirth. The word perihelion means the point in the orbit of a planet, asteroid, or comet at which it is closest to the sun.
I wasn’t there the day the stone rolled away,
but it took our planet with it. And just now,
I think I heard the old sound, the same gritty strain
of music that woke you up, somehow
on the inside of me: the intelligence of love
in the brawn of time, the force of gravity defied
by the force of glory, the center of the globe exchanged
for the center of the sky, the surrender of a tomb
that opened up and never stopped opening,
the trajectory of hope that sank like a stone
into the fault lines of human history and the human heart,
that races round and round until the orbiting earth halts for good
before the sun.
The Lord has been so gracious to us these past six months. Our noble Olive is full of love. We discern rivers of it in her already. She is six months old now, recently burst into high speed crawling, very affectionate, steady in joy, beautiful in and out, and the happiest girl we know! No one makes her laugh so well as her brother, our fiery Owen, who is full of light and beginning to hear Deep calling unto deep in his heart. Owen attends the Lighthouse Academy of Fredericksburg now, a Christian Montessori school in town where Elena taught years ago and which is owned by our dear friends the McClung family. Elena spends her mornings there with Olive, baking and making tea for the teachers and staff, while Owen works in his classroom. Then Elena, Owen, and Olive often join me for lunch at The Prayer Furnace, sometimes staying for the afternoon internship teaching. But when the weather is as pristine as it has been lately, they are usually outside at our house all day until I join them in the evening. I love my family!
We are currently recording a single, Your Blood Has Brought Me Near, a song co-written by Elena and myself. Look for it in the months to come on a compilation album we are making with other musicians from the Prayer Furnace.
Soon we hope to pursue two side-businesses that may help us meet our budget: Elena’s fine art and Medicare insurance (those phrases should never be in the same sentence). As always, we are still looking for those who feel led to partner with us on a monthly basis financially and in prayer support. If any of you would like to help us with start-up capital for these ventures, please let us know. Also, we continue the search for a music patron for our Owen. A gift of $100 per month would pay for him to study the violin with a Suzuki instructor.
College of Sacred Scripture
We are nearing the end of our Spring Semester at the College of Sacred Scripture, and I believe much fruit has come of it for students and teachers alike. The CSS sponsored our first Saturday Seminar one month ago, an entire day of teaching through the Book of Revelation culminating with a public reading of the text verse by verse to the sound of live music.
Awaken the Dawn/The Call Virginia
We have called Virginia and the nation to a corporate fast for the purpose of repentance and turning back to God. Today marks the fifth day. The crisis of our nation is not economic hardship or a vacuum of political leadership. The crisis is this: we lack revelation of the true Jesus and worship tailor-made christs instead. Our fast will crescendo into a remarkable gathering of the saints in Virginia during the week of Memorial Day: an African American prayer event for the rights of the unborn, our annual Awaken the Dawn conference, the Call Virgina, and the Global Day of Prayer.
From our website:
“The greatest answer to the crisis in America and the central strategy in awakening a generation is the true revelation of Jesus. Our goal at Awaken the Dawn 2012 is to encounter Him for who He truly is in all His beauty as Bridegroom, King, and Judge. His presence satisfies the deepest cravings of the human heart. He is terrifying and wonderful.
Awaken the Dawn is a gathering to mobilize the end-time prayer and missions movement on the east coast of this nation. There are four primary mandates of Awaken the Dawn. We believe that the convergence of these expressions will release an awakening in America and abroad:
- • The worship movement – intimacy with Jesus, creativity, and the 1st commandment.
- • Prayer for justice and day and night intercession.
- • Prophetic and supernatural ministry.
- • Acts of justice and compassion.
We are excited to announce our partnership with The Call this year! On Saturday, May 26, will be The Call Virginia with Lou Engle. God’s remedy for a nation in crisis is gatherings of prayer and fasting in response to Jesus’ great zeal for mercy.
This will be a historic gathering. At Awaken the Dawn, we will grow in understanding of what the Spirit is saying to the church and be equipped for a prayer and missions revolution. At The Call, we will contend with prayer and fasting for mercy for America in the place where more blood was shed brother against brother than any other place in the nation during the Civil War. God is gathering the nation to Virginia, which has been a womb for the nation, to give birth to a third great awakening in this nation!”
We recently sent out a team from our community to tour the major cities of Virginia to proclaim the excellencies of Jesus and to mobilize for the tremendous events we believe God has called for Virginia and the nation in the coming weeks.
Additionally, many of the regions’ African-American leaders are gathering prior to the conference to hold a prayer event, particularly targeting the ending of abortion in the African-American community.
Please come and join us during this historic week!
We are grateful for you all and your continued support in prayer and giving.
May the Lord speak well to you!
Mark, Elena, Owen and Olive
I. Waiting for Messiah: The Life of Simeon
In Samuel Becket’s famous existential play Waiting for Godot, the two main characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait in vain for someone named Godot. They have never met Godot, nor do they know for certain if he is really coming. Still they wait. At the close of the play, Godot remains absent, and their patience is not rewarded.
There was once was a man who lived in a generation in which the wait for the Jewish Messiah seemed as futile as the wait for Godot. His name was Simeon. Four long centuries had come and gone since the last prophet invoked hope in Jewish hearts of the coming Messiah. In the silence, the assurance of some quavered. Was there really a Messiah to come, a flesh and blood Messiah to come, or had the Jewish people been duped by figurative language? Many grew faithless under the burden of delay and exchanged the groan of waiting for the fleeting but immediate satisfaction of powerless religion. This man did not. His name was Simeon, and even in the silence, he kept up the wait. Luke describes him as a man “full of the Holy Spirit.” To me, it is no wonder. Only the Holy Spirit (and those possessed by him) can endure the pain of waiting with steadfastness and overcome the grief of patience by perceiving far-off fulfillment with present-tense joy. To the natural man, this kind of faith is insanity. To the supernatural man, it is the prerequisite for all real wisdom.
Consider Simeon. His life could be summed up as one, long wait for “the consolation of Israel,” the consolation of his own heart, the foretold “Annointed One,” the Christ. It was promised to him that “he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Sages wait, as did Simeon. And one day, as he came to the temple “in the Spirit,” he saw a boy and a girl offering a pair of turtledoves, the sacrifice of the poor, and in the girl’s arms, a child. An infant in fact! He saw a 33-day old, nursing, crying, helpless, diapered infant. But in this infant, Simeon saw the Christ. In a mere second, the travail of a lifetime was gratified. How the scoffers must have scoffed! And how they scoff now as we wait, spending our lives in the “temple,” believing that one day, like Simeon, we too will see lifelong patience vindicated in the “twinkling of an eye” when Christ comes again, this time on the clouds in glory. Take heart beloved! Our wait is not in vain.
II. Family Update
As most of you know, we welcomed Olive Clare into the world this October. She is lovely in every way and a delight to our hearts. She is a reward, and we are all taken with her. It has been a challenging transition for us as a family though; please pray for us as we learn to abide in the vine day by day.
III. Bible-reading Marathon
This November we hosted our second New Testament Bible Reading; a 16 hour public reading of the entire New Testament. Over 40 men and women read in continuous 10 minutes cycles. Musicians accompanied all 16 hours of the reading. The result was a remarkable sense of coming into contact with the Living Word, Jesus, through the written word of God. The letter to the church of Philippi no longer seemed abstract. We were in Philippi. And nothing can compare to the final chapters of the text of Revelation. We were all ready for His return when we cried together in union, “Come Lord Jesus!”
IV. CSS Update
The fall semester was especially rich for me as I encountered God in the scriptures. I trust it has been the same for our students. I taught a survey course on the Old Testament, and I am increasingly stunned by the revelation of the Messiah. From the sacrifices, to the Son of David, to his strange appearance before an unnamed mother when he ascends in smoke, to his appearance as the commander of the Lord’s army (naming only a few), Jesus is in every book and on every page.
Another element of this semester that was particularly fruitful in my estimation was our weekly chapel gathering. These times facilitated student-led worship and exhortation and culminated in remembering the Lord through communion.
V. Tehillah and Israel Mandate Conferences
The Prayer Furnace hosted two conferences this fall, a worship and the arts conference called Tehillah (from the Hebrew word for praise) and the Israel Mandate conference, which focused on God’s purposes for Israel in the last days and our “mandate” to intercede and act on Israel’s behalf. I enjoyed teaching two workshops at Tehillah; the first on the art of biblical songwriting, the second focused on the Songs in the book of revelation. I highly recommend the sessions Dan Juster taught at Israel Mandate, which are available for free here. I personally believe the Israel conference was a tremendously significant experience for all who attended and for the calling of our missions base due to the soundness of what was taught and the authority of those who taught it.
VI. Burn Internship
Thirty students just graduated from our fall Burn internship. Many of them will continue here as full-time students and staff this January. Please pray for them in this transition.
VII. IHOPU “Ex-tern”–Kyle Newby
As a part of our relationship with IHOPU-KC, we invite fourth-year university students to come to our missions base as part of their practicum, something that is essential to a holistic theological education. It is has been such a privilege to have Kyle Newby with us this fall; he is a remarkable man of faith, full of the word of God. We pray he returns.
VIII. Request for patron of the arts
We believe it is time to begin to foster the gifts of our beloved son Owen. We have clearly discerned his love for music, and that he has a real aptitude for it. We would like to steward this gift by giving him violin lessons, something we cannot currently afford. If anyone would be willing to support Owen in this way as a “patron of the arts,” let us know! We believe it would be a great investment.
Here is a video of Owen reciting the Lord’s Prayer:
Thank you for your devotion to the Lord and to us! May God visit you in 2012. We love you all.
Mark, Elena, Owen, and Olive