Religion Kills: Mark spent nearly two decades invested in a legalistic denomination. He became a youth pastor and preacher (as seen above). Once Mark realized his freedom in Christ through Andrew’s teaching, he began to explore what had happened to his Dad. Mark remembers the Sunday night service when his dad stayed in the car at church, as the rest of the family went inside. During the service, Mark went out to check on his father. When he reached the car, he found his dad dead, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. Mark was six-years-old. A year ago, he began to investigate the suicide. His father’s closest friends indicated that his dad felt he had committed the “unpardonable sin” of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. He sought help, but was tormented by the church’s strict interpretation of the words found in Matthew 12:31. Religious bondage forced his father to take his own life. This spurred Mark to share the message of God’s unconditional love and grace.
Mark Allen Hicks was a born again, Spirit-filled believer long before the Lord used Andrew to challenge his restrictive religious practices. Mark, a veteran of the Iraq War, had just returned from the Middle East when he was introduced to Andrew’s teaching. It was through Andrew’s ministry that Mark has been released from decades of religious and physical bondage.
Mark was raised in a denominational church where every aspect of life was regulated. He and the members of his church were required to adhere to specific rules in an effort to live perfect, sinless lives. Legalistic rules extended beyond simple modest dress codes, conservative hair styles and make-up restrictions for the women, but also went as far as to include being restricted from wearing wedding rings, watch movies, go swimming or participating in anything the church deemed worldly or secular. On top of normal adherence to the rules, there was additional pressure on Mark in that his family pastored the church to which he belonged.
In 2009, while Mark was far from his church circles, serving in Iraq as part of the United States National Guard, the Lord began to speak to him about his beliefs. It wasn’t until he returned to the States however, that his eyes were truly opened.
Upon his homecoming in 2010, Mark and his wife, Jannette, visited a new church that his father-in-law was partnering with to build his own Hispanic congregation. During Mark’s first visit to the church, the pastor of the English-speaking congregation ministered from Andrew’s teaching, The War Is Over, and Mark’s religious foundation was shaken. He was taken aback by what he heard. As he shared his astonishment with Jannette, she replied, “Baby, that is the guy,” referring to Andrew, “I have been watching the past couple of mornings on the TV—he’s really challenging me!”
The stark contrast between Andrew’s message of grace and the rigidity of Mark’s religious upbringing revealed a gap in Mark’s relationship with the Lord.
“I was born again and did speak in tongues before Jesus wrecked my life through that Texan, [Andrew]” Mark joked as he acknowledged the clash of theology. “I truly let the tradition of men stop the word of God from working in my life, and I had a huge wall built between me and God.”
As Mark began to read the Bible for himself, and as he continued to study Andrew’s teaching, his life and relationship with the Lord began to transform. He was released from the bondage of legalism.
Mark found freedom to experience what the Lord had provided, without the burden of doing something to receive God’s blessings. As he studied, he also found freedom from the physical bondage of migraine headaches. Mark said, “I struggled with migraines ever since I can remember. I remember as a young child asking my mom to give me medicine. I would also ask every evangelist to pray for me to be healed. When I listen to Andrew’s God Wants You Well, I received it with open arms and gladness!”
During his first encounter with a migraine after understanding his authority in Christ, Mark stood against the headache and commanded it to leave—and it did! He said he had read the Scriptures Andrew used, with reference speaking to your mountain (Mark 11:23) and believing that you receive when you pray (Mark 11:24) but he never grasped their meaning until he heard Andrew explain them with so much love.
Mark said, “The day I spoke to the migraine I said, ‘Migraine, I command you to leave my head in the name of Jesus!’ I said, ‘Pain, leave my head in the name of Jesus!’ From that day forward, they left and haven’t returned. Satan tries to tempt me, but I blast his defeated self with, ‘It is written!’” When the headache and pain responded to his authority, Mark realized how much the religion and practices of his past had hindered his faith. “I was trying to get something I already had,” he said.
The revelation of authority and expectation of God’s goodness took a little longer for Jannette, but she did receive the revelation as well. Mark said, “My wife always expected to get sick around flu season and bought flu meds when they were on sale. She asked me one day, “Why don’t you ever get sick?” I told her, “Because I don’t want it, I don’t expect it, and I don’t see myself sick.” Since that conversation, she has gone three years without getting sick. There are times when she can feel sickness trying to attack her, but Mark said, “She also blasts the accuser with the word.”
Mark and Jannette are grateful for their freedom and for Andrew’s passion for the Gospel of Grace. “I always saw God as the pagan god, Zeus. You know, sitting on a cloud with a lightning bolt, ready to zap us for the least mistake. When I listened to, The War Is Over, my whole perspective of the Father changed—180 degrees! The verse that says, ‘God is love,’ became real to me. I now see Him as Abba Father (Daddy) and not as some demon religion portrays Him to be,” said Mark.
Since Mark has received the revelation of the true meaning of the Gospel of Grace he has been preaching and teaching through Facebook pages, local Bible studies, and engaging one-on-one with people he encounters everywhere. The Gospel Truth…is contagious!
By Kevin Bree