Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thank You

On Thursday of this week tables will be filled with all manner of food and good fellowship. People who haven’t prayed all year long will bow their heads and pray like they do it every day. Homes that normally do not observe anything religious will find reasons for moments of silence and words of warmth and thanks to God, after all its Thanksgiving.

But to somehow make thanksgiving a holiday or to hallow it as a special day of the year is a bit like telling your wife you love her only on your anniversary. While your anniversary is a noteworthy day and one worthy of recognition I think I can speak for most women when I say she would rather have a little love everyday than a lot of love only one day of the year. A little love everyday simply says, “you are always on my mind.” This is the same principle of Thanksgiving, a little thankfulness everyday sends a message to God that we do not take Him for granted and that we are aware of His daily presence in our lives. As I reflect on my life here are my top three things that I am thankful for…..

1. MY FAITH- Obviously my relationship with Christ is of paramount importance. But my thankfulness rests in the fact that I remember the pathetic and horrid reality of my lost condition and how far I was from him. Because He never gave up on me and loved me in my wretched condition I cannot help but feel the deepest and most sincere gratitude for this place in Him that I did not nor do not deserve. LORD I THANK YOU FOR MY FAITH.

2. MY FAMILY- My wife and children, my parents and my brothers as well as my aunts, uncles, grandmothers and cousins, all of my family has enriched my life and are truly the things that make life full and complete. It is so important that we not allow what we don’t have in life to blind us from the things that we do have because the things we do have are really the most important anyway. LORD I THANK YOU FOR MY FAMILY.

3. MY FUTURE- Now I know that no one is promised tomorrow but if the Lord allows me to live and continue to work for Him I have to say that my heart is filled with great anticipation at the prospects of where the church and I are going. The scriptures in Jeremiah say that the thoughts that God thinks towards us are full of blessing and not cursing so that a bright and blessed future might be established not just for the kingdom but for us as well. It has been the honor of my life to serve the Lord as a minister of the gospel and truly believe the best is yet to come. LORD I THANK YOU FOR MY FUTURE.

I pray you and your family have the best Thanksgiving ever, until next week remember what the Psalmist said, “IT IS A GOOD THING TO GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD.”

All for Christ, J.Mark

Monday, November 17, 2008


We are rapidly approaching one of the most spiritual and momentous celebrations of the year, THANKSGIVING. I’m going to be sharing two weeks of evotionals on the subject of thanksgiving because I believe it truly deserves it. The first official Thanksgiving occurred in 1621 when Governor William Bradford of Plymouth Rock proclaimed a day of thanksgiving to celebrate the survival of the pilgrims in their second year of the new world. Of course you don’t have to read very long anywhere in the Bible to discover that the idea of relegating Thanksgiving to a day on the calendar year is not what God intended at all.

Now don’t get me wrong I know the intent of the holiday and deeply appreciate the significance of the season, however, as humans it is vitally important that we be constantly reminded that giving thanks is an attitude one embraces and a decision one makes not a date on the calendar that alters our behavior for only a couple of hours on a Thursday. I believe there are two main culprits that rob us of an attitude of gratitude. One is PRIDE. Pride makes us believe that it has been our own hard work and diligence that is responsible for our blessings and with this attitude we feel that we have no one to thank but ourselves. Just read Psalm 100:3. The second is a critical spirit that begins to blind us to the blessings that we DO have by blazing our focus on what we DON’T have. The Bible tells us that God not only appreciates our thanksgiving but it also endears Him to us in a greater way. Let me give you 3 simple ways you can express how thankful you are to God.

1.-SPEND TIME WITH HIM- Everyone is busier than perhaps they have ever been and the mantra “ I don’t have time” is a favorite tune of our time. I’m going to say only this one thing here and I hope you meditate on it for a moment. WE ALL MAKE TIME FOR THE THINGS WE TRULY CARE ABOUT. You know it’s true. So there is no better way to say “thank you” then to invest time with God. To God quantity time is quality time. My time with God is becoming more dear to me the busier and older I get.

2.-FORGIVE OTHERS- Forgiving others truly expresses to God how grateful you really are for his grace and forgiveness to us. Forgiveness is not always easy, somehow I don’t really think it’s supposed to be but that’s why when we walk in forgiveness it stands as such a testimony to the reality of God working in our lives. One of the great indicators of a thankful heart is generosity. We are never more like our Father than when we forgive someone who’s hurt us and done us wrong.

3.-GIVE HIM YOUR VERY BEST- It’s easy to justify giving God our leftovers. Leftover money, leftover time and leftover heart but there is nothing that says “I appreciate you” more than giving someone your best. Let’s say for Christmas you go to great lengths to find out what a special person in your life really desired. It took you great effort, time, and expense to find that special gift, acquire it, but you were determined that no matter what, they were worth it. Then on the day you present your extravagant gift they hand you a blank envelope with five bucks in it and say Merry Christmas. How would you feel? We do it to God all the time. His Son was the most treasured possession He and heaven had. Yet He gave Him for us and to us with joy and then we act like it’s a chore to just sometimes get up on a rainy day and honor His house. I know it stings a little but it’s true. GOD PLEASE HELP ME BE A THANKFUL MAN.

I pray that this Thanksgiving would be the best ever for you and your family and that we would all resolve to express our thankfulness to God every day of the year in these three ways.

God bless and have a Happy Thanksgiving.

All for Christ, J.Mark

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Effective Witness

As a Pastor, I am constantly reading and researching and doing my best to broaden my knowledge and arm myself with relevant information. I am not just talking about having a deeper understanding of the scripture and spiritual principles but also of what is happening presently in our world and the Body of Christ. In the last decade or so much has been made over forming and building churches that are “seeker sensitive”, that is, churches that are focused on creating an environment where the lost that may have dismissed the church as not being authentic or meaningful can be reintroduced to Christ in a fresh and relevant way.

While I firmly believe in building and forming our churches with the lost in mind I also believe there is a bigger issue that must be addressed. It does little good to spend all of our time and energy to create “SEEKER SENSITIVE CHURCHES” if we never effectively build “SEEKER SENSITIVE CHRISTIANS.” It is something I address almost every Sunday on some level here at CCA. It has been well said that a person wrapped up only in themselves makes a mighty small package so here is this weeks moment of truth, you are probably within eyeshot right now of someone who needs Christ….. Do you even care? In Luke 10 one of the most famous and well known stories ever told by Christ is found, the story of the Good Samaritan. Inside the story are three simple principles that every Christian can do to be an effective witness.

1. OPEN YOUR EYES- Jesus once said “Open your eyes and look around you, the time for harvest is now.” The story of the Samaritan reveals that he wasn’t the first one to arrive at the scene of the crime but he was the only one who cared to see the need. Listen closely to this statement, what we see through our eyes is colored by the condition of our hearts. The others saw the same scene but they did not see it the same way. Compassion colored the Samaritans eyes while indifference seasoned the priests sight. Do we really see as Jesus sees?

2. OPEN YOUR HEART- We live in an age where people have more walls around there heart than ever before. The greatest tragedy of the Titanic was not that over one thousand people lost their lives but that the 16 life boats that were in the frigid water were only partially filled. Many more lives could have been saved but the people that were in the lifeboats had grown so comfortable in their salvation that they forgot about the fact there were still people dying in the water. We must not allow our hearts to grow hardened to those dying within arms reach of us everyday.

3. OPEN YOUR HANDS- The world’s theme song is “its none of my business.” I’m glad God did not look at my fallen and pathetic state and say “It’s a shame, but its none of my business.” My point is simply this true compassion is not measured by passionate sermons or flowery speeches, it is measured by ACTION. Please don’t think I’m trying to throw some guilt trip on you or say we are bad people if we haven’t shared our faith with someone today. All I’m saying is how will others ever know the incredible and life changing love of God without someone who cares enough to get a little uncomfortable and share it?

In World War II a statue of Christ had been blown apart by enemy fire in a small polish town. The soldiers who were cleaning around the small church were collecting the various pieces and putting it back together however no one could locate the hands so finally a soldier took a piece of mangled metal, placed it at the base and wrote these words “WE ARE HIS HANDS.”

Until next week, be his hands.

All for Christ, J.Mark

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Cost

Every now and again I go back to my library and pull out some books I have had for a long time and flip through them again reading various passages that I have highlighted in the past. For some reason I have always been drawn to the writings of authors and preachers of long ago that followed Christ with a unique and conspicuous passion. Men like C.S.Lewis, A.W. Tozer and Vance Havner. There is a discernable pattern in all of their writings that stirs something in my spirit. They possessed a deep conviction and belief that following Christ was not something one did in a cavalier or haphazard fashion. They were convinced that in order for His complete purposes to be accomplished in one’s life it meant complete and total sell-out to God.

Truthfully, it’s a far cry from what is sometimes promoted today. I don’t know a Pastor that hasn’t been guilty of, at times, just being thankful people are at least showing up. But what does God expect? What does He desire for us and from us? In Luke 14:27-29 Jesus made it clear following Him required two things, carrying a cross and counting the cost. Now you won’t hear a lot of this kind of preaching on TV because we have gotten a little scared at telling the whole truth about following Christ for fear the message will be received as negative and rejected. But my thinking is, how can we build a whole Kingdom on only half the truth? HERE’S YOUR WEEKLY MOMENT OF TRUTH… there is a cost in following Christ and here are three things it will cost you.

1.- YOUR OWN WILL AND AGENDA- This one scares people because they have this idea that if they surrender all they will end up on some mountain living in a cave rubbing two sticks together living as a missionary to the pygmies of New Guinea. The enemy uses this to keep people’s hearts closed to God and the truth is if He put it in your heart to do that there is no other place on earth you would rather be. But the truth is surrendering our will simply means we realize that we were not created only for ourselves but to serve and please God. In so doing we discover life has tremendous and awesome purpose. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “whoever gives up his life for me is the one who finds out what life is truly all about.”

2.- A TEMPORARY SURRENDER OF SECURITY- Following Christ will require a total trust in God even when doing so is the scariest thing you have ever done. In my last membership class a young couple joining our church expressed their fear as we talked about the covenant of tithing and what it means to God and the church. I shared with them that tithing is not about money, it’s all about the heart and it’s about trusting God as our complete and ultimate source and that when we honor him in that way we invoke his favor and provision over our lives. They trusted God and three weeks later received a reimbursement check from too much escrow they had paid. The timing of it was all God and they saw His word come to life right in front of them. God is like that. Leaps of faith are always required to release loads of favor. God said, “Prove Me.” Translation- test me and see if I won’t show up.

3. THE EASE AND COMFORT OF MEDIOCRITY- To truly follow Christ means the end of half-hearted efforts and serving Him only when its easy and convenient. It means approaching our life in Him with the same tenacity Christ approached the cross for us. His love for us compelled him to do whatever it took to redeem us from our curse. The people in this world who live by this attitude are the ones who shape the world for everyone else. OH GOD, MAKE ME ONE OF THESE.

Until next week, SELAH (think on these things)

All for Christ, J.Mark