Friday, November 13, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Choice... Not Chance

His name is Roger Crawford. He makes his living as a consultant and a public speaker. He’s written two books, and travels all across the country working with fortune 500 companies, national and state associations, and school districts. Those aren’t bad credentials.

But if that doesn’t impress you, how about this: before becoming a consultant, he was a varsity tennis player for Loyola Marymount University and later became a professional tennis player. Still not impressed? Would you be if I told you Roger has no hands and only 1 foot!

Roger Crawford was born with a condition called ectrodactylism. When he emerged from his mother’s womb, the doctors saw that he had a thumb-like projection extending out of his right forearm. He had no palms. His legs and arms were shortened. And his left leg possessed a shrunken foot with only three toes.

The foot was amputated when he was five. Roger’s parents were told by various medical professionals that he would never be able to walk, probably would not be able to take care of himself and would never lead a normal life. After recovering from the shock, Roger’s parents were determined to give him the best chance possible for living a normal life.

They raised him to feel loved, to be strong and to develop independence. His father would say, “Roger, you are only as handicapped as you want to be.” They taught him to think, dream and believe that anything in his heart was possible.

Roger said, “Something my parents never did was allow me to feel sorry for myself or take advantage of people because of my disability.”

Roger tells the story of a phone call he received from a gentleman while in college who had read of his accomplishments in tennis. Roger agreed to meet with him at a nearby restaurant. When he stood to shake the man’s hand he discovered the man had hands identical to his.

Crawford admits that for a moment he got excited about the prospects of having a friend and comrade who shared his life and the challenges that were unique to them. But after talking with the stranger for only a few minutes he realized he was wrong.

Roger says: Instead what I found was someone with a bitter, pessimistic attitude who blamed all of life’s disappointments and failures on his anatomy. I soon realized our lives and attitudes couldn’t have been more different…. We kept in touch for several years until it dawned on me that even if some miracle were suddenly to give him a perfect body, his unhappiness and lack of success wouldn’t change. His belief that the world owed him because of his circumstance had created a cavern of despair that had shaped his spirit. He had allowed failure to seize him from the inside.

Let me borrow something from my Master right here for a moment… HIM THAT HAS EARS TO HEAR, LET HIM HEAR.

Chances are that the adversity in your life right now are no where near as difficult as Roger Crawford’s has been. Handicaps and disabilities control and limit us only if we let them, this is true not only of physical challenges, but of emotional and intellectual ones as well.

Real limitations are only in our minds not in our bodies or our situations. You are what you THINK, NOT what you think you are.

In the end, the Power of Christ equips us with the ultimate ability to choose. We are either the masters or the victims of our attitudes.

SELAH.

Thought it was time for another injection of a moment of truth, Peace.

All for Christ,
J.Mark

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Just for Fun

Just for fun and dedicated to all my fellow office dwellers.


Top 5 excuses to use just in case your caught sleeping at your desk at work.

1.- I wasn’t sleeping, I was trying to pick up my contact lens without my hands.

2.- You know, they told me at the blood bank that this might happen.

3.- Whew!! I must have left the top off the whiteout.

4.- The mail courier flipped out and pulled a gun so I was playing dead to avoid getting capped.

5.- I was just testing our new keyboards for drool resistance.


All for Christ,
J. Mark

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wide Open

President Dwight Eisenhower told the story of a farmer he knew when he was a child whose words had stuck with him all his life. He and his father went to the farmers home to look at a cow the old man had for sale. Eisenhower’s father asked the farmer if he knew anything of the cow’s pedigree…he didn’t. He then asked the farmer about the cow’s butter fat production…he knew nothing of that either.

Eisenhower’s father then asked about the animals annual milk production. Upon this last question the old farmer finally replied, “Look mister, she is an honest cow, no matter when you come she will always give you all she’s got.”

If you really want to know what separates the average and mediocre from the excellent and extraordinary, you won’t find it in the pedigree or production, you will find the difference lies in whether or not one is willing to give it all they’ve got. Half-heartedness and apathy are the seeds that flourish into a lush and vibrant garden of ever increasing mediocrity.

I have never met anyone who lived a life of great impact who was not overcome with passion and totally sold out to something. I have discovered that uncommon commitment allows common people to produce uncommon results.

Now, let me tighten the focus a little because my intention with today’s blog is to not simply get you to reflect on your level of commitment and passion for life or achieving your dreams, although there is nothing wrong with that and I hope you will. But rather to ask you, how passionate and committed are you about God?

I am sure you just answered to yourself… "VERY." But as they say, the proof is in the pudding.

After being in full time ministry for seventeen years and spending almost eleven of those as a Pastor, I can tell you that there are committed Christians and uncommitted Christians. I know and have ministered to people who are saved but not sold out, they are believers in Christ but not bold in their daily walk with him, they are familiar with religious phrases and Christian speech but have no real power for living and constantly move from one defeated situation to another seemingly all their lives.

What is it that makes some people so committed to Christ that they sell out and live life wide open and those who find contentment simply living on the fringes and settle for a decaffeinated and sugar free experience with God? In my opinion and years of observation I believe it is simply a matter of PERSPECTIVE.

It’s not in one’s ability or opportunity over another but rather by the way each one perceives God and their relationship with Him. In fact, power in virtually every area of life is often determined by perspective.

The people who approach their commitment to God with a cavalier and half-hearted attitude are not bad people, they just simply have a perspective problem. There view of God is diluted and skewed.

The apostle Paul had this problem, he was plenty passionate but his view of Christ and the God he served was skewed, that is until a little episode on the Damascus road changed his perspective and allowed him to see the full reality of who it was he was dealing with. And throughout his writings from then on he constantly refers back to this moment where God did not merely convert him but forever changed his view and perspective of God.

From then on Paul’s life was marked by a very different passion, commitment and zeal. In fact, some people labeled him mentally disturbed and crazy. One of the ways you know you are highly committed and have the right perspective of God is when at times people think you’re crazy. They will say things like, “Why are you always at that church?” or “Why are you going on Wednesday you just went Sunday?” and my all time favorite, "You give how much of your income to that church?!?”

In fact, if nobody ever thinks there is something wrong with you….there is probably something wrong with you. Listen, authentic and deep experiences with God are supposed to make us different from the world, so we shouldn’t be surprised when at times we are not perceived to be normal by the world. I’m going to wrap this up so listen carefully….GOD..WANTS..ALL..OF…YOU.

He gave us his very best and he deserves no less.

So until next week, if you’re going to live for God…. LIVE IT COMPLETELY, LIVE IT FULLY…. LIVE IT WIDE OPEN.

(click and leave a comment below and tell me if I’m crazy)

All for Christ,
J. Mark

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Show Some Love

At the end of World War I, Herbert Hoover, who would later become the President of the United States, led the allied relief efforts in Europe. The efforts of these valiant soldiers kept thousands from starvation and death and a new word entered the Finnish language. They literally made a verb out of Herbert Hoover’s last name. In Finland to Hoover means to be kind, generous or benevolent.

Question….if they made a verb out of your last name, what would it’s definition be? Based on your behavior and the philosophy of life that governs your actions, what best describes what your life stands for and what the residue of your existence will be?

Trust me when I tell you that no matter what you accomplish or achieve, your life will be summarized by those who knew you in one sentence…PICK IT NOW.

The Bible says that the only thing that a person can do that has the power to change anything on an eternal level is LOVE. Love is a deep root that produces the fragrant fruit of kindness. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul is listing and describing the transformational power of love and in his defining chapter simply says that, “Love is patient and KIND.”

Kindness is one of the first fruits of true love. The German philosopher Nietzsche hated Christianity for encouraging kindness. He accused Christian love of draining strong people by driving them to waste their energies on lepers, cripples and oppressed people. His doctrine of survival of the fittest was an off shoot of Darwinism that later spawned such movements as Nazism and was the creed of a young officer named Adolph Hitler.

Jesus was a revolutionary, there is no disputing it. He came to rule and reign not as any before Him or after Him. His operational strategy of power and strength had nothing to do with military might or an overwhelming show of brute force. His plan to infiltrate and take over the world was not led by bullets, brawn or bayonets. His weapon of choice was Grace, fueled only by the leading edge of Love. And against all odds, beliefs and voices of His enemies…..LOVE WINS. And kindness is the offspring of love.

If we are going to be able to finish what Jesus started it means we have to cross over and make the transition from SELFISH love to SELFLESS love. We often here people use the phrase random acts of kindness. Now, I know what they mean but the truth is there is no such thing. Kindness is not random at all, it is highly and incredibly intentional. Kindness happens on purpose. It is motivated by the needs of others and the desire to glorify God in this earth and through our lives.

Trust me, you are not born into this world with kindness, if you don’t believe me just go to a nursery and watch those little bundles of joy. I’ve seen a cute, seemingly harmless little tyke pounce on a fellow fledgling like an African lion on a ring tailed gazelle, all because he wanted to experience the joy of his fellow nursery goers toy for a moment. The rage in his little face is a disturbing image I have often tried to forget.

My point is, kindness is something that must be cultivated and developed, if you wait for it to merely emerge, it won’t. Have you ever done something really nice for someone that you really didn’t know and seen the look on their face? It’s priceless and do you know why they are overwhelmed and surprised? Because it’s not normal. It’s not what they are used to.

This is why if we are serious about making a difference, if we truly believe that Jesus started something that is true and authentic and worthy of being continued, then becoming people of love and kindness is an endeavor worth pursuing. It was our savior’s weapon of choice and if we are His disciples, it must be ours as well.

I love the message translation of Acts 20:35. It says, “True happiness is found in the giving, not in the getting.”

Years ago a guy named Rod Sterling created a television show called The Twilight Zone. One episode was about a gambler who died and was immediately transported to a room with gambling tables. It was amazing, every time he rolled the dice, he won. Every hand of cards was a winning hand. He thought he was in heaven until finally it dawned on him he was alone and what he thought at first was heaven turned out to be hell. Because he realized though he had everything any gambler could want, he had no one to share it with.

The moral was clear, the life that only gathers is no life at all. It is only in the giving, only in the sharing and only through love and kindness that we discover the true essence of life.

Opportunities abound to live this way if only we will look. There is a place below to leave a comment. I encourage you to take a few seconds and tell me and the others who read this weekly blog what you think.

Until next week... SHOW SOME LOVE.

All for Christ,
J. Mark

Self Audit Questions

Life and Ministry Questions

1. Is my calling clear? - Every person has a call on their life. Finding it and fulfilling it equals true significance.

2. Is my vision clear? - Am I sure about our mission as a church?

3. Is my passion hot? - Do I have a fervor for God and life or am I cold and stagnate?

4. Is my character totally submitted to Christ? - Am I the same man/woman in public as I am in private?

5. Is my pride subdued? - Do I have a true servants heart?

6. Are my fears under control? - Am I truly driven by faith and not fear?

7. Are my ears open to the Holy Spirit's whisper? - Am I truly listening for Him in my life?

8. Is my heart for God increasing? - Is my relationship with Him truly growing?

9. Are my gifts developing? - Am I spending enough time and energy cultivating and maximizing my skills?

10. Am I content with who I am becoming? - Given my present habits, what will my life look like in five years?

11. Am I becoming less religious and more spiritual?

12. Does my family recognize the authenticity of my walk with God? - It they cannot see it, then it's not real.

13. Do I have a flow-through philosophy? - Am I an open and joyful giver?

14. Do I have balance in my life? - Am I out of control in any area?

15. Have I defined my unique style of ministry? - Am I comfortable in my own skin: an original.

16. Is my humility genuine? - The Bible tells us to "humble ourselves."

17. Is obedience to God built into my reflexes? Am I quick to do what He asks of me?

18. Is my prayer life improving? - As I grow, my communication with God should be growing not shrinking?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Seasons

There once was a barber with a thriving business in a small Midwest town, when one day a large corporate salon moved in, set up shop across the street, and put up a huge banner that read, “We sell $3.00 haircuts.”

Well, it wasn’t long before the barber's business began to dwindle and suffer. Finally, after weeks of frustration, the barber hired a business consultant to come and evaluate the situation and offer whatever professional advice he could to save his business. After a quick evaluation of the situation the consultant makes a call and heads back to his car.

"Wait", said the barber, “Where are you going?” “I’ll be right back,” said the consultant. In a few minutes he returned with a huge banner that simply read, “WE FIX $3.00 HAIRCUTS.”

The ability to read a situation and respond correctly is more than luck, fate or being fortuitous. The Bible says it is a gift. Discernment is not a luxury we can afford to do without. Wisdom and discernment are blood brothers and the Bible makes it abundantly clear that God is the Father of both.

There were some men in the Old Testament who had a unique distinction that gained them certain notoriety in scripture. In 1 Chronicles 12:32 we are introduced to the Men of Issachar. The Bible says that these were men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do. This was of particular importance seeing that during these times eleven of the twelve tribes of Israel were without official leadership.

David was king of only one tribe for seven and a half years before the nation was united and during this time the men of Issachar played a significant role in the progress and care of the other eleven tribes. Please pay special attention to the fact that they understood the times.

Why is this so important and what relevance does it have to our walk with God? Well, God is a God of times and seasons. He created seasons as a way to process change in the earth.

In winter, there is a purging and a barrenness to all things that provides a necessary time of refocus and rest to the soil and land as frigid temperatures erase the landscape, making way for a new time and season.

In spring, there is planting, plowing and preparing. It is a time to work a plan and lay seeds of hope for a future return.

In summer, there is great growth and an abundant expansion as the seeds sown in spring are exposed to warm tropical air and summer showers that water and nourish the seeds to a lush green fullness.

In autumn, it is harvest. The time in which all the labor, patience and preparation finally pays off. As increase happens it brings with it a reflective moment where we realize…ALL OF THESE SEASONS WERE NECESSARY IN ORDER TO HAVE HARVEST NOW.

Every person reading this is in one of these seasons right now and your ability to discern and recognize which one can make the difference between pressing forward or pulling back. Now, I’m going to be straight with you, winter has gotten the best of me a few times.

We are taught to believe that if we walk by faith and honor God that our Christian experience should be comprised of all summers and autumns, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Listen, you can be in the dead of winter and be right in the middle of God’s perfect will for your life. I realized God took me through some winters to kill some things in me that needed to die before He could bring true harvest in my life.

Let me share two simple things about seasons you need to know that will help you as you walk with God.

1.- SEASONS ARE FAITHFUL- What I mean by that is, you can always count on them in the cycle of life. You will have many winters, springs, summers and autumns as you journey with God. The Apostle James said we should not be shocked as though some strange thing has happened to us. In other words, just count on it, it’s a normal part of God working in our lives.

2.- SEASONS ARE FRUITFUL- Every season is performing a vital function in your life. In spite of how difficult some seasons are they serve an invaluable purpose to make us what God wants us to be. After these years with God, I can honestly say I am thankful for my winters. Take any one of them away and I would not be half the leader He has helped me become.

Rest in the fact that God is at work in your life and it will help you hold on. Listen to this scripture in Galatians 6:9 Don’t ever become weary of doing what is right, at the proper TIME we will reap a harvest if we never give up.

Trust me when I tell you, there will be a TIME when you are due. And you will realize it was and is worth it all. As always there is a place to leave a comment, take a few seconds and share a thought about the seasons and what they mean to you.

Be blessed and I’ll catch you next week.

All for Christ,
J.Mark

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Spiritual Audit

Years ago as a much younger leader I had a thought. I was in one of these reflective moments that analytical people often find themselves in when something occurred to me, we have CPA’s to keep us liquid, lawyers to keep us legal, and doctors to keep us healthy but very few people, if any, have someone close enough in their life to help them keep their spiritual accounts in order.

The truth is most of us don’t really want people peering into our souls and delving deep into the recesses of our minds and examining our thoughts and intents. Why? Because we know what’s there.

We don’t like to talk about it or admit it but the truth is we all have deep struggles and challenges. My moment of reflection led me to develop a SPIRITUAL SELF AUDIT. I recently shared eighteen questions with my staff over a two week period that I have developed to keep things in my spirit, heart and mind in proper order and to insure that I am moving progressively towards God and His will for my life.

I have learned an invaluable lesson in walking with God these seventeen years. Our most difficult leadership challenge will always be ourselves. We can never effectively lead others until we learn to develop deep levels of leadership in our own lives.

I just read the famous story of David at Ziklag. Here is a man who had been used to winning his whole life, and while off conducting business, returns home only to discover that he and all of his men’s homes have been destroyed, their possessions stolen and their families kidnapped. To add insult to injury, while he is mourning his own personal losses, his own men begin to cast blame and lay fault at David’s door. The Bible says that they were even plotting to kill him.

At this pivotal moment David quickly assesses who needs leadership the most. His army? His advisors? His captains? In the end he quickly realizes the person who needed leadership the most was himself, and so the bible says that, “David strengthened himself with trust in his God.”

Self leadership is the foundation of true spirituality and the key to powerful influence in this world for God. Obviously, I can’t share all eighteen questions here but let me give you a few for your own personal audit and see if they won’t help you find a pulse for how your spiritual heart is beating.

1.- AM I CONTENT WITH WHO I AM BECOMING?- Everyday our actions and attitudes are forming and shaping the people we are and eventually will become. Given your habits and proclivities today, what will you look like and be like tomorrow? Don’t kid yourself, you are becoming something, the question is what is it? No person can climb beyond the limits of their own character.

Too many people have learned to hide who they truly are by simply shrouding it in what they do. But the truth is living a double life will get you nowhere twice as fast. The scripture says that God desires truth in the inward parts. That simply means God requires complete honesty from us and desires to lead us to authentic transformation.

I read something the other day that impacted me. It said, “Your life will be summarized in one sentence. Pick it now.”

2.- AM I BECOMING LESS RELIGIOUS AND MORE SPIRITUAL?- The Pharisees of the New Testament were religious, but Christ was and is spiritual. The difference between religion and true spirituality is basically a matter of control. Religion is an experience I can control while authentic spirituality is an experience that controls me.

Every time I shift emphasis from doing something for God to just pursuing my Father with everything within me I feel my spirit man growing. With God it’s all about the relationship.

3.-IS OBEDIENCE TO SMALL MATTERS BUILT INTO MY REFLEXES?- Read this carefully. The true mark of maturity and servitude is REACTION TIME. In other words, the more mature we are in Christ, the quicker we are to obey his voice and will for our lives.

When God speaks to us and we wrestle with it for long periods of time it means we trying to decide whether or not we are going to follow his will or ours. The more Lordship He has in our lives the quicker our response time.

Paul spoke in one place of being a good soldier for Christ. Well, soldiers follow orders without hesitation. My prayer is that He will help me become this kind of a soldier.

As I said these are just few questions in the spiritual audit, if you want more of the audit leave a comment with your email and we’ll shoot them to you.

Thanks for participating. I do this every week in the hopes someone will be inspired towards deeper places and higher heights.

God bless and I’ll see you next week.

All for Christ,

J. Mark

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Defining Moments

While in Europe last week speaking at the Vision 09 Leadership Conference I had the opportunity to see some sights and take in some of the rich history that surrounds this unique part of the world.

One of the sights we visited was The Pilgrimage Church of St. John in Zelena Hora. The church itself is around 400 years old and dedicated to one of its former priests, but it is the unique decorations that hold the story and our moment of truth for this week.

In the very top of the dome in the center of the church is an ornate and elaborate design surrounding a big red tongue…..yes you read right, a huge red TONGUE! Obviously I was fascinated, I mean really, it isn’t everyday you get to see an 8 foot tongue.

The legend says that this priest, St. John was counseling with the queen of the nation when she divulged a secret to him that could have cost her everything including her life. The King hears that she has been confiding in the priest and demands that he relinquish the information but the priest refuses citing his responsibility as a man of God to those he serves. Consequently, the king has him tortured, killed and thrown off the Charles bridge in downtown Prague. The tongue in the church is accompanied by the words written in Czech, “I kept silent.”

As I heard the story and stared at the huge tongue a thought kept running through my mind. This man probably did a lot of other good things in his life and ministry, there was no doubt many other stories that could have been shared about his life and yet here we stand staring at this monster tongue all because this particular incident was a DEFINING MOMENT IN HIS LIFE.

The great difficulty with defining moments is that you don’t get to choose them, THEY choose you. You cannot control when they will come. However, you can choose how you will handle them when they come.

Defining moments are intersections in life that give us an opportunity to turn, change direction, and seek a new destination. The defining moments of my life have determined who I have become. Take away even one of them – good or bad – and I would not be the same person. And the defining moments that lie before me will continue to shape and mold my leadership and life.

As always I never really know who I am speaking or writing specifically for, I write what’s in my spirit and pray it finds its proper place in the hearts where it is needed the most. Let me share with you three things about defining moments and why they are important.

1.- DEFINING MOMENTS SHOW US WHO WE REALLY ARE- Defining moments are incredibly important because they help us to see the difference between who we THINK we are and who we TRULY are.

The only way to test the true health of a heart is with a stress test. Doctors do not measure a hearts health by how it performs in relaxed conditions. They determine its true health by how it performs under pressure. Moments where we are facing a personal failure, taking a stand on an issue or experiencing great trepidation or suffering show us what we are really made of.

2.- DEFINING MOMENTS DECLARE TO OTHERS WHO WE ARE- If we are honest, most days we can wear masks and hide who we are from the people around us. During defining moments, we can’t do that. In those moments our reaction is a revelation to others of who we really are.

Handled well, a defining moment can cement relationships but handled poorly, a defining moment can destroy credibility.

3.- DEFINING MOMENTS OFTEN DETERMINE WHO WE WILL BECOME- You will never be the same person after a truly defining moment. Somehow and in some way you will be moved. It may be forward, or it may be backward but make no mistake you will be moved. Why is that?
Because defining moments are not normal, and what’s “normal” doesn’t work in those times.

Our response in defining moments puts us on a new path, and that path will define who we will become in the future. How about you? Can you recall some defining moments? Are you in one now?

Take 20 seconds and share a thought about this moment of truth and tell me if any of it rings true with you.

I’ll see you next week, peace.

All for Christ,
J. Mark

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Live It

One action is more valuable than a thousand good intentions.

I know….I didn’t even give you time to prepare for that one, I just hit you with it. But my whole blog today is a little spontaneous and a bit of a spiritual rabbit punch.

I’m sitting here reading a place in Luke where Jesus is teaching and speaking the wisdom and truth of God when all of the sudden a woman calls out and says, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you!” Jesus stops, pauses for a moment and says, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

What???... Maybe the most influential statement on obedience to God in all of scripture. He literally said the favor and blessing over your life is richer and more prolific by merely DOING what you read in God’s word than if you had given birth to the savior of the world.

Jesus was relentless in his teaching when it came to this issue of ACTION. He knew it was and is what separates advancement from abandonment. Let’s have a moment of truth shall we? No dream comes true by itself and the measure of a person is not in his dream but in his action.

I have never heard of anyone stumbling onto something big while sitting down. A quaint poem written by a late poet from northern Kentucky simply says, “Sitting still and wishing makes no person great, the good Lord made the fish but we must dig the bait.”

I’ve been preparing today for my message on Sunday, as I do every week. And every week people trek out to listen, but the true test of the message is not the listener walking away saying, “What an inspirational set of concepts and ideas.” The true test of the message is what Pilate declared and asked the Jews, “What shall I now do with Jesus which is called Christ?”

Some people indeed find life as well as the Christian experience empty not because there is nothing to it, but because they put nothing INTO it.

THE DEVIL DOESN’T MIND YOUR PROFESSING FAITH JUST AS LONG AS YOU DON’T PRACTICE IT. The truth is most of us are educated well beyond the level of our obedience, but it is in obedience only, where what we hope for becomes reality.

Mark twain once rightly noted, “Thunder is good but lightning does the work.” You got that right. Every time we hear truth and refuse to do it we allow a form of deception into our lives because no matter how we slice it if we agree and declare it to be true and don’t do it the cold hard fact is we really don’t believe it.

There have been hundreds if not thousands of books written about the Secret of Success but I believe people secretly don’t want to really know the secret of success because deep down they suspect that secret may be HARD WORK.

I heard one man say, “I’m not afraid of hard work, I can lay down right next to it and sleep like a baby.” While that may be humorous, refusal to work the vision means the death of the dream.

I am haunted by an image of me standing before God and seeing the lives I could have changed but didn’t simply because it required some extra effort. Nobody gets everything right every time and the great news is God knows that.

The scripture never reprimands the soul for failure after all this is what created the advent of GRACE. What the scripture addresses is never trying, never doing and never attempting.

My question for you this week is what is it you know to do but are not doing? Has God put something or maybe someone in your path or in your heart and you have not acted on it? Miracles happen ONLY when we move.

I told God seventeen years ago if he opened doors and would help me I would go anywhere, anytime and do anything for Him, that’s why next week I’ll be blogging from Prague in the Czech Republic while I’m there preaching and teaching to 150 Pastors from Budapest, Hungary and Poland.

God has a dream for you, friend. Don’t be afraid to say yes and run hard after Him, trust me when I tell you you’ll be glad you did.

As always take 20 seconds and tell me and the others who read this weekly blog what you think.

Thanks for participating and I’ll see you next week from Europe.

All for Christ,
J. Mark

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Excellence

I believe that more problems in this world have been caused by the weakness of good than by the strength of evil.

Evil proliferates not so much because of the wicked but because of the weak who disagree with it but do nothing.

THE TIME IS ALWAYS RIGHT TO DO THE RIGHT THING. The true measure of a person is found in his height of ideals, the breadth of his sympathy, the depth of his convictions, and the length of his patience.

The book of James in the Bible is so powerful simply because it’s so practical. The point of the moment of truth today is found in this book of wisdom when it says, "To the one who knows to do the right thing and doesn’t do it, to him it is a sin.”

What does it mean to be a person of excellence? Well, I am certain there are as many definitions out there as there are people who read this weekly blog, but let me share with you what it means to me at this particular stage of my life and walk with God.

To me it’s about sincerely seeking what is true and right, and what is just and pure. It is a quest for the heart and mind of God and a deep longing for His thoughts and ideas about everything in my life from my relationship with my wife and children to the ministry and responsibility to which He has called and equipped me for.

And once I am convinced I know His heart on these issues…..DOING IT WITHOUT RESERVATION OR HESITATION. To stall or hesitate means to question His authority in my life and to entertain the vain ideology that perhaps I know better than Him.

IF YOU WANT GREATNESS, THEN FORGET ABOUT PURSUING GREATNESS. EARNESTLY PURSUE GOD’S WILL AND THEN YOU WILL FIND BOTH.

It is a great day in a man’s life when he discovers that God is far more concerned with him being Holy than He is with him being happy. Don’t get me wrong the two are not mutually exclusive but the world would have you believe they are.

The mantra of the world is “Live only for yourself” and their theme song is “If it makes YOU happy, then do it.” How utterly empty and decaffeinated the life lived only for itself is.

True happiness is only found in holiness and holiness is simply about following the Fathers purposes and plans for our lives. True success has really nothing to do with the amount of money you have or where you live or what you drive. Success is peace of mind that comes from knowing you did your very best and left nothing in the bag in your pursuit of God and His will for your life.

With God’s grace I have settled, determined and concluded that I will not be a dropout, a cop out, or a holdout but through his strength I am determined to be A SOLD OUT. When you stand for what’s right, then you win, even if it seems like you “lost.”

I seem to remember a scripture here….hmmmmm…something about losing one’s life to find it, you remember it don’t you? Jesus did his best to frame the picture of what a life lived sold out to God would look like and He is our ultimate example of TRUE SUCCESS.

I read this quote 3 days ago and have come back to it several times since. Richard Huseman said, “Be driven by excellence. To be driven by excellence we must ask one important question: Have we demanded enough of ourselves, and by our example, inspired those around us to put forth their best effort and achieve God’s dream for their life?”

Oh God, help me….let my life matter to and for someone else, but ultimately for you. Take a few seconds and leave a comment, your words encourage me and others as well.

Until next week, when you know the right thing to do, JUST DO IT.

All for Christ,
J. Mark

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Fail-Safe??

Those who expect nothing are never disappointed, and those who never try anything never have to deal with failure.

But what kind of a life is that?

Trust me, anyone who is currently achieving anything in life or ministry, is simultaneously risking failure. It is always better to fail at doing something than to excel at doing nothing. I don’t care how mangled it is, a flawed diamond is still more valuable than a perfect brick.

I have somewhat of an obsession with studying and observing great leaders in life and history and I have discovered that one of the differences between average leaders and excellent leaders is how they perceive and respond to failure. In fact, there is a distinct correlation between spiritual maturity and how quickly one responds and rebounds from failure.

People who are spiritually less developed seem to have a tendency to hold on to their past failures longer than those who are stronger in their faith. Here is a huge moment of truth for you….FAILURE IS JUST A SITUATION, NEVER A PERSON.

Paul Galvin, at the age of thirty-three, had twice failed miserably in enterprise. Then he attended an auction of his own storage-battery business and, with his last $750, bought back the battery-elimination portion of it. This part later became a little side-venture called MOTOROLA. Upon his retirement in the late 1960’s, he advised his company in his last address with these words, “Never fear mistakes, you...will…know…failure, but it is not a force to be feared but rather a fact to be faced. The mistake-riddled life is much richer, more interesting, and more stimulating than the life that has never taken a stand and believed for something great.”

I read these words and something inside me screams…bring it on! God holds in reserve His greatest power and favor for those who jump in water over their head and dare to strive for things beyond the safe and comfortable places.

The man who invented the eraser had the human race pretty well figured out but I try to always keep in mind that there is more lead in the pencil than eraser at the top. As long as I write more than I erase I’ll eventually complete the novel. In other words, always focus on what’s left not on what you have lost.

The book of Ecclesiastes offers this instruction, "In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider.” Translation… whenever you fall, pick something up while your down there. The only true failure is never learning from your mistakes. The key to truly being free from the stranglehold of past failures and mistakes is this: LEARN THE LESSON AND FORGET THE DETAILS.

The enemy never wants us to remember the lessons, his goal is to get us trapped and bogged down in the details of our failures. The secret is to gain from the experience while not allowing the experience to dominate your life. I have fallen down and I’m sure I will again, it’s a part of dreaming, pressing, building and striving. But what I know is that my CALL is always greater than my FALL.

What about you, tell me what you think. I had some great responses last week. Take 20 seconds and leave a comment so someone can benefit from your thoughts and encouragement.

Thanks for reading and participating and I’ll catch you next week.

All for Christ,
J.Mark

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Dream On

Have you ever said something or done something that you thought would excite people and be well received only to be shocked and devastated by a flurry of negative response?

I’ll bet I just got an amen from somebody, somewhere.

I sincerely strive for wisdom in everything I do, especially in dealing with people and leadership as a Pastor. But I have also come to understand that there are some unavoidable trials and companions to visionary leadership that must be accepted.

One of those is the fact that not everyone will always be excited about your dreams and the vision that God gives you. It doesn’t mean they are bad people, it just means that sometimes not everybody gets it. The key is to understand that criticism is a normal occurrence that always surrounds dreamers and to not allow the dream to be surrendered simply because some negativity is present.

At times, ingratitude and criticism are merely prices you pay for leaping past mediocrity and daring something others are not doing. Jesus healed a man and changed his life forever, but because of the time in which he did it, he was horribly criticized. In another place He heals ten lepers only to have one return to say thank you while the other nine continued on their way ungrateful for His time and effort.

Learn this lesson well, if you move with God you WILL be critiqued and questioned often, however, no one can ever make you feel average without your permission. Whenever God calls you to leave His mark you will always attract erasers but it doesn’t matter as long as you stay the course.

I love the Celtic proverb that says, “It is useless for sheep to pass resolutions in favor of vegetarianism, if the wolves refuse to participate with the legislation.” What it means is, nothing will change no matter who says what if everyone doesn’t agree and participate.

It is unrealistic to think everyone will always agree or see the same value as you do over what God is calling you to do. Let me give you a scripture you ought to put in your heart if this blog is ringing your bell, Romans 12:18, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Notice the words, “IF POSSIBLE.” If there were not legitimate times when everyone won’t be in agreement than God would have never included these words in scripture.

Just because everyone doesn’t catch your vision or see it your way does not mean their wrong and it doesn’t mean you’re wrong. It simply means God has given you a journey that doesn’t include everyone. What makes it hard is that we secretly wish everyone would go with us but they won’t and shouldn’t.

God has a journey for them and we should pray and hope for His perfect will to be done in there life. Agreeable disagreement is a sign of tremendous maturity and health. It is the mark of Godliness and confidence in knowing what He has called each of us to do.

Besides, if criticism had any real power to harm, the skunk would have been extinct by now. Be confident in what God has spoken to you and don’t take things so personally when everyone doesn’t leap for joy at your dream. If you are persistent you will finally get where He wants you to be.

Remember, through perseverance, even the snail reached the ARK.

Does this ring true with you? Take 20 seconds and leave a comment. Give me some of your thoughts on the subject.

God Bless and I’ll see you next week.

All for Christ,
J. Mark

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Character

Would your reputation recognize your character if they met in the dark?

Reputation is who you are supposed to be, but character is who you really are. Too often these entities that should be one in the same are merely distant cousins. They know what each other looks like but never spend enough time together to be intimate.

John Morley once said, “Living a double life will get you nowhere twice as fast.” So true.

I have recently found myself reading and rereading a passage where David made a plea to God that I also desire desperately. It’s in Psalms 51:10. David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

I don’t know if we have ever known a time where character was so scarce in the world. The economic crisis we are facing as a nation and a world right now is the result of what happens when people become more obsessed with doing what is best for themselves in the short than doing what’s right for others in the long.

AIG, CITIGROUP, and Madoff are the buzzwords of 09 and they are all synonymous with low character.

Ask yourself this honest question, "What kind of world would this world be if everyone were just like me?”

I was driving and thinking last week when I was confronted by a sign that got my attention, it simply said, “KEEP RIGHT.” I thought about how in scripture God directed Paul in his miraculous conversion to a street called STRAIGHT. Stay right on straight street? Hmmmmm, smells like God.

Scripture instructs us to be like a tree planted by rivers of water but it’s impossible to grow high when your character is low. We should live our lives so that our friends could surely defend us but never have to do so.

Excellence in character is shown by doing unwitnessed what we would be doing with the whole world watching. Doing the right thing is not always the easy thing but the road around the curve is smoother and straighter when paved with character.

I often wonder, would the boy I once was be proud of the man I am? I hope so. The people I Pastor at CCA hear me often say, “I may not be what I ought to be but I’m sure not what I used to be. I am somewhere in between.” I am thankful that God knows our hearts and sees what is really in our spirit.

Now, here is the cold, hard truth about character, you either have it or you don’t. You can’t be a little pregnant, you either are or you aren’t, character is the same way. The way you deal with ANYTHING is the way you deal with EVERYTHING.

The way God measures our character is by motive and intentions. Others may assess us and judge our character based on facts alone but God looks deeper and sees what drives our actions.

So when we have truth in the inward parts, as David once wrote, it means we have honest and character driven intentions. This is the life God blesses.

So what about you? Leave me a comment and tell me what you think about this issue of character. Do you see more or less? How do you define character? Who is the most Character driven person you know?

Until next week remember this, a man who lives right has more power in his silence than a man of low character does in his words.

All for Christ,
J.Mark

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What's in Your Hand?

Have you ever been driven by a dream or an idea and found yourself stalled saying, “If only I had this…..If only this were different….If only I had more money, then I could do what I want to do, then I could follow my dream?

I think people constantly overstate the importance of things they don’t have. Never let what you think you can’t do keep you from doing what you can do.

Case in point…Moses. After a lengthy discussion with God about how unqualified he was for the job and how limited he was in his resources, God takes an ordinary moment and an ordinary man and asks an extraordinary question, WHAT’S THAT IN YOUR HAND? The question had to seem completely irrelevant at the time after all Moses’ case was solid. No money, no confidence, no ability and no power. I’m sure with a slight chuckle he held out the only thing he had and said, probably with a little cynicism, “A staff.” And the rest is history.

It was from that moment forward that the scripture refers to the staff as ‘THE ROD OF GOD.' This staff was present for every major miracle that happened around the life of Moses and stands as a testament that with God the seemingly ordinary and common can be transformed into the extraordinary and uncommon.

Here's this week’s moment of truth. START WITH WHAT YOU HAVE, DON’T WAIT ON WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE. Don’t wait for special circumstances to act, use the ordinary situations God has given you now. One of the greatest revelations I’ve ever had in my life is the day I realized that I could row as far as I wanted to go with the oars I was given. Every big thing you see today was once just a small thing yesterday, but somebody, somewhere was willing to do something small in the hopes that greatness would one day emerge.

I love Zechariah 4:10, the Lord asks the prophet, For who has despised the day of small things?” Only small people see no value in small things.

I remember a conversation with a young man in Ohio I had years ago while I was there speaking at an Assembly church. He was sharing with me how God had called him to be a youth Pastor and how frustrated he was that no matter how many churches he applied to no one would give him a chance to serve. After listening to this young man complain about wasted time and no opportunities, the conversation went cold and quiet when I finally asked him one pivotal question. “How many kids have you mentored here?” “What do you mean?” he said. “I mean how many kids have you prayed for, encouraged and befriended in the last year here?” Silence. “Well, I’m not the youth Pastor.” I then shared with him that it doesn’t matter whether you have a position or title, people with pastor’s hearts pastor, just like writers write and builders build and singers sing.

This young man had fallen into the rut of so many who think that opportunities come only in one shape and size and only one color. The truth is they are big and small and blue and green and purple, opportunities are everywhere to the person with vision and a heart to serve, no matter how small the moment. What many people call the impossible is all too often simply the untried.

Do not let the enormity of what isn’t blind you from what is. It is possible to look so far ahead that you miss the wonderful things close by. Start with what you have and start moving today. Quit wasting time worrying and wishing for things you don’t have, when all you really need to begin is already in your hand.

Ecclesiastes 11:4 says, If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never begin. God never promised a perfect time, just ordinary time. No one is promised tomorrow but you do have today, and something small today can turn into something huge tomorrow. But not if you stall, wait and wish for things you may never have.

I love the German proverb that says, “If you’ll begin to weave, God will give you the thread.” It’s true. Why? Because beginning to weave requires faith and you know what faith does to God, it gets his attention and motivates him to action.

So what about it? Are you waiting for an opportunity, when opportunity is already present. Or do you turn your nose up at small things because you feel it’s a waste of time? What’s in your hand is all you need to make a stand.

Talk to me. Take a minute and leave a comment and tell me if these words ring true with you. Maybe share a brief story where God met you as you began, and let it be an encouragement to someone.

Thanks for participating.

God bless and I’ll catch you next week!

All for Christ,
J. Mark

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Embrace the Pace

I like Pop Tarts. Strawberry, blueberry, or chocolate, it really doesn’t matter to me because quite frankly, there just delicious. I am not really sure who first decided to create a light and fluffy pastry, then fill it with savory fruit filling, but I am quite certain his or her brilliance has not received the recognition it truly deserves.

I read a statistic the other day that got me thinking and reflecting. On the back of a Pop Tart package are two sets of instructions. One for toaster preparation and one for microwave preparation. Guess which one people use most….you got it. Eight out of ten people zapfry their Pop Tart. And why? Because who has 90 seconds to waste? 90 seconds? Really!??

This is simply a microcosm of life. NO ONE WANTS TO HAVE TO WAIT FOR ANYTHING. Now, let me tell you why that’s a big problem in our walk with God, because with God, TIMING IS FAR MORE IMPORTANT THAN TIME. God is a planner, a strategist; He is incredibly organized and has a definite flow and pace.

I am slowly but surely learning the rhythm of God for my life and ministry. Undo pressure usually accompanies us when we are out of the pace of God for our lives. Listen to Proverbs 16:9, We should make plans, counting on God to direct our steps. Here’s another one, Proverbs 16:3, Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. Adopt and embrace the pace of God for your life. All great achievements require time, and true joy is found in the journey not the destination.

I was reading about the years during one of the darkest hours of our nation’s history, the Civil War. One statesmen asked Abraham Lincoln, “Are you sure God is on the Union’s side?” President Lincoln’s response made me pause for reflection. He said, "I do not know. I have not really thought about that. But I am very anxious to know whether we are on His.”

This has moved me since I have read it to find joy, regardless of setbacks and struggles, just in knowing I am on God’s side. Building a vibrant and healthy church is not easy by any stretch of the imagination, and while leadership, strategy as well as great people and planning are all necessary, we who are in ministry cannot ever forget Psalm 127:1, Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.

Great Pastors are like candles, they must keep cool and yet burn at the same time.

Henry Ward Beecher said, “The true strength of a man consists in finding out which way God is going, and going that way.” I think he’s right. There is no time lost in waiting when you are waiting on the Lord.

Now, I am not talking about sitting around and doing nothing hoping God will finally take pity on you and bless our pitiful lives. GOD NEVER BLESSES LAZY. Never has and never will. I am simply saying the scripture reveals a consistent pattern of WORKING and WAITING. Do all you can, as often as you can for as long as you can and realize that God has a due date for you.

The word says to never grow weary in doing good, if you won’t faint or give up God will cause you to harvest and gather in his time. He knows when the right time is and we either trust Him or we don’t. Our obedience to Him is greater than all of our sacrifice.

So let’s have a moment of truth. Are you frustrated with God? Have you questioned why you seem stalled or slowed? Have you wondered why it seems God is blessing others lives and efforts more than yours? Here it is….everyone is on their own pace with God and you have one too, the key is to discover and embrace it. If you are doing all you know to do, you are on track, and when your due date comes nothing can stop it.

So until next week, embrace your pace and watch God work.

All for Christ,
J.Mark

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Change

I find it fascinating how people’s perspectives are forged by their circumstances.

Take CHANGE, for example. When a person’s life is predictable, comfortable and enjoyable they hope and pray nothing will ever change. And yet that same person, when riddled with disappointment, difficulty and despair, hopes and prays every day that EVERYTHING will change.

Well, I don’t know which side of the coin you are on as you read this, but the truth is it really doesn’t matter because change is coming whether we want it or not. Change is inevitable, and how we perceive it and embrace it can often mean the difference between life and death, or failing and succeeding.

Herbert Spencer once noted that, “A living thing is distinguished from a dead thing by the multiplicity of the CHANGES at any moment taking place in it.” In other words, CHANGE is the evidence of life. Growth is impossible without change and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

God solved the behavior riddle centuries ago when he said, “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” See, you are what you think, not what you think you are. I’m not trying to confuse you in some maze of circular logic, I’m trying to reveal an incredible truth. IT IS GOD’S WILL FOR US TO BE IN A PERPETUAL STATE OF MOVEMENT TOWARDS HIM. And that movement means change.

I used to fear failure, I didn’t think I did, I would have told you that I wasn’t afraid, but deep down as a young minister I think there were moments where I was more concerned with the appearance of fruitfulness and success than actually being fruitful. I think it is a journey many people have to take on the road to discovery and destiny. Unfortunately, some stall out and breakdown along the highway and never recover. Change always demands a temporary surrender of security, it is the letting go of something familiar and safe in order to embrace something hoped for and unknown.

I have noticed that every time I have changed, my oppurtunities have changed as well. This is a life pattern, when traditions are broken new oppurtunities always emerge. ALL PROGRESS IN THIS UNIVERSE HAS TAKEN PLACE ONLY BECAUSE SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE WASN’T SATISFIED TO LEAVE WELL ENOUGH ALONE. I want to be a dreamer and see visions of what can be and then run, leap and believe that all things are possible. I grow restless now when things aren’t changing now that I have embraced it as my friend and not my enemy.

The greatest promise of change in our life is that with it comes hope, and as long as hope lives we will always have strength to make it another mile. There is a scripture in Job 14 :7-9 that demonstrates the power of hope, it says, "There is hope for a tree, that even after it is cut down, simply at the scent of water it will bud and bear fruit again."

A study was done at Northwestern University several years ago that revealed some fascinating results concerning the power of hope. They took two lab mice and placed them in an aquarium of water. After 23 minutes they finally could tread water no more and drowned. They then took two more and placed them in the aquarium but this time, just before they were about to go under, they rescued them, placed them under heat lamps, fed them and let them rest. After they were well rested, they then placed them back in the aquarium with two other mice that had not been in before. The results? The two mice that had been previously rescued swam for 44 minutes, a full 21 minutes longer than the other mice. Why?...... HOPE! It was the hope that something good was coming. The belief that things were about to CHANGE!

The irony of all this is that the Bible says that God is immutable, or in other words, He does not change. But the reason why is because he is the only one who is truly complete. The rest of us are still under construction and as is in any construction project, as you add material all the different elements come together and a metamorphosis and a CHANGE occurs. What was once just a bare-bones structure becomes a beautiful piece of architecture.

So until next week remember, He who has started a great work in you will complete it in the end. (Philippians 1:6)

All for Christ,
J. Mark

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tenacity of a Weed

I never cease to be amazed at where inspiration can come from when your open to God’s voice and your hungry for his leadership. Case in point, years ago my wife and I purchased a home in Lake City, FL and began to remodel this old home site. Around this home were monster azalea bushes that obscured the view of the house and needed to come out. One of these beasts was right next to our carport. We eventually had them removed but where the one had been by the carport became this huge hot spot for wild weeds.

Now, I don’t like to use the word “hate” because it is very strong language but I have to say that my DISTASTE for yard work is extreme. And one day as I walked around the corner with my freshly fueled weed wacker, I said to myself, “I can’t believe how often I have to do this and how fast these crazy weeds grow back!” Now, this is where you may think I’m a little off but I promise you something in my spirit at that moment prayed to God and said, “ LORD, GIVE ME THE TENACITY OF A WEED.”

I stopped for a moment and took inventory. I cut these stupid things down to the dirt every week and no matter how I destroy them and cut them down, they never stop growing. They keep coming back no matter what extreme measures they go through.

Their determination is noteworthy and impressive. On the journey of purpose and destiny, tenacity is not a luxury or accessory one can afford to not have. Living out the purposes of God in your life require time and persistence. Harriet Beecher Stowe once said, “A mighty oak was once just a little nut that held its ground.” I love that, it makes me laugh and yet it’s so true.

One of the reasons giving up has always been so hard for me in life is because I was always haunted by the thought, “What if I’m only one more attempt from breakthrough, one more prayer from victory or one more shot from winning?” I was plagued by the thought that success was only one more reach away.

People are not judged by what they start, only for what they finish. The reward for those who persevere far exceeds the pain that must precede the victory. But make no mistake, it is not success that God rewards but always the faithfulness of simply doing his will.

I read just the other day about Johannes Brahms who composed the famous Brahms lullaby. It took him 7 years to complete. (I wonder if it was because he kept falling asleep?) Just a thought.

Sports is one of my passions and I have often recognized in watching athletic events that in many cases the difference between winning and losing simply boiled down to one teams ability to hold on one second longer than their opponent. The scripture is full of instruction and encouragement concerning determination. So if you’re a husband or wife struggling in your marriage, or you’re a professional person dealing with extreme downtime, or maybe you’re a Pastor fighting through the difficulty of establishing a work for God or maybe you’re just a person overwhelmed by the temptation to throw in the towel and walk away. I’ve got a prayer for you that God gave to me in a moment of yard maintenance. LORD, GIVE ME THE TENACITY OF A WEED.

There will never be a shortage of “weed wackers” in life but if you just keep coming back, you will eventually come out on top.

So until next week, bloom where your planted.

All for Christ, J.Mark

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What are You

Have you ever noticed that there are people you know who are literally at the same place today as they were 5 years ago? The same place mentally, emotionally and spiritually. They still have the same dreams, the same problems, the same excuses and ultimately the same way of thinking. They haven’t moved an inch forward in years. It’s as if they’re stuck in some time warp where everything has stood still and they are frozen in a fixed moment.

You don’t have to read very far into the Bible to realize that God is constantly challenging his people toward growth. In fact, I can go so far as to say that it is his perfect will that we grow and mature and evolve from one place of faith to another.

I have often said that you can never expect anything AROUND you to change if nothing INSIDE you does. The moment of truth for you this week is this, YOU DON’T GET IN LIFE WHAT YOU WANT, YOU GET IN LIFE WHAT YOU ARE. Whatever you are producing or not producing right now is merely a reflection of who you really are.

So what is the answer? GROWTH. It begins with the decision to change and become. It means you have to break out of ruts and old ways of thinking that hinder you from embracing new possibilities. Only hungry minds grow... and that’s a fact.

One of my favorite quotes came from famed basketball coach John Wooden who said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all, that counts.” Brilliant. What he’s saying is it’s the new information you reach out to acquire after you have become comfortable with a certain body of information that makes the difference between excellence and mediocrity. Too many people gain a certain level of knowledge or experience and then that’s it, they quit growing, stretching and learning.

Goethe once noted that, “Everyone wants to 'be' but nobody wants to grow.” He’s right, and do you know why? Because its work and sometimes it hurts. It has a price tag associated with it that for many is simply too high. But as a great man once said, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

I can look back over 16 years of ministry and tell you beyond the shadow of a doubt that ignorance will cost you more than education. Educating oneself is simply acquiring necessary knowledge one needs to move forward and progress. So education happens on many, many different levels. An important way to keep growing is to never stop asking questions. The person who is afraid of asking is ashamed of learning.

John Maxwell has often said, “Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” The word of God spoke to me early in my life and when I read Proverbs 4:7 it affected me profoundly. It says...Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you will ever do and whatever you do develop sound judgement. Timothy was instructed to study so as to show himself proven and tested so others would know his ministry could be trusted and strong.

Never stop learning. Feed your spirit and cultivate a hunger for new information. Be teachable and open to fresh ideas and watch the Holy spirit bring you into contact with people and things that will change your life.

In April I am taking a 7 day journey to Prague in the Czech Republic to teach leadership to 100 Pastors from Poland, Hungary and Budapest. I have never been to this region of the world but my excitement level is high because I cannot wait to encounter something new and to see things that will deepen my life experience. I know, in some way, I will come back changed.

My question for you this week is this, are you growing? What significant change has happened in your life in the last five years? Have you changed for the better? Are you more mature now than then? How has your thinking improved? These are all great questions that I hope you will take the time to reflect upon.

So until next week remember... you are what you THINK, not what you think you are.

Peace.

All for Christ,
J.Mark

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Impossible is Possible, Part 7

I’m back and ready to give you a shot in the arm of truth. As you can see we have changed our format to a blogspot so you can conveniently peruse past evotionals as well as comment and give me some feedback as to whether any of these concepts are inspiring and helping you.

Sorry for missing you last week but we were all running crazy trying to finish last minute details to move into our new multipurpose facilities here on Main Street in downtown Alachua. While there are still some things left to do, our offices are set up and we are open for business, PRAISE THE LORD.

Now, let’s get to it! We have been building our thoughts around the concept that is taught in virtually every book in the Bible, THE IMPOSSIBLE IS POSSIBLE. The Word makes it clear that there are many pitfalls to our destiny and that the road to purpose is full of potholes and dangers along the way. Too often we look for these dangers as outside influences or heat seeking missiles shot from some far away base attempting to derail us and shoot down our vision and dreams.

The moment of truth for you this week is that many times its not those things from without that truly threaten our future but often it is that from within that truly does the greatest damage and sabotages our lives. Here’s a landmine that will blow a hole in your spirit faster than anything, COMPLAINING. The truth is…..the more you complain the less you’ll obtain. The person who is always finding fault seldom finds anything else.

I’m going to be straight with you, I can’t be around these folks for long, they make me itch. Pessimists will always tell you that success is nothing but luck, that those who have walked in great significance are just fortuitous and were simply standing in the right place at the right time. The reason for this is that it’s a far easier explanation to swallow than the truth which is that success is the result of time, tears, trouble and unstoppable tenacity. Things of which the complainer knows nothing of nor has any interest in obtaining. I am convinced God births us into this world as natural optimists and the world slowly tries to educate us out of our “delusion.” God’s Law is slowly replaced with Murphy’s Law and our faith is strangled out by fact. God’s Word constantly instructs us to fight the pull of the world and refuse to allow it’s power to minimize our God.

A life of complaining is the ultimate rut, and it has been well said that a rut is merely a grave with both ends knocked out. Be very careful, misery wants your company. Every time God wants to bless you, He doesn’t send complainers into your life, He sends people full of faith, boldness, and love.

My prayer for you today is that you will examine yourself. Have a moment of honest reflection and think about how much you may give in to the temptation to complain, it may be more than you think. And finally, when you feel like complaining, BRING GOD INTO THE SITUATION. His presence has a way of changing our hearts and minds and causes us to see things in an entirely different light.

Until next week remember, He is not just LORD over the difficult, He is Lord over the impossible.

All for Christ,
J.Mark

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Make a Move

Have you ever walked into a Wal-mart or a Sam’s Club and marvel at the enormity of the buildings, the number of employees or the amount of stores they have nationwide? I know I have. In fact I recently saw a program on CNBC that went inside the operational division of Wal-mart and revealed a web of organization that is quite staggering. For example, Wal-mart has a weather division that tracks weather patterns around the world in order to forecast where trouble spots will be. Why, you may ask? Because it increases sales.

Case in point. Through studying retail trends Wal-mart discovered when hurricanes pound the eastern seaboard people prepare for the oncoming storm by filling up on food and supplies in order to hunker down and wait out the impending threat. One of the products that seems to be high on every persons list is …….Strawberry Pop-Tarts. Apparently, they're easy, last forever, require no cooking and frankly, there delicious. So when Wal-mart spots a stirring in the stratosphere off the coast of Africa they mobilize for action and ship 5 times the normal amount of Strawberry Pop-Tarts to the east coast.

I know… you’re wondering where I’m going with all this. I sat there thinking, how did one man’s simple idea and dream of opening up one little store transform into this raging monster of a cultural phenomenon? Well, you can analyze, scrutinize and philosophize all you want but there is no way to get around this one fundamental truth. WINNING STARTS WITH BEGINNING. Everything big starts with something small. Nothing great is created suddenly. Never decide to do NOTHING just because you can only do SOMETHING.

I have learned that small oppurtunities can often be the beginning of great enterprises. In fact, I pray for small oppurtunuties because I know that if I am faithful with small things, bigger things are sure to come. IT IS A BIBLICAL CERTAINTY (Matthew 25:21). You will never do great things if you can’t do small things in a great way. What many people call impossible is really just the untried. You wiil never succeed at something you never attempt, and that’s a fact. Worse than a quitter is one who allows fear to prohibit him from ever trying. You can travel distance a lot farther and faster than you think by just consistently putting one foot in front of another, but if you never take a step your destination is already established. And the truth is the first step is always the hardest but it is the one most necessary in order to create momentum.

A great Pastor I know in Arizona once told me something I can’t shake, he said, “You may be disappointed if you fail, but you’re doomed if you never try.” He’s right. My question to you this week is, what do you have a dream of doing that makes you fearful? What should you already have done? Don’t be discouraged and dare to begin. I think what you are going to find is that most of the things you end up doing, you didn’t know you could do, until you did it. You may want to read that again. God doesn’t begin to bless until you move and then and only then do you find strength you never knew was available before.

So until next week remember, you will never make your mark if you never make a move.

All for Christ, J.Mark

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Impossible is Possible, Part 6

Remember, the impossible IS possible, so let’s continue. We are talking about components necessary to achieve and fulfill your God-given dreams. Helen Keller was once asked, “Is there anything worse than being blind?” “Oh yes,” she said. “It is to have your sight and yet have no vision.”

To one person the world is desolate, dull and empty, to another the same world looks rich, interesting and full of meaning. The difference? VISION. Eyes that look are common, but eyes that truly see are rare. How we see determines how we position ourself, and how we position ourself determines ultimately how we receive. You will never see the power of the sunrise if you get up and only look west. Life is the same way, many people never fully appreciate it’s indescribable beauty or it’s incredible oppurtunities, not because there not there but because they never see it.

One author defined what I’m talking about and referred to it as premeditated cognitive thought. It’s just a fancy way of saying YOU SEE WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE. It’s kind of like how a twenty dollar bill can look so big when it goes to church and so small when it goes for groceries. (I know, that one stung a bit but it’s true.) Some people complain because roses have thorns instead of being thankful that thorns have roses. Any fact facing us is not nearly as important as our attitude towards it. Norman Vincent Peale once said, “You and I do not see things as THEY are, we see things as WE are.” Every person’s eyes are colored by the condition of their heart, our vision is shaped by our character.

Whenever you begin to develop the outlook that wherever you go there are wonderful ideas and oppurtunities waiting to be discovered, guess what you find? You find yourself surrounded by adventure. Why did Jesus constantly remind us that our faith was the foundation of miracles? Because faith sees things that others don’t see, it is a departure from the blinding facts that tell us why it cannot be and it is a leap to the belief that anything is possible with God. It expands our vision. Faith is expectation in overdrive. The trouble with the future for most people is that it arrives before they are ready for it. Vision allows you to dig a well BEFORE you are thirsty and plant a seed BEFORE you are hungry. Preparation is the result of vision, your view of tomorrow motivates you to make adjustments today.

So here’s my question, how’s your vision? Are you just looking or do you really see? What view of your future do you have that mandates adjustment today? I am convinced that our OUTLOOK will in many ways determine our OUTCOME. I hope these words are helping someone. I’m praying for you and your family and I look forward to next week. Until then, open the eyes of your heart you may be surprised at what you see.

All for Christ, J.Mark

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Impossible is Possible, Part 5

It seems like every single week we are adding new subscribers to our e-votional list. We have added several again this week who signed up online at the website, so for those who are just joining us we are in a series of e-votionals on the topic “THE IMPOSSIBLE IS POSSIBLE.” I have been sharing what I believe to be pivotal and indispensable components to success and living out the dreams that God has placed in your heart. This week I want to tackle an issue that is an enemy to your dreams, PROCRASTINATION. Procrastination is the fertilizer that makes difficulties grow.

I want you to ask yourself this question, “If I don’t take action now, what will it ultimately cost me?” I am learning an incredible secret in researching and observing people who do great things. Success comes to the man who does today what others were thinking of doing tomorrow. By the time a procrastinator finally makes up his mind, the opportunity has usually passed him by. I recently read a quote from Miguel De Cervantes who said, “ By the street of by and by, one arrives at the house of never.” What he is implying is that whenever we say we will get around to it “someday”, we never do. Ladies and gentleman, “someday” is not a day of the week. Procrastinators never have small problems simply because they always wait until their problems grow up.

Dealing with an issue immediately and while it is in its infancy insures it will never get out of control. But allow it to go unchecked and unsupervised and a monster can emerge. The cost of growth and action is always less than the cost of stagnation. We must strive to be like the apostles, these men were not known for their policies, procedures, theories or excuses but for their ACTS. Occasionally you may see someone who doesn’t do anything and yet appears to be successful in life. Don’t be deceived. Remember, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Most people who sit around waiting for their ship to come in often find it to be “hardship.” The hardest work in the world is usually that which should have been done yesterday. Edgar Guest summed it up like this, he said, “Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried.” Now, I don’t know what vision you have or what dream lies dormant in your heart or what endeavor you wish could be, but whatever it is one thing is for sure, if you never move, it won’t either. If you never try, you will never know what miracles God has placed on the path to your destiny. The Bible says in Deuteronomy 28:2 “The blessings of the Lord shall overtake you,” that means it happens in flight, while your moving and striving for the goal. The Bible promises no loaves to the loafer but His favor always finds those working diligently toward his will. Let me leave you with this African Proverb, it says, “Every morning a gazelle wakes up and knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be eaten. And every morning a lion wakes up and knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It makes no difference whether you’re a lion or a gazelle, when the sun comes up you better be running.”

Until next week, Get up and run.

All for Christ, J.Mark