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.


All for Christ,

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,

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