Thursday, March 26, 2009


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,

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,

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


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