Wednesday, May 27, 2009


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,

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