ALIVE AND WELL – ACTIVE AND INVIGORATED – AT “HOME” AND KINGDOM-CONNECTED

Today marks the 7 year anniversary of a major transition in Terri’s and my life and ministry. We have had previous significant transitions which saw us move to the other side of the world and back. This one was different resulting in us staying in the same city but our ministry context turning upside down. At the Lord’s leading we stepped out of a ministry context of being mega-church pastors in a denomination we shared ministry with for 30 years and into some new ministry thrusts that didn’t seem to fit that context.

At the time of that transition several things were happening:

We were entering a third period of life and ministry in (or near) our 50’s and “empty-nesters”;
I was in burn out;  I had been recently diagnosed with leukemia; There was some “background noise” of unrest in a part of the congregation.

As a result there were some folks who drew conclusions that I was retiring. (Yes, I actually received cards wishing me well on my retirement.) There were some folks who drew conclusions that I was so ill that I was dying. (Yes, I have actually had folks see me in a local restaurant and remark with shocked look and tone that “You look so healthy and like yourself!”)
There were some other folks who seem to have drawn the conclusion that I have been casting about half-in and half-out of ministry. (And probably many other conclusions…take your pick.) So here is the real story…

I am Alive and Well. I have recovered from burn-out, responded well to treatment, been touched by the Lord’s healing power and have been and continue to be completely leukemia free for years! I have undergone recent back surgery but even that is healing very rapidly and ahead of schedule!

I am Active and Invigorated. Terri and I continue to actively minister in primary leadership at Gateway Church which we planted in 2009. With the Lord strengthening us I/we preach, teach, pray, counsel, and engage in all the other aspects of local pastoral leadership and wider itinerant ministry. I continue to “hatch, match and dispatch” ministering pastorally with two couples who birthed babies this week (3 to go very soon), preparing 3 more couples for marriage this summer and … no funerals (dispatching) presently in sight. I am loving life and ministry as much as, if not more than, ever!

I am At “Home” and Kingdom-Connected. I have never believed in a Christian life and/or ministry that was one of the “doing your own thing” variety. While the past several years have been a challenging journey in terms of discovering our Kingdom-alignment, we have been so blessed to see the Lord clearly lead in this regard also. Today I am at “home” in the Anglican Church of North America for several reasons. First, I was raised as an evangelical Methodist (the fruit of Wesley’s renewal movement in the Anglican Church). Second, the ACNA is a three-stream Anglican communion: evangelical, charismatic and catholic/historic/sacramental…I am an evangelical, charismatic, Anglican priest. Third, God wonderfully re-connected Terri and me with Bishop Roger and Gretsie Ames who have been used of God to facilitate the renewal movement of the Holy Spirit for many years in Northeastern Ohio. We are blessed to be under the covering of Bishop Roger and for Gateway to be fully aligned with the Anglican Diocese of the Great Lakes of the Anglican Church of North America.

So there you have it…I am Alive and Well; Actively Ministering and Invigorated; At “Home” and Kingdom-connected. For more details contact me or, better yet, invite me to have coffee. I will be glad to bend your ear for hours about the goodness of God and our adventurous journey on the Canterbury Trail over a good “Cup of Joe.”

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Lessons From Tozer (the dog)

This past week I learned several key lessons about positioning myself to receive God’s blessings from Tozer…not my favorite author, A. W. Tozer, but Aaron’s terrier-Australian cattle dog mix Tozer.  (In Proverbs 30 we are taught lessons from ants, rock badgers, locusts and spiders so why not a dog?)  Early that morning I awoke to hear God say, “This is the day to draw near to me.”  I thought, “Every day is a day to draw near to God.  I wonder why He has highlighted today?”

A short while later I was in the kitchen going through my morning routine.  As I stood at the counter and prepared to eat a few bites of maple roll, Tozer taught me that if I want to receive blessings from God I must…

Draw near.  He had been across the room but when I started eating the roll (he often gets the last bite of whatever I’m eating) he came close to me.  “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8

Position myself.  Tozer sat near my feet close to where I was standing.  “…Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened…”  Luke 10:39

Look up.  From where he was sitting Tozer looked up to see clearly what I was eating.  “My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up.”  Psalm 5:3

Fix my eyes on the prize.  Tozer’s steady gaze never left the food as it traveled from my hand to my mouth.  “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:2

Wait expectantly.  Tozer was single-minded and without distraction in his pursuit.  “for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” James 1:7    “For this is contained in Scripture: “Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”  1 Peter 2:6

Tozer got his reward.  I love to bless him with the last bite.  Our Heavenly Father loves to bless us beyond our wildest expectation.  Time to draw near, position ourselves, look up, fix our gaze, and wait expectantly.

Blessed beyond the curse,

Mark

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Epic “Proportions” of God’s Goodness

Many years ago Charles Wesley was struck by the vastness of the “glories of my God and King, the triumphs of His grace”.  In turn, he became aware of the smallness of his own capacity to verbally praise God in accordance to the measure of God’s greatness.  The result was Charles’ great hymn that begins with his cry in prayer, “O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise…”

Three weeks ago I was struck with a similar awareness.  At a regularly scheduled visit to my hematologist I was given the results of my most recent tests for CML (chronic myeloid leukemia).  When I was diagnosed with CML in December, 2007 I was in an accelerated/acute phase and very seriously ill.  That Christmas was pretty somber.  I opened my Christmas present from Terri…a Spirit-Filled Living Study Bible with a handwritten note from Pastor Jack Hayford (a true spiritual father to us) inside the front cover.  I “randomly” opened the Bible and my eyes fell on these sentences in a Kingdom Dynamics note in Psalm 42 on “Preparing Yourself to Pray”…“The resident psychologist of a major cancer clinic described the perspective that marked hope-filled cancer patients:  ‘They don’t deny the diagnosis.  But they do defy the verdict.'”  A faith-filled journey began.  My doctor would treat the CML with which I had been diagnosed but only God would give my prognosis…“by His stripes I am healed.”

For the past five and a half years I have watched the manifestation of God’s healing progressively increase in my body.  One test gave way to a more sophisticated one.  That test, in turn, gave way to the most sophisticated test known that measured indicators of CML at the most minute molecular level.  For several years now I have had “MMR”…major molecular response.  No sign of CML in the one major and one minor indicator with the one other minor indicator showing a very slight and decreasing level.  My doctor says that MMR is “very good” and the excellent health, vitality and quality of life I have experienced has caused me to agree.  Then it happened.

Three weeks ago my doctor gave me the results of the latest test.  “MMR” became “CMR”…COMPLETE molecular response.  My body was and is 100% clear of all indicators of CML.

God is good all the time.  However on certain days I am more keenly aware of the EPIC proportions of His goodness.  (To be theologically correct, I must say His “proportionless” goodness because it is without measure.)  That day three weeks ago was such a day.  I continue to bask in the warmth of God’s EPIC goodness to me.  My thoughts and prayers have centered around my keen, almost painful, awareness of the smallness of my capacity to truly appreciate His goodness.  O for an increased capacity of heart to be fully aware…O for an enlarged spiritual capacity to truly comprehend…O for a heightened sensitivity to rightly value the Goodness of God.

If I could just get the lyrics right we might have an epic hymn of praise on our hands.

Stirred, not shaken,

Mark

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History Making

One of the things that distinguishes a Biblical, Christian worldview from other religious worldviews is the view that history is going somewhere.  We believe that a day is coming when Jesus Christ will return to the earth, destroy everything that hinders love, be joined to His Bride and establish His throne in Jerusalem…a day when “…the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”  (Rev. 11:15)  Since this is true we live each day as a people who were placed on earth “on purpose, for purpose”.

What Happened?

Someone has said that there are three types of people…those who make things happen; those who watch things happen; and those who say, “What happened?”  We live in historic times…political dilemmas, financial crisis, the Middle East being reshaped before our eyes.  Most of all we live in an historic time spiritually.  What we do matters.  When we partner with God in His purposes on earth through witness, worship and intercession it makes a difference…we are History-Makers.

History-Making in Ohio

In middle school (a long time ago) I studied Ohio History.  This past weekend, along with over 1,000 other believers, I was part of a history-making event in Southwestern Ohio. IHOP-KC’s Ohio Regional Onething was:

  • the first Onething in Ohio
  • the first Regional Onething to be hosted by statewide Houses of Prayer
  • another piece in the growing movement of intercession for revival in Ohio that leads to citywide and statewide transformation.

Shaping Ohio History

One month from today we will have another opportunity to join in shaping history in Ohio.  The Radiant Worship NEO Prayer and Prophetic Conference hosted by Canton House of Prayer in Canton for Northeastern Ohio on September 23-24 will be another link in the chain of intercession that will bring the tipping point of revival for Northeastern Ohio.  For details go to…

http://radiantnation.org/page1/styled/index.html        or to…

http://www.cantonhop.org/events/

Will you make things happen, watch things happen or, after the fact, ask, “What happened?” Anyone want to join me in shaping Ohio (Revival) History?

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The Day the Nickel Dropped

Many of those who hear me speak on a regular basis have heard “The Nickel Story”.  I’ve told it so often that when I begin to tell it now my daughter quickly and quietly exits the room.  Yet, since some have never heard the nickel story and are baffled by my Twitter and Facebook posts, I feel compelled to share it here.

This is a highly personal (a.k.a. subjective) account of God’s leading in my life.  The tender mercies of God in the unfolding of His good plan for our lives moves me deeply.  The precious, personal touch of God through this occurrence in my life made it so tender that I refrained from sharing it publicly for quite some time.

A Prophetic Promise

In the summer of 2007 Terri and I were praying through a deep season of unsettledness pointing to a possible coming season of transition.  On July 1, 2007 we received personal, prophetic ministry from some staff at IHOP-KC who knew nothing about us.  The initial word came with a prophetic promise of Jeremiah 33:3 and a prophetic act as 33 dollars were placed in my hand as a sign of God’s provision for the new thing before us.

The Sign to Look For

We traveled to California for two weeks of sabbatical rest and renewal.  During those days God spoke richly to us through His written Word, other trusted friends, nature and revelatory gifts.  Things were becoming more defined in terms of spiritual issues.  For the first time that I could recall in my 31 years as a believer in Christ I set a fleece before the Lord associated with a specific date.

On our return trip to Ohio we drove through Colorado.  We had pulled over to get gas.  As I was waiting for Terri in the convenience store, I was looking at snacks on the bottom shelf and saw a quarter and three pennies on the floor…28 cents.  As I picked them up I asked the Lord, “Where are the other 5 cents?” thinking of the Jeremiah 33 promise.  He promptly replied, “Wait for the nickel to drop.”  I was deeply impacted in my spirit with the clarity and weight of this word.  I recognized that this was more than an old saying from the early pay phone era.  It was as though the Father said, “I will honor your fleece and go one better by giving you a sign to know when your call is up and it’s time for change.”

Day of the Fleece

The ensuing two and a half months were filled with the twists and turns of many challenging events.  Our hearts were becoming increasingly convinced that a major transition was coming.  We told a dear, trusted brother in Christ that we were 98% certain of it.  We stood in faith that God would keep His word and show us the way. October 1st, the day associated with the fleece, came and went.  We took it as 99% confirmation.  Two days later, October 3, 2007, we had coffee with the same dear brother and told him that we were 99% sure but continued to wait on a “sign” that God had given us.

The Nickel Dropped!

Finishing coffee and saying “Good-bye” to our friend, Terri and I went next door to get something at Wal-Mart.  Walking in the door I saw and picked up a couple of pennies off the floor.  For two and a half months I had been picking up pennies, dimes and even quarters off the ground, but no nickels.  I hardly ever found a nickel lying on the ground.

Walking into the check out aisle my eye fell on a nickel wrapper lying on the floor.  I thought, “God you are way cool!  You’re going to give us a whole roll of nickels!”  But not so…an empty wrapper that had missed the waste basket.

I completed the purchase and looked down to place my debit card back into my wallet. When I saw it, I froze!  Terri grabbed my arm with a “death grip” and said, “Oh my gosh! What is it?”  There on the floor directly beneath me, squarely between my feet was a shiny nickel!  We immediately sensed a rush of release and 100% confirmation.  A few weeks later we met with the governing board of our pastorate and tendered our resignation at the end of the pastoral year.

A Personal God Who Speaks My “Language”

Coincidence or God-Incidence?  Do you question this as too subjective for such a major decision?  I’ll leave that for you to decide.  But I know this…nickels on the ground are still a very rare find for me.  Over the past three years I have found a nickel on only two or three rare occasions.  When I have, it’s as though God looks at me, winks, smiles and says, “Get ready for change”…and expectancy grows in my heart!

What are your thoughts?  Does God speak your “language”…the personal “language” of your heart?

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Thirty Years with an Amazing Woman

Today my wife Terri and I celebrated our 30th Wedding anniversary.  We’ve spent a relaxing day together running a few errands, enjoying a dinner out together and a movie. It has been a good day.  We’ve shared a lot of good days among the 10,957 we’ve been together.

Thirty years ago today we stood at an altar on a warm July Saturday afternoon and vowed to each other “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death; as God is my witness.”  When we made this covenant before God and witnesses we meant every word…even though at the time we little knew what all those words would mean in real life experience.

Today I am deeply grateful for:

(1) The grace and mercy of God.  His favor and faithfulness have held us always; (2) A godly legacy handed down to me.   My grandparents were married 40 days shy of 67 years when Grandma Katie went to heaven in 1982.  My parents were married 3 1/2 months short of 57 years when Dad went to glory in 2005. “Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.” – Psalm 16:6b; and (3)  The amazing woman I married.  Terri continues to be my best friend, the mother of our three great children, my life and ministry partner and the woman I love. She draws out the best in me while she puts up with me.

God only knows what the future holds…but if previous generations count for anything, it looks like we are about half way there!

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A New Season

God pays attention to times and seasons. The feasts mark anniversaries of remembrance. Yesterday, July 1, 2011 I walked into a new season. I knew it as surely as when I walk through a physical doorway from one room to another.

Fours years ago yesterday, Terri and I visited Forerunner Christian Fellowship at IHOP-KC. After the service a few members of the IHOP staff spoke prophetically over our lives. One of them, Jeff gave us a powerful prophetic word that flowed out of the promise of Jeremiah 33:3. On the one year anniversary of the Canton House of Prayer, Ben from Richmond VA House of Prayer came to minister without ever hearing about that original word and after 21 days of prayer and fasting shared, “The Lord says you are a Jeremiah 33 people!” Three years ago yesterday, Terri and I stepped out of our previous pastoral assignment and began ministering through Restoration House Ministries International which we founded at His leading. (The transition in ministry of these past three years has been a challenging and difficult one. It has also brought many blessings.) Two years ago yesterday we began to meet with a core group for the purpose of founding Gateway Church. As of two weeks ago we are operating the Canton House of Prayer and Gateway Church out of a building on the campus where I began ministry 33 years ago this summer!

Over the past month my heart was increasingly filled with anticipation at the thought of July 1st! I was quickened with hope and expectancy. The Lord gave me a word that this 3 year mark was significant. I pondered that as we made preparations and moved into the new facility. Then it hit me…began ministry 33 years ago on that campus…began ministry through Restoration House 3 years ago July 1st.

There it was again: 33:3. I knew I had stepped into a season of dreams and destiny being fulfilled…a season of kingdom advance and promises kept.

So last night at Canton HOP the Lord gave me a word for one specific visitor as well as the entire group about this new season. It resonated with many hearts.

Today in a local restaurant, a young lady walked up to me and asked if I remembered her. I answered honestly…that she looked familiar but I couldn’t recall her name. She reminded me of her name telling me that I had baptized her and her sister about 6 or 7 years ago and I remembered. I inquired about her family, she went back to work and I went back to my lunch conversation with a spiritual son. Then it happened again…

Before we left I motioned for her to come over and asked if we could pray with her. She said yes and I shared a word the Lord gave me for her. As soon as I spoke it she began to cry and I suddenly remembered that it is the exact word the Lord gave me for her when I baptized her 6 or 7 years ago! She was encouraged. We were all blessed.

Yes, a new season has begun.  The door is open.  Anyone feel like stepping through with me?

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