Monday, November 23, 2009

Tour de Romance - February 6, 2010

February 16 is a day you want to circle on your calendar. Just married or married for 70 years, this will be a great evening for you and your spouse. Whether you are in a great season in your marriage or you are in a season of struggle, this will be a meaningful evening for you. For less money than 2 tix to a movie, a babysitter, and a decent dinner you will remember this evening for years to come as a great date. The evening is $50 / couple. I want you to watch the video preview below, then go to this link to purchase your tickets.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Praying for your pastor

I came across a post by Ligon Duncan, Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MS. I could not say it better myself. Some who read this blog are members of the congregation I serve as Pastor. If that is you, I could not do better in listing my requests for you to pray for me. If you are a member of another congretation, I encourage you to pray these prayers for your Pastor every week ... or better yet, every day.

Because I have a congregation that loves me more than I deserve, I am often asked by them: "how can I pray for you?" I've tried to put some thought into how I answer that question. So, maybe these ideas will help you pray for your pastor, or tell others how they can pray for you.

Pray -

1. That [your pastor] would know and love the living God, would have a saving interest in Christ, being purchased by His blood, and thus would be bound to the Lord by the indissoluble bond of the Holy Spirit.

2. That [your pastor] would know, embrace and ever more deeply understand the Gospel and be shaped by it in life and ministry.

3. That [your pastor] would be useful servant of the Lord, that he would know and love God's word, God's people, and God's kingdom; that he would be used to build it up and so that it prevails even against Hell's gates.

4. That [your pastor] would study, practice and teach the Word of the Lord, by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
5. That [your pastor] would love to pray, because he loves to commune with his God, and that he would be a man of prayer, characteristically.

6. That [your pastor] would be ever dependent upon and filled with the Spirit; and that he would possess true Spiritual wisdom.
7. That [your pastor] would be holy unto the Lord. That his tongue and heart would be wholly God's.

8. That [your pastor] would be kept from pride, and especially spiritual pride. That the Lord himself would be gracious to slay pride in him, and that your pastor would endeavor to always be putting pride to death, by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

9. That God would give [your pastor] guidance as to where to focus his efforts in ministry.
10. That He would protect [your pastor] from himself, from the enemy of his soul, and from all earthly enemies.

11. That no decision which [your pastor] ever makes or desire that [your pastor] ever pursues would restrict his ability to pour his whole soul into the Gospel ministry.

12.That many would be converted and many built up under [your pastor]'s ministry, to God's glory alone.

13. That the Lord would bless [your pastor]'s wife, [. . . ], with holiness and happiness, Gospel assurance and Gospel rest.

14. That God would make [your pastor] a decent husband and father.

15. That [your pastor] would be a good friend to his wife, and love her self-sacrificially,

16. That [your pastor] would be a good daddy to his children. That they would love God, their parents and the church.
17. That [your pastor] would be a testimony in the home so that his wife might be able to respect him when he is in the pulpit, and so that [your pastor] will be able to feed her soul, along with the rest of the congregation.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I have had several questions since last Sunday’s message about dinosaurs. Did they really exist? Didn’t they supposedly predate man?

Let me give a few brief answers. As I stated in my message, I would be considered a “young earth” guy. In other words, I do not believe the earth to be billions or even millions of years old as evolutionists or even theistic evolutionists believe it to be. I won’t go into detail here. I believe the earth to be somewhere between 6000 and 10,000 years old, based on geneologies found in Genesis 5 and 11. You can hear my comments on this from this past Sunday’s message on the podcast if you would like. But I did not address the issue of dinosaurs.

I will say up front that yes, I do believe there were animals we refer to as dinosaurs that once lived on the earth. And I believe Scripture bears this out. We have some Hebrew terms that are translated as “Behemoth” and “Leviathan”.

The word “behemoth” is found in Job 40:15-24. It is even described in detail to eat grass like an ox, the tail is like a cedar tree, the bones are bronze tubes and his limbs are like iron rods. Some translations will translate this “elephant” or “hippopotamus”. But with the discoveries made today of the various bone structures, we can easily see what was being described in Job 40 as a type of dinosaur.

The Leviathan has the following description in Job 41, Psalm 104:25-26, and Isaiah 27. He is described as a twisting serpent and the monster that is in the sea. This animal has limbs and a double layer of armor, horrific teeth, and scales. You can read more in these passages. It is not a stretch at all to see this to be a sea monster. And this will test your belief in God’s Word … this animal snorts “flashes with light” (flames) and “flaming torches shoot from his mouth”. Sounds a lot like a fire breathing dragon of some type that lived at sea.

I don’t make the news, I just report it .

Well, didn’t they live millions or billions of years ago? Paleontologist Mary Schweitzer has discovered soft blood vessels, proteins, and various blood cells inside fossilized dinosaur bones. It is well established in the scientific community that such biological structures and molecules should not last more than a few tens of thousands of years. And it is not possible for them to last millions of years.

For more on this and other creation questions you might want to visit

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I am living my dream ...

Growing up, I can remember only two things I seriously wanted to do the rest of my life. First and foremost, I wanted to coach basketball. John Wooden was my hero (yes, I'm that old). At a young age, I was amazed at how he could take such a variety of personalities and skill sets and blend them into a true team which consistently won championships.

But if I could not be a coach, I wanted to be an attorney. Actually, I didn't want to be an attorney as much as I just wanted to make the closing arguments. I guess I watched too much Perry Mason during my early years, but I just loved to watch how the attorneys would close out the case.

It had not dawned on me until this morning, that I am getting to live out my childhood dreams as a pastor. God did not call me to be a coach or an attorney. But, as a Pastor I have the opportunity to coach a great team of staff and volunteer leadership team ... trying to blend personalities and skill sets. Oh, and did I mention the worship room in which I speak every week is also a gym, with lines on the floor and everything?! How cool is that! And in many ways, I get to make the most significant closing arguments one could make every week. These closing arguments are not to put some criminal behind bars or to gain my client a settlement in a law suit. Rather, there are people seated in that room every Sunday whose life hangs in the balance as I have the privilege of sharing the Gospel with them.

I am living my dream!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Observations after 2 years back ...

As many of you know, I stepped out of the role of being a local church Pastor for 10 years while serving at LifeWay Christian Resources. After growing up as a Pastor's Kid (PK), I had also served as a pastor for 12 years prior to going to LifeWay for a decade. ClearView called me to serve as Pastor beginning May 1, 2007 which means I have been back "in the saddle" for just over 2 years now (and loving it, by the way). In various settings I am asked questions about my observations since returning. Several questions are asked often:

1. What has changed most about Pastoring over the 10 years I was not serving as Pastor?It all has to do with technology. When I left the pastorate in 1997 the internet was in its infancy, email was not widespread, mobile phones were rare and then usually a cumbersome phone in a bag in the car, and social networking was not even a dream.
The result? In a word ... accessibility. With a blog, a facebook page, a twitter profile, a blackberry never further than a few feet away, and a church website with my email listed, I am accessible like never before. Please don't get me wrong, I love it. I enjoy reading twitters on the way to lunch every Sunday with feedback on the message for the morning. By late afternoon on Sundays I am usually checking facebook for those that check in through that channel. Then it's on to my email at (try it now if you would like).
All of these channels help me as a pastor. In a church the size of ClearView there is great value in having the opportunity to follow the twitters of those in ClearView who use it, thus getting to know them in a way I could not otherwise. Through facebook I feel like I get to put faces with names and keep informed on activities members of ClearView. [More on the use of technology in ministry in a later blog]
Of course with the advantages comes danger ... the danger of never being unplugged. I try hard to stay completely unplugged on Thursdays during my most intense study time ... and on most Fridays (my day off).
2. What has not changed? People's need for Christ and the part Christ followers must play if more people are to be introduced to Him. I suppose it could be argued it is more difficult than ever to spread the Good News. I don't really think so. It's always been a challenge.
3. What has surprised me? Because of the position I served at LifeWay I don't think you could say I have been surprised by much. But one thing that has been so encouraging is the hunger the people of God seem to have for the Word of God ... at least at ClearView. I will call it a surprise ... and a pleasant one!
Maybe you have questions you would ask of someone returning to Pastor after a decade in another type ministry. You have the email address above or the comment section below. Fire away.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fifty Year Anniversary - Honoring My Parents

No, it's not my fifty year wedding anniversary. It is my parents'. This past weekend we celebrated my parents' 50 year anniversary as well as 49 years in ministry. This was obviously a time of reflection for all of us. Given the task of "saying a few words" Sunday afternoon at the reception I tried to narrow it down to one meaningful word for each of them. So the question I asked myself was what one word best described each of them. Since you could not all be there, I thought I would share a bit of what I shared with the group gathered.

For my mom I chose the word "wise". If you don't know my mom, she is the quiet one in the family. She has always been most comfortable behind the scenes and out of the spotlight. I almost chose the word "servant" because she never stops doing just that ... serving. But the word that came to mind most was "wise". Mom is one of the wisest people I know when it comes to relationships, which is the toughest area for most people to deal with in a wise manner. Mom always seem to have something wise to share with me growing up whenever I found myself struggling with a relationship.
For my dad I chose "faith". As I told the crowd Sunday afternoon, I have at times referred to it as "crazy faith". Dad's level of faith would cause some surrounding him over the years to think it to be irrational. When I was in junior high school (7-9 grades) Dad "resigned" his salary saying we were going to believe God to meet our needs. I could not understand how we were going to eat or buy clothes, but God did just as dad believed He would. We never missed a meal and we certainly never went without clothes :-). We lived "by faith" as a family for months, led by the faith of dad. Oh yeah, the whole time, the guy in charge of looking after the "gifts" given to our family during that time by faithful and caring church members was stealing from the account!! And God still provided.
Funny thing, when I take spiritual gift inventories, to this day two of the gifts that tend to rise to the top consistently are: wisdom and faith. I don't know this to be a fact and I don't find it in Scripture, but I have to wonder if somehow the spiritual gifts of the parents are somehow embedded into the children.
Congratulations again to my mom and dad (Sally and Carl Marshall) on this milestone.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A word about mentors

I know. It's been too long since I have posted. May was a month that got away.

Anyway, I traveled to Chicago with a good friend of mine (David Landrith)Sunday and Monday. The purpose of the meeting was to meet with another good friend (James MacDonald). If you know me personally or read this blog very much, you know that James has had a profound impact on my life. It was through a series of conversations with James that I felt the Lord leading me back to local church pastoring after being in a parachurch ministry for a decade.

Funny thing is, we talked very little about the specific subject of me making that change. But God used conversations with a man so passionate about the church and so passionate about doing it right by building it on the Word that I could feel something begin to burn inside me that had not burned in quite some time. I never want that flame to burn low again. So, I made the journey to spend a few hours with the instrument God had used to re-ignite my passion for preaching and people.

I know we all have people we learn from and some we might even put on the level of "mentor" as I do James in my own life. Let me suggest a few things to think about before you assign someone the role of mentor in your life.

1. Do they point you to Christ? At the end of the day, it's all about becoming more like Christ. If that person makes you want to become more like them than they do about Christ, something is missing in you (the one being mentored) or in them (the mentor).

2. Do they stretch you? If you come away from time with that person, or if it is a distant mentor (author, etc.), is your thinking challenged? Do they force you to look at yourself and ask some really tough questions? I don't want to stay as I am. I want to grow and change as needed for God to use me in ways that will bring Him maximum glory.

I thank God for bringing the right mentor at the right time in my life.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Proud of the Worship Ministry

I could not have been more proud of the worship ministry of ClearView than I was this past Saturday night. Here is why.

We had a worship time planned (A Night of Hallelujahs) for Saturday and Sunday evenings at ClearView for both evenings. The full choir, band, and orchestra had prepared for months to lead us in this worship time. We are blessed to have some incredibly gifted musicians and vocalists. I could tell at the Saturday morning rehearsal this was going to be a great time of worship for our church family.

Time for the Saturday evening praise came ... the band, orchestra, and then the choir took their places right at 7:00. I stepped up to open the time with prayer before we began. One thought crossed my mind: "Where are the people?" I don't know if it was the monsoon we were having outside, proms, swine flu scare, or just Saturday night in Williamson County, but there was much less people than I expected. And I would say much less than many of the worship team was expecting as well. [The Sunday evening crowd was much better]

All of us know what it is like to have high expectations only to be disappointed. And in this setting it would have been so easy for the worship ministry team to have a big let down and just walk through the motions. But did they ever deliver!! They sang and played and just flat out worshiped as if there were thousands. Or maybe I should say, they worshipped as if it were only them and God!

As I sat on the front row, I could not have been more proud of every single person. You could see it on their faces and in their eyes. This was not about performing for some big crowd, this was really about them worshipping and inviting us to join. And from the downbeat of the first note to the last, that is exactly what we did.

Don't get me wrong. Sunday evening was awesome as well. But I will not soon forget that Saturday evening as the group did not allow poor attendance let them down one bit. The heart of our worship ministry was never more evident than this memorable evening of May 2, 2009.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Does theology matter?

The root word of "theology" is "theo" which means "God". You recognize the rest of the word ... "ology" which has come to mean "the study of". It's original meaning is "speak". If you have ever spoken about God or thought about God you have practiced theology. Theology is of little value unless it leads one to know God ... the God of Scripture. A proper theology is also what drives our practice. In other words, what I believe about God will determine how I think and act in every area of my life. An impotent or inaccurate view of God leads to an impotent spiritual walk. A right theology leads to the approach to life that is pleasing to God (the only reason we exist) should I live out of that view.

There is good and bad theology. Good theology is informed by the Bible. Bad theology is informed by any source other than the Bible. This would be especially true should that theology be in opposition to or disagreement with good theology (found only in the Bible).

Where do you get your view of God? What informs your theology? This determines everything. But it especially determines whether or not we can honor and please God with our lives because it will not be the God of Scripture for whom we live, if our theology is not correct. It will be a misinformed view of God, which by definition cannot be the God of Scripture. When you find yourself in a crisis or when you open your eyes on the other side of eternity, you will not want a fantasy God; you will need the one true God. And the only place an accurate theology is in the pages of Scripture.

I will be preaching Sunday (May 3) from 1 John 2:18-27 which covers antichrists. Chapter 4 speaks of the spirit of antichrists. The idea John is conveying is any spirit which seeks to oppose or to replace the Christ of Scripture. I will use as illustrations some recent books and movies that make an attempt at theology (speaking of God). One book I will use to illustrate contemporary material with an anti-Christ message will be The Shack by Wm. Paul Young. Let me quickly say, I do not know Mr. Young so I will give him the benefit of the doubt that his intentions were good. He was not intending to lead people away from the God of the Bible. He simply does. I will give a point or two in the message tomorrow. There are many places Young speaks in a way that opposes Scripture and / or tries to replace the truth of Scripture with his fanciful imagination of the trinity. Not a good place to be.

The sad thing is many will read this and be led astray from the truth. You can only take one of a few positions related to the book. You can say, "Well, it is indeed bad theology and I see it as such."

You can say, "No, I think his theology is good" in which case I would challenge you to read it in light of Scripture rather than reading Scripture in light of Young. I would remind you the origninal sin of Eve eating the apple began with the question from Satan, "Did God really say ...?" and for the first time in history man subjected God's Word to man's opinion rather than man's opinion being subjected to God's Word. Again, not a good place to be.

Finally, there are those who would say, "It's only fiction". Part of me wants to say EXACTLY! It is especially fanciful and fictional when it comes to the nature and character of the God of Scriputre. It is one man's erroneous theology of the God of Scripture. The dangers in that are many. It confuses new Christians. It is being advertised as a life transforming book. There are many who do not know the God of Scripture at all that are being led to believe this view of God is accurate and therefore the God to whom they should trust their life. I have heard followers of Christ say, "It really helped me". My question would be, helped you what? Misunderstand God? Feel good about relating to a "God" that does not in fact exist? Get through a painful time by seeing God through heretical eyes?

Maybe you would say, "Mark, Young is close on his theology. He almost gets it right." I would argue differently, but let's assume you are right. Think about this quote from Spurgeon: “Discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.”

For a (theologically) solid review of The Shack go here. Challies is fair, giving what he sees as positive and what he sees as theologically askew in the book. He gives a more balanced view than I would and it keeps me from making this post that much longer if I don't try to give a complete theological review here :-).

One last thought. I posted a reply on another site when asked my opinion about the book. Let's just say, my view was not the popular view. I was accused, as a "pastor" (read with disdain) trying to tell people what they could and could not read. Well, obviously I can't do that. You will read what you will read. My role as a pastor however is well defined. Here is one such instruction given me:
28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among whom the Holy Spirit has appointed you as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood.
Acts 20:28 (HCSB)

If you must read The Shack do so with a biblical lens in place.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hope in the Recession

Join me this coming Thursday evening at ClearView for Town Hall for Hope with Dave Ramsey as our host. Get more information on the event here. Then join us here. Check out this promo video.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Wake Up Call for Southern Baptists

This past Thursday Dr. Danny Akin delivered a bold message concerning what he believes must happen for the Southern Baptist Convention to be viable moving forward. Dr. Akin is President of Southeastern Baptist Seminary in North Carolina and the message was delivered in chapel at that seminary.

To say the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting is aging is an understatement. And for good reason. The purpose of this blog is not to write negative opinions and thoughts about anyone or any institution. For that reason and others, I will not share any negative thoughts I may have about the SBC. Instead I wish to AMEN! Dr. Akin's message. If this were baseball, I would say, "Touch them all Danny! You hit a homerun!".
I would only add: I have had the privilege spending time with Dr. Akin. He is one of those men you can sense from the moment you meet him, he is the real deal.
If you care to read his manuscript, you can find it here.
If you would rather listen, you can find it here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Evangelism with Easter coming

The graph just below is from a recent study released by LifeWay Research and referenced by Ed Stetzer. Just over a year ago I posted a blog related to evangelism at ClearView. When I mention red apples in the post, the graph demonstrates visually what I am talking about. We cross the paths of people all the time that are at those times in their lives when they are more open to the gospel / matters of faith. Please note Easter in the graph as we are only a couple of weeks out. Persons without Christ are more open to the gospel than we think.

Accountability: Working with a net

To do life without some people you are accountable to is like walking a high wire without a net. I recently had someone ask me about the accountability group I meet with regularly and make a few suggestions here on the blog.

When I came to ClearView as pastor I asked the males on the Search Team to stay on to serve as an accountability group with whom I could meet once a month. I am so grateful to these men. They probably didn't expect to still be meeting with me monthly almost 2 years later, but they have remained faithful to do so.

This accountability group is not typical in that it is not technically mutual accountability. I am accountable to them, not vice versa. I ask them to feel free to ask me about any area of my life, personal or professional. They ask and I answer. Because of the wisdom and leadership of this group, I also take advantage of them as a sounding board. If I am wrestling with especially heavy decisions or decisions with widespread impact, these men are some of the first to hear and give me sound and honest feedback. We always end the meetings with them praying for my family, our church, and me personally.

I will say it again: To live life without making yourself accountable to a group of same gender peers is like walking a high wire with no safety net. Men, this is especially true for us. Satan's arsonal is too large and we are too vulnerable without it.


1. The group should be no larger than 5. If the group is larger than 5, the depth of the relationships will not be what they need to be to develop the trust level needed.

2. Commit to long term. Trust takes time to develop. You will find the conversations don't begin to get below the surface until the group has been together for at least a year.

3. Please choose godly and spiritually mature group members. Don't cheat yourself here.

4. Be real. Be transparent. Be honest. Or don't waste your time. If you are not going to be forthright and truthful, it's all a game.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Upcoming Workshop

I do not typically "promote" specific ClearView programs or ministries, but these are exceptional times and what I want to mention here will be a great help to all who attend. It is an understatement to say many have lost jobs or find themselves under employed ... or have seen dramatic downturns in their compensation. Maybe you are re-entering the workforce or simply wanting to upgrade your employment.

The Career Transitions ministry of ClearView is offering a free workshop for those that find themselves in this situation. The workshop is this coming Friday evening at ClearView. You can find more information on the workshop here and register here.

Friday, March 20, 2009

What's in a name?

Christian? Christ follwer? Believer? Disciple? Saved? Born again?

All of the above (and more) are terms we might use to refer to someone who has embraced Jesus Christ as their savior, committed their life to Him and seek to obey and serve Him. Even defining it with the immediate preceeding sentence presents problems. The problem is that all the terms above have some baggage attached. Even the secular media is picking up on it.

The earliest Christian/Christ followers/believers/disciples/etc. were called followers of The Way. When Christ came He introduced a 'way' like none before. Those who chose that path were followers of The Way (praying for enemies, offering forgiveness unlimited, the last shall be first, and on and on). Some years later these followers were called "Christians" (little Christs) because they mimicked Christ. Those on the outside could see an obvious Christlikeness about them, they began to call them "little Christ's" as a term of derision. They meant it as anything but a compliment.

The word "christian" today has little resemblance to its origin. Any time I use the word to describe myself I feel compelled to describe what I mean. To say we are a "christian" nation is a great example of how little this word really means any more. We look and act nothing like Christ as a nation today. And many who apply the label "christian" as individuals could hardly be mistaken for Christ ... or even a cheap model of Christ.

Believer? James 2:19 says, "You believe that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe—and they shudder." To 'believe' is not enough if that belief does not lead to a life sold out to Christ that leads to transformation into His likeness.

Born again? Saved? These are terms only understood by those who grew up in church or hang around a church. "Disciple" falls into this category of church-speak as well.

I use the term "christ follower". This term has its short comings as well. Jesus was much more than a model to live by. He was the sacrifice made on our behalf. He was our substitute. I choose this term because the first call Jesus made to the first "disciples" was "Come, follow Me". Those that attend the church I pastor hear me say such things as, "genuine Christ follower" rather than, if you would like to be a "christian". The article in Newsweek referenced above is correct in that the terms we use carry so much baggage.

Then again, maybe that's not a bad thing. As we tell others we are a Christian/Believer/Disciple/Christ Follower/etc. we will need to go into an immediate explanation of what that means. What a great opportunity to share our faith!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

25 Years

There are a number of things I would do differently if given the opportunity. But marrying Leigh Ann Sessoms on March 17, 1984 is not one of them. I would do it again tomorrow. Tuesday of this week marks our 25th wedding anniversary.

I am so grateful to her and for her. A man could not ask for more in a wife. This is the best way I know to tell you about her and how much I love the woman who has been my life and ministry partner for the past 25 years:

Proverbs 31:10-12, 25-31

10 Who can find a capable wife? She is far more precious than jewels. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will not lack anything good. 12 She rewards him with good, not evil, all the days of her life. 25 Strength and honor are her clothing, and she can laugh at the time to come. 26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and loving instruction is on her tongue. 27 She watches over the activities of her household and is never idle. 28 Her sons rise up and call her blessed. Her husband also praises her: 29 “Many women are capable, but you surpass them all!” 30 Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised. 31 Give her the reward of her labor, and let her works praise her at the city gates.

Leigh Ann, I love you and thank God for you. Thanks for sharing the past 25 years with me ... and many more to come.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The pupose of the church

There is so much misunderstanding as to the purpose of the church these days ... and by church I mean any given local church. Paul was giving intructions to Timothy and the church in 1 Timothy 3. He had just given some specific intructions about elders and deacons. He then turns his attention directly to the purpose of the church.

15 But if I should be delayed, [I have written] so that you will know how people ought to act in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. 1 Tim 3:15 (HCSB)

So, what is the church? It is clear it is the "pillar and foundation of the truth". What is the truth? God's Truth is clearly given in God's Word. It is the written Word and the doctrines taught in His Word.

We (church leaders) are tempted at times to make the church something other than the foundation of truth. We are tempted to entertain. We are tempted to give political information. We are tempted to give our opinions. We are tempted to lead a group of people to "just love each other and get along at all costs". We are tempted to focus on style over substance.

By God's grace I want to be able to look back on the span of the ministry God may grant and say, "above all, we were the pillar and foundation of truth.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Rating books I read

I read. A lot. In fact, I am usually reading three or four books at a time. I have a system for rating the books I read. I primarily read non-fiction in the Christian genre.

The lowest rated category of books are ones I came across I thought I would enjoy or from which I could gain (or I would not have bought them). As I began to read the book I discovered it was not going to live up to expectations. They usually wind up in a stack in the storage room at my house or somehow get lost all together. At this point I would add something a seminary professor once told me that has stuck. If a book delivers even a single idea which you have never thought of before, it was worth the price you paid, no matter what you paid. I believe he was right.

The second level would be books I read that seem to hold my attention enough that I finish them, but I know I will likely never pick them up again. I also know I will never recommend them to anyone else. These usually go on my bookshelves some place to be filed away and soon forgotten.

The third level of book would be ones I underline in and think I might reference again some time later. I make sure they are filed on the shelves in a place I can easily find them if needed. This is the category into which most books I read fall.

The fourth level would be books I underline, write notes in the margin, and reread all or parts of. There are few. Two I would mention are: Crazy Love by Francis Chan and The Heart of an Executive by Richard D. Phillips.

There are a couple of categories that do not fall into any of the above categories. First are reference books. These are actually the ones I keep closest to me in my study. These rotate in and out depending on the study I am teaching at any given time. Then of course is the Bible. I keep a copy by my bed, another copy in my car, multiple copies (translations) in my study, one in my backpack, and multiple translations in my computer.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A story of God at work

I don't typically share emails I receive after a Sunday, but I asked permission to share this one. The sender granted permission as long as God got the glory.

This past Sunday we saw God was in control even in a recession (times of adversity). There have been several who are part of ClearView who have found themselves without employment in the midst of these times. As encouragment as well as a praise I wished to share with all of you, here is the email I received:

Mark, Want to let you know about a PRAISE your sermon has been & how thankful I am for what you said. After thinking about what you said & my current jobless situation, I went home & prayed. I have had ALL doors closed on me within the last month, esp. the last week. I said, "OK, God, I will quit trying to take control of my future & leave it competely up to you. I have put in the applications, it's up to You to put me where you want me." So I relented all control & "worry" (which I thought I didn't have). Today, I was on the way back from Cookeville, TN (taking my daughter to TTU for a college visit) when I received a call offering me a job. It was a job I interviewed for about a month ago & was told it was put on hold at that time. They wanted me to come work tomorrow afternoon. I know it was because I finally gave up all my heart & put it all in God's hands, before He was going to show me that He really was in control. I continue to > marvel & stand in awe at His ways!

May God get the glory! And we continue to pray for all those who find themselves without employment at this time.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Christian and the Recession

You can't avoid hearing about it: the recession. Radio, TV, news web sites ... it's everywhere. Banks going under. Major companies folding. Massive unemployment. Record foreclosures. On and on the list goes.

As a Christ follower, how do we respond? What does God's Word have to say?
14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity, consider: without question, God has made the one as well as the other, so that man cannot discover anything that will come after him.
Eccl 7:14 (HCSB)

So, God is sovereign over our days of prosperity. And He is also sovereign over days of adversity? So He is in control. What could He possibly be trying to teach us? We will looking into this March 1 at ClearView. Learn more here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Text-Driven (A peek into a Preacher's World)

I am continuing to look for language to express what I feel and sense as a Preacher / Pastor. I cam across this video by another pastor (Matt Chandler, Pastor of The Village Church) that says so much of what I feel these days. In a brief 5 minute clip Matt shares advice to preachers. But I thought you might be interested in peeking over my shoulder as I hear advice from Matt.

One sentence you will hear early in the clip is that for many preachers, "preaching becomes just one of the things preachers do". Not the place a preacher wants to find himself. It is a constant battle to push aside other important things I could be doing in order to do the one thing no one else can do for the people of ClearView ... preach. I am re-discovering more and more that preaching is not something I do, it is who I am. I think you will understand what I mean as you listen ...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lunch with a 7th grader (and her mom and dad)

I had lunch today with a young lady who is a member of the church I pastor. She is in the 7th grade. (Or course, her mom and dad accompanied her) Seems the question was asked in her SS class if they could have lunch with anyone, who would they choose?

A few thoughts:

1. I can't think of a greater honor than to have a young student make such a request. Really, I was so humbled by this.

2. When told she could ask anything she wanted, her first question of me was, "Why is it true that once our names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life (her words) can it not be removed?" Talk about deep thinking! I almost didn't recover from that one. :) By the way, the major part of the answer has to do with God being a God of promise. He cannot break His promise and continue to be God. Let's just say in 7th grade, I was not thinking about these kinds of things ... and you probably weren't either.

3. Solid families tend to produce solid kids. When you watch moms and dads interact with their children, you can tell a great deal about what goes on at home. It was so obvious this mom and dad loved their little girl and she loved and respected her mom and dad. Combine that with the fact her mom and dad love the Lord and serve Him faithfully and you have a great combination for raising a Godly young lady. So encouraging to see these parents interact with and encourage their daughter toward godliness in a crazy world.

4. This is why I came back to pastor. I want to be around in this church long enough to see this young lady grow up chronologically, but most of all spiritually.

This is an open invitation for any students at ClearView that would like to hang out some time. Shoot me an email ... or give me a call ... or simply approach me at church some time.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Changing World; Changless God

This video gives us a great picture not only of the changing world in which we live, but just how fast things are changing. The reason change leadership is so valuable today is because the speed of change is now exponential. It is in times like these we can rejoice our God does not change:

8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Heb 13:8 (HCSB)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I did something dumb today ...

OK, no snickers out there. Yes, I do something dumb most days ... but ...

Ever do something and as soon as it's done you think, "How stupid was that!" Well, today was one of those days for me. But what makes this even harder and more complex is that in the process I hurt someone that did not deserve to be hurt and I never intended to hurt.

The details of the event are private and there is no need to go into them. But the big picture is that I said something that got back to the person I was talking about that hurt them. The dumbest part of the whole thing was that I did not really even mean what I said. I apologized as soon as I heard of the hurt I caused. And this person graciously forgave me right away.

I have been sitting in my office the past hour or so (since the incident) unable to focus on the message for Sunday (Thursday is study day) because I just can't get this heart-sick feeling to go away. So I thought I would take a few moments and share some of my take-aways on this and hopefully help prevent you from being as dumb as I was today.

1. Words are powerful. Be careful how you use them. James warned us of this. James 3:5-6 So too, though the tongue is a small part [of the body] , it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites. 6 And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among the parts of our [bodies] ; it pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell.
I was careless today in my choice of words.

2. This one is for Pastors: We are to be most careful. I sense today that the hurt I caused was multiplied because this person is a part of the congregation for which I am given responsibility to love and shepherd. Today was a warning shot into my life as a Pastor that I am to be especially careful in this area. It seems my words are weightier in people's lives ... the good and the bad. All of us have the power to build up and the power to tear down, more especially for Pastors. In the very same passage James gives the warning above, he begins that chapter with these words: James 3:1 "Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgement". As a Pastor, even casual conversations are being measured. That's not a bad thing, just a fact.

3. Technology is not the best way to communicate. Yes, we use it as naturally as breathing these days. But we still cannot communicate emotions and feelings as well through any form of technology as we can face to face. Nothing can replace face to face communications. My blunder was made via technology and it magnified the issue.

4. I am grateful for mature followers of Christ who can demonstrate grace. This person today was quick to forgive me, though I did nothing to deserve forgiveness. Grace. What kind of world would this be if there was never any grace extended? What kind of church would I be a part of if we did not extend grace. Not everyone gets this. But I thank God the person I offended today does.

Part of what has gone through my mind over the past hour or so is: To whom do I need to extend grace?

May this be a reminder: Think before speaking or typing. Guard your tongue and your finger tips on a keyboard. My mom always told me if I could not say something nice, don't say anything. Again, Mom was right.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Events of last week

I am still thinking through the events of last week around ClearView. We began the week (January 18) by reading the Bible through as a church family. We did so by reading the entire Bible aloud. We started Sunday morning at 9:00 and read 15 hours / day each day of the week ending Saturday evening at 9:00. We actually read through the entire Bible by 9:48 Thursday morning. That is 60 hrs and 48 minutes if anyone is counting. We then started over at the beginning of the New Testament and read it through a second time. Then we started the New Testament again and read through to Acts 5. I have heard feedback from a number of families and individuals as to the impact of this experience. When each person read, they signed the Bible alongside the passages they read. This will be a keepsake Bible for years to come in our church.

We also signed up for prayer times in the new building with established prayer stations and instructions for prayer at each station. We finished the week with a 24 hour fast Saturday evening through Sunday evening to coincide with the end of our dedication service of the new building.

Simply put, this was a highwater mark for me personally as a Pastor. I don't know that I have ever been part of something that was so simple, yet made such an impact. We have as a core value the centrality of God's Word in all that we do and teach. This was a way to highlight this core value while making personal impact. To walk into the chapel at different times of the week and see and hear God's Word simply being read was just awesome!

This is a public "thank you" to all those at ClearView that personally participated in the reading, the prayer, and / or the fast.

Here are a couple of pictures of the new chapel for those that haven't seen it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Christian's Response During Economic Downturns

A video posted by John Piper regarding how Christians should respond to economic downturns...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Getting the Word out ... for 100 years

An organization that I admire is celebrating 100 years of ministry. The more I study it and the more I teach it, the more I have come to have absolute confidence in God's Word. The Bible has the power to change lives and the Gideons have seen this happen in the lives of thousands. If you have opened the drawer of the nightstand next to a bed in a hotel you have most likely come across a "Gideon Bible". But there ministry stretches around the world.

We have a number of men and their wives in our church who are invovled in this ministry. I want to say to all of them as well as the other approx. 175,000 who are part of this impactful ministry. Thank you for the unsung behind-the-scenes ministry you have provided over this past century. His Word will not return void. And you have demonstrated this to be true.

Happy Anniversary!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


This will be an update to the immediate previous post. We will starting the prayer and Bible reading times on Sunday, January 18. More information coming Sunday, but I wanted you to be aware we are starting on Sunday rather than Wednesday. This will allow us to avoid overnight times which will be more secure for those involved. We will be starting at 6:00 am Monday - Saturday (Jan. 19-24) allowing some to come before work. We will going to 9:00 pm on the same dates allowing some to come after work. We will be signing up for 20 minute increments.

I would encourage you to think about doing this as a family or as Sunday School classes when possible. I believe it will be an amazing experience done this way. Also, feel free to sneak into the back of the room and listen to the reading if you would like.

We will have instructions as you arrive for your time(s), but one piece of information ahead of time: You will sign in the margin beside the passages you will read. This copy of the Bible will be kept in a special place upon completion of this reading.

More to come Sunday!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Special days just ahead

For those outside the area local to the church I pastor, I apologize for the irrelevancy of this post. We (ClearView) has some very special days just ahead. I am asking all ClearView attenders and members to spread the word on this post. I will also be sharing some of this content this coming Sunday, January 4.

We will be having Open House and Dedication for the new building January 25. The Open House will be 2:00 - 5:00 that afternoon. We will be having a dedication service for the building with special emphasis on the chapel at 5:00 that afternoon.

Beginning Wednesday January 21, we will be reading the Bible through aloud as a church body. That's right ... Gen. 1 through the end of Revelation ... aloud. We will be providing opportunities for you to sign up for time slots. During the time for which you sign up, you will stand (or sit) on the stage in the chapel and read from Scripture aloud the text following the person that read just prior to you. If you don't like speaking or reading in front of people, don't worry there will be time slots available for which few if any will be present in the room. This will begin Wednesday evening and we will finish during the dedication service with the reading of the final chapters of Revelation. We will then place the copy of God's Word used for the reading in a special place.

In addition to reading, this will be a special time of prayer. We will be signing up for times to come to the chapel and pray during the same times during which the Bible is being read.

In the weeks just ahead we will be seeing the example set by the people of Israel after the rebuilding of the wall. A time for emphasis on God's Word and spiritual renewal followed the completion of the project of rebuilding the wall and to set the stage for God to work among His people.

As each of us prepare individually for this coming new year and the fresh opportunities in front of us, collectively God has granted us new opportunities as a congregation.