Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A church's long shadow

I spent some time today with a member of ClearView that feels God may be calling him to some kind of vocational ministry. I began thinking through those God is raising up in our church to take this same path. We have at least a half dozen who are currently studying for a ministry role of some kind. This is a great indicator of God at work through the church.

It has caused me to reflect on the church I consider my "home church" which is First Baptist Church Lilburn, Georgia. My dad was pastor of that church in the late 70's and early 80's. Only eternity will reveal the full impact of the ministry of that church during that time. The church grew rapidly and baptized many. However, I think her greatest impact is in the number of people sent FROM that church into vocational ministry.

When I was in seminary, I know there was at least a half dozen of us that were there at the same time all from FBC Lilburn. There are 4 of us I can recall quickly who are currently serving as pastors ... all in different parts of the country. Another is a seminary professor. Not everyone called into ministry through that church took off to seminary. There were at least three "older" men 'called' to ministry during those years (one a barber and another a painter). Two of those men quickly became pastors of churches. The third came on staff at FBC and now serves on the staff of one of the larger churches in Florida.

FBC Lilburn no longer is one of the larger churches in the state. The area around the church has transitioned dramitically and her ministry has shifted. But her impact stretches far beyond the geographical area where she is located and the decade of the 70's. If added together, the ministry of this church now impacts thousands through those serving churches and and teaching in a seminary.

It dawned on me the man I sat with today is in some ways a "grandchild in minstry" of a church he knows nothing about ... a church I call "my church home". Thank God for a church that saw it as her mission to send people out long before church planting was popular. May her ministry continue to multiply through ClearView as we make it our mission to "grow 'em up and send them out"!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

$44 Mission Trip

I need 50 people from ClearView to take a $44 mission trip in the next 2 weeks ... and you won't even have to leave home! I need you to take 100 envelopes and letters to stuff and stamp to help launch a church we are supporting in Hendersonville.

Ed Stetzer blessed us during my time of surgery and recovery. He is planting a church in Hendersonville, TN. Now we have the chance to walk alongside him as he did for us. The letters are to introduce the community to the new church he is planting. We will need to have them stuffed and stamped by the first week of December (something with eternal impact you can do while you watch football Thanksgiving day :-)).

I will go first. My family and I will do 100. Now I need only 49 more. We will have a sign up sheet Wed. night and Sunday. If you want to respond on facebook or at pastor@clearview.org I will get your name on the list.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Guest blog from my oldest daughter

This is the third and final guest blog from my family. Tiffany is my oldest daughter. When I asked, "What did you learn from our experience?", this is her response ...

So I’m the one who gets to follow up behind Mom and Britt’s blog. I hope your expectations aren’t too high. 

Going into the surgery, I didn’t even begin to consider that Dad may not make it out of it. It’s like it wasn’t even an option. Even after the arteriogram scare, I just couldn’t even let the possibility of Dad not making it through the major surgery even cross my mind. I think that’s part of my personality. I am definitely a “don’t worry about it till you have to” kind of person. So walking into Vanderbilt the morning of the surgery, my plan was this. “I’m not going to expect anything but a good outcome, and if anything happens, I’ll deal with it then.” My job was to be strong for my family. I could deal with my emotions later.

After Dad’s surgery, they took him back to the ICU. Once he was settled, they allowed family to go back and see him. As I walked in the room, all of a sudden this wave of emotion welled up inside me, and I could no longer hold it in. I stood by his bed and lost it. He didn’t look like my Dad at all. He was pale, on a ventilator, and his head was wrapped up in a blanket to allow his body to warm back up from induced hypothermia. My Dad, my strong, invincible father was helpless. Logically, I knew he was ok then. He had made it through surgery. The worst part was over. But for me, it was just now all sinking in. My Dad, who I depend on so much, now had to depend on a machine to breathe. His life that day, under the ultimate authority of the Lord, was dependent on surgeons, nurses, and technology. I will never forget that moment. And I will never forget what the Lord whispered to me: “I will be with you.” (Is. 43:2) As much as I don’t like to admit sometimes, I depend on my Dad so much. I depend on him for wisdom, strength, and affirmation. As silly as it may seem to say this hit me AFTER his surgery, in that moment I realized that my dependence should only come from the Lord. All things on this earth, including parents and family, are temporary. It was a reminder to me that He is the only one worth placing my trust in. That is a lesson I’m continuing to learn!

I also learned so much about God’s character displayed through others. I could go on and on forever about how many people came around us and supported us through this whole process. First of all, I realized just how blessed I am to have the family I have. So much of my extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) are full of solid believers. We had family come in from everywhere to support us the day of the surgery. Their love and presence was such a blessing.

I learned SO much from my Granny. This Godly woman truly displayed His love, kindness, and patience as she poured her care over my Dad during his recovery time. Spending time with her for two months I truly saw what a woman of God she truly is. Seeing the fruit of the spirit so clearly evidenced in her challenges me so much. Granny, I pray I can be half the woman you are in my lifetime. I will consider that a true accomplishment.

I also learned so much from my church family. I saw grace in an entirely new way. Your prayers, gifts, and meals mean more than you can imagine. Every encouraging word spoken via social medial, text, or in church Sunday morning showed me the true picture of a faith family. You truly became the church as your wrapped your arms around us. Your kindness is true evidence of the Holy Spirit, and we are all so thankful for you.

I continue to learn so much from my Dad through all of this. Seeing him grow in his walk with the Lord is the neatest thing of all for me to see. Even today as I was sitting with him watching TV, I heard his heart thump from his mechanical valve. I asked him if it bothered him, and his response was, “I have nothing to complain about.” I continue to glean so much from his wisdom coming out of this. And I am so grateful that because of this my family is now closer than we have ever been. God is good.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My youngest daughter's guest blog

I had asked my wife and daughters to write a guest blog regarding what they learned from our recent experience. You will find my wife's below. This one is my youngest daughter.

My sweet Daddy has asked me to write a blog sharing what I have learned over the last several months as we have walked this incredible journey together. I choose the word “incredible” because that is what it has been. Looking back, this experience has made me rely on God like never before. I have been through various trials, but none like this one…none that have taught me more about God’s character. I have “seen” Him in a very real way (Job 42:5).

For me, the journey began at camp this past summer when I got the news that Daddy was in the hospital in Orlando. I wanted to be there more than anything, but I had to trust that God could take care of him and comfort my mom better than I ever could. Little did we know what the future would hold.

When Tiff and I got home from camp, Daddy had his follow-up with the cardiologist. We met for dinner that night and he told us the news. The following weeks would be full of fear and uncertainty.

I began getting ready to head back to school, cherishing every moment with my family. I pondered the thought many times of taking the semester off, but Daddy reassured me that things would be back to normal soon. Move-in day was the hardest day for me (next to surgery day, of course). Some amazing men from our church family helped me get settled in, as Daddy couldn’t lift anything. I held it together the best I could, but when my family left that day it was very hard. I would travel back and forth many times in the following weeks, but again had to trust that God could take care of my family better than I ever could.

A couple weeks later we would get the news that surgery would be delayed. Then came the day for the arteriogram. Mom and Dad had assured me that there was no need to come home that day. I got a call later that afternoon from my Pop telling me that all was well and there were no blockages. I didn’t even know about the cardiac arrest until the next day when Daddy called to tell me. They weren’t going to tell me until I came home that weekend, but he was afraid I would find out through twitter (oh the joys of technology). The logical part of me thought: “well, Brittany you’re talking to him now and he’s fine…so it’s no big deal.” But the more it settled in, the more real it was to me that this was a serious thing we were about to do. The heart is fragile, and one slip could change everything. I called my dear friend Shelbi Turner. She immediately dropped what she was doing and came over. She cried with me and prayed with me (that’s a true friend!) I have had many instances like that over these past few months where my sweet friends have walked with me. Thank you to you all.

The night before surgery was a sweet time for our family. Some dear friends of ours came to pray over us that night. This is when everything hit me. The reality of him not making it through became very real to me. I hugged him before going to bed that night and told him how much I loved him. I wanted him to know that just in case that was the last time I got to say it.

The next morning we woke up very early. Upon arrival at the hospital we found out that we would need to say our good-byes then because only Mom was allowed to go back with him for the surgery prep. Tiffany and I got the chance to pray over him and hug him one last time. This is when I experienced an amazing amount of peace rush over me. Part of the curriculum that Tiffany and I taught at FUGE this summer was Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego out of the book of Daniel. King Nebuchadnezzar threatens the men and tells them if they do not bow down he will throw them into the furnace of blazing fire. And he asks…”and who is the god who can rescue you from my power?” They respond by saying that their God CAN rescue them, “BUT even if He does NOT, we want you to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” Little did I know how much that passage would speak to me. I knew my God had the power to save my Daddy that day, but even if He chose not to, I would still praise Him and Him alone.

That day was the hardest day of my life. I relied heavily on my family. My sweet sister was always checking on me and showing me scripture. I love that girl. My mom, as much as she was worried, checked in with us often to make sure we were ok. And the love of our extended family and church family surrounded us that day as well. I knew it was in God’s hands, but I also was unsure of His plan. The moment the surgeon came out and told us that the surgery went “perfectly” I felt 1 million pounds lighter. Thank you, God for sitting with us that day, while guiding the hands of the surgeon in the operating room.

A couple hours later we got to see Daddy, and though he looked like he had just had open heart surgery  I knew on the inside God had healed him. The next morning I went in to visit with him for a few minutes while he was sitting up in his chair. Mom had stepped out for a minute so it was just him and me in the room. He looked up and asked “are you okay?” I just laughed and said, “You’re the one who just had open heart surgery!” He then asked “were you scared?” To which I responded, “DUH! Yes! I’m so glad you’re ok.” So then, as any pastor/father would, he asked me what I learned from this. I shared with him what I have shared with all of you. He just smiled and nodded and closed his eyes again. Though he would not remember that in the days that followed, I will cherish that moment forever.

A few days later I had to leave to come back to Jackson. It was hard to leave knowing he would still be in the hospital for a while longer, but I KNEW and had SEEN how God would be with my family. I wasn’t worried one bit. I love sharing this story because I’m reminded how real my God is. I should not worry. Worry is a sin. The Bible tells us: “Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Why worry when God has it all planned out? Trials are inevitable, but so is God’s plan; and His peace surpass all understanding.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Guest blog from my wife

I asked my wife and daughters to share their perspective of the events of the passt few months by way of guest blogging. Here is Leigh Ann's ...

Mark asked me the other day what I learned through this experience. Wow…how do I put that in words and sum it up in a few brief paragraphs? Most people see this as something that just began in August when we found out that Mark would need open heart surgery. For me, this journey began back in June when Mark got pneumonia while attending a meeting in Orlando. Mark never gets sick…during our 26 years of marriage He has been with me through numerous surgeries for endometriosis, kidney stones (ouch!), premature labor with both children, two c-sections, a hysterectomy in my thirties, etc. He has always been right there beside me as my “rock”….I just assumed I was the “needy” spouse and He would forever be the healthy one. Then, one call from Associate Pastor John Duval telling me I needed to get to Orlando…he didn’t think Mark sounded good…changed the direction of our lives for weeks to come…we just didn’t know then how much….and how God would use a near death experience with pneumonia to make us aware of a more potentially life threatening condition that would require an extremely risky surgery in the future.

Before I go any furher, there a couple of things you may not know about Mark. He is the “stubborn” one in our relationship. (Couldn’t resist …He would argue differently!) As soon as he got sick in Orlando, I was calling every few hours begging him to go ahead and get to a quick relief clinic of some sort. Well, as most of you know, He did not listen to his wife’s advice (lol!) and ending up being taken by ambulance to a hospital in the Orlando area. He was trying to keep from me from realizing just how sick he was but thank goodness John Duval had the wisdom to put things in motion and get me on a flight to Orlando. When I arrived at the hospital in Orlando, I was met by a nurse who told me that Mark was being transferred to the Cardiac floor…his cardiac enzymes were elevated and they wanted to keep a close watch on him. We would find out later that this was really not even necessary, but was God’s way of opening our eyes to a life threatening condition which was discovered initially by the cardiologist and would eventually lead us to Dr. Prudoff here in Franklin who discovered the aneurysm and other abnormalities that would require a very complex and life threatening surgery.

One of the routine procedures that would need to be done before Mark’s surgery would be an arteriogram. I have seen both parents as well as Mark’s dad go through this with flying colors…so, no big deal, right? I mean, compared to the surgery he had coming, this was a piece of cake! I should have known something was wrong when the doctor came in and wanted to “pull up a chair” to tell me about a little problem they had…Mark had experienced a cardiac arrest, but they were able to “bring him back” and everything would be fine.

I remember a flood of uncontrollable tears which began at that moment and which unfortunately would stay with me off and on until after the upcoming surgery. The first compelling thought and question I had for the cardiologist was “How could this happen?” The next question was…”If this abnormality they discovered just caused a cardiac arrest during this simple procedure…how would he ever survive an eight hour surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm? Everyone around me was trying to console me, including my father-in-law who was trying to help me understand that Mark had a cardiac “arrest”, not a heart attack. At the time, the only thing I knew was that his heart had stopped and I had just been faced with the complex reality of Mark’s mortality. The man of my dreams that I thought I would grow old with just had a cardiac arrest of the age of 48! Mark’s Mom was there by my side trying to be strong for me even though she had just been faced with the reality of losing her only son. The cardiologist then looks at me, as if to reassure me, and tells me that what had just occurred is very rare and only happens in a very small percentage of the population Well, the surgeon that would be performing the upcoming surgery had already told me that Mark had a 10% chance of not making it through the operation. At the time, I remember thinking “10%”….hmmm….odds are WAY in our favor….but then another thought popped into my mind…..Mark’s newly discovered “abnormality” just placed him into a much higher percentage rate of potential complications!

You know, all these years I have watched people I love go through terrible tragedies and illnesses..but somehow, you think it will never happen to you. All of a sudden the little things that used to annoy me about Mark, didn’t annoy me anymore. (I know, none of your spouses have any annoying habits, right? I found myself watching him sleep at night and wanting to just make time stand still. I even tried to bargain with God during my quiet time….guess what, Leigh Ann was not in control of this. Maybe that was just one of the many things God wanted to teach me…that my hope was not in any earthly thing or person, my hope was in HIM. He would never leave or forsake me and He would never give me more than I could bear.

Shortly before the surgery, Mark and I had to take Brittany back to college. With the help of some church members, we loaded up a few cars and headed to Jackson. Mark and I were in the car alone for two and a half hours and boy, what an intense conversation it was. It was a conversation we needed to have…you know, the one about “what if you don’t make it through this?” I had been afraid to even talk about it but Mark knew we needed to talk about it…so, we did. We had a conversation that really brought reality home to me. With tears streaming down both our faces, we talked about the mighty God that we serve. Mark told me if God was ready to take him now…then He was more than ready to go. As much as he would miss me…once he got to heaven….there would not be one thing about life on this earth that he would miss. Ladies, I have to tell you…that was not one of the more romantic moments in our marriage…lol! But, you know…Mark was right! As much as I wanted to believe that He would miss me like crazy, I knew that he would be having WAY more fun there than he would be here with me. He wouldn’t have time to think about me…He would be too busy worshipping our Lord!

Well, I’ve already been too transparent, but there it is. I don’t know what seemed longer…the days we had to wait anticipating the surgery, or the actual day of surgery itself. The morning I kissed Mark good bye as they wheeled him off to surgery the day that followed was probably the longest 8 hours of my life. But there I was, surrounded by so many people that loved me…my precious two daughters, my Mom and Dad, my brother, my aunt and my best friend from Atlanta. In addition to them, Mark’s family was there…His Mom and Dad, his sister and his aunt and uncle. If you were looking at us from the outside you would have thought we were having a party in the waiting room. We had more food than we knew what to do with and took up half of the waiting room! But, we all made it through it together, with God right there by our side. I now know what It means to really depend on God. For those of us who think we really have it “all under control”….I’m here to share with you that God is on his throne and He knows what is best for us even when we don’t agree with Him!

Well, you know the rest of the story…Mark is back in the pulpit tomorrow and will be sharing from his heart what God has taught him through this experience …I can’t wait to hear his story! I’m also very glad that God has given me the “gift” of having Mark as my husband for a little while longer on this earth. I am truly blessed with a man after God’s own heart!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thanks Mom

My recent surgery (see posts below) has brought many blessings my way. I won't rehearse all of them in this post, but I do wish to highlight one that I will cherish for the years God gives me on this earth.

In late July or early August I made a phone call to my mom and dad to inform them of the news the cardiologist had just given me. We knew there would be a surgery in the near future that would require some time to recover. Within a couple of weeks after this initial call we had a surgery date (which would later be delayed 6 days).

My entire family (immediate and extended, including my in-laws) began clearing calendars for the days surrounding the surgery. They would all be here. What a blessing!

But there is one I have to mention especially ... my mom. When I left her in Georgia this morning to return to Franklin, it dawned on me this was the first time she has not been under the same roof with me (car or home) since I came home from my surgery almost 6 weeks ago. I REALLY don't want to go through an experience like this one again, but I am quickly reminded I would not have had a chance to spend that kind of time with my mom at my age (48). She has been by my side hour after hour and day after day for all these weeks. There is nothing I needed that she was not right there on the spot to provide it.

To say I am grateful for her help and loving care during this time is a dramatic understatement. I will always cherish the time we have had over these weeks. Sometimes in great conversation. Often I would awake from one of the many naps in the early weeks to find her sitting next to me keeping constant watch over me. Always making sure I got my meds on time. Driving me to get my blood drawn twice / week and to rehab before I was allowed to drive. But more than all of the things she DID, most important, she was just there!

I am not surprised by any of this because that's the way she has always been. We live far enough apart these days we only see each other 2 or 3 times each year. So I am grateful for this pause God put in my life that allowed me such precious time with the woman who raised me, has consistently prayed for me, spoken quiet wisdom in my life, and led me to Christ.

Mom, I know you will read this (that's right, my soon-to-be 70 year old mom follows my twitter, is on facebook, and reads my blog :-)). Thanks for everything. You know I love you (and I don't tell you enough)! And I will forever be grateful for this time we had.

Grateful to be your son,


P.S. We already miss you around here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Scars and a new sound

There is a story found in Genesis 32 that I am sure I don't understand all of its implications and applications. It is a story I have been drawn to often over the past few weeks. The story is of the time Jacob wrestled with God. It was out of this unique encounter with God Jacob received his new name ... Israel. And the rest is history as they say.

The reason I continue to return to this story is that Jacob came away from that enounter with God with more than a new name. He definitely received a special blessing. But he also walked with a limp from that point forward. I imagine with every step Jacob took he was reminded of that night with God. He was reminded of a time that though he wrestled with God, he was blessed by God in a way that changed his life dramatically and permanently.

I have a few new scars I received from surgery just over 5 weeks ago. I look in the mirror now and realize I have some permanent reminders. I also have a new click. I now have a mechanical aortic valve. When the room gets quiet I sound like a clock ticking. It is the sound I hear as I drift off to sleep each night.

The scars and the clicking are sweet reminders of God's providence and blessing in my life. Do I want to go through any of it again? NO WAY! But what a time of wrestling with God. It is a time I will never forget ... and a time that has changed my life dramatically ... all for the better.

The story of Jacob ends like this:
30 Jacob then named the place Peniel, “For,” [he said,] “I have seen God face to face, and I have been delivered.”
Gen 32:30 (HCSB)

I will forever be grateful for the scars and the clicking!

Thank you God for your providence and protection.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A word to the people of ClearView

I came a across a passage of Scripture in my study today that I must share with the people of the church I serve. I was reminded that when a pastor goes through a trial like the one I have been walking through with my health, an entire group of people are affected. It is a test for more than just the pastor. Since the day I found out about the surgery I was to have this has been a truth that has been on my mind. I had to turn that over to the Lord early.

When you have a mission and a clear vision God has laid on your heart for a group of people, you don't want to go through a period that seems like you are simply spinning your wheels. You want to keep moving forward ... and the faster the better! No breaks. No waiting times. No times when you are not running on all cylinders. The pages of the calendar are turning and you are not seeing advance as you would desire as a leader. But, God had a different plan. My surgery and recovery has called for a different pace. I can only trust God is at work in the lives of the people for whom He has given me responsibility.

So many have prayed for me. So many have ministered to me through cards and meals. Saying "thank you" seems so inadequate.

As Paul ministered among those in Galatia he obviously suffered from some type of serious illness. Look what he told them in his letter regarding his illness and their responnse to it:

Galatians 4:12-14 You have done me no wrong. 13 As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. 14 Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.

I want to thank the people of ClearView for your patience as I recover. "You have not treated me with contempt or scorn". Quite the contrary ... you have treated me in such a way as to spoil me :-). For all the cards, facebook messages, and other expressions of love you have sent my way, you have treated me "as if I were an angel of God ... as if I were Christ Jesus himself". I am honored to be your pastor. I will see you all soon!!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Update 17 days after surgery

I know. It's been awhile since the last update. Honestly, there is not a lot of new to add each day as most days are like the one before or the one after. Things continue to progress as well or better than I expected. I can walk the distances each day the doctors require. I can still get tired easily, but the pain is minimal. God's sustaining grace continues to provide. I am so grateful for minimal pain and the energy I do have. I have taken a trip to the mall to walk a short distance as the heat outside has not allowed me to walk outside. I have also gone to the grocery once with my mom in order to get some walking in.

These first 2+ weeks post surgery have been a bit of a blur but I am beginning to feel a little bit "normal" as the pain meds are reduced more each day.

My family and I continue to be blessed as so many of you continue to minister to us and especially those who continue to pray for us. We have said many times since this began, "I would not want to go through this without the church family of ClearView."

Thank you all so much for your love and concern. I will see you all soon.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

One Week Today

I don't have a great deal of strength, but thought I would post. Today is one week ago I had surgery. I think I am a bit ahead of the curve for recovery.

God is SO good. He has been gracious to take me through a challenging and complex surgery. He has been gracious to help recovery start well to this point. He has been gracious to provide me with more brothers and sisters in Christ praying for me than I could have possibly imagined.

I will never be able to thank all of you enough for prayers and other support given. I will write more, but it will probably be a week or so before I do. Still gaining strength, but so far so good. Doctors and nurses have been amazing. I am grateful for their job well done. But we know, all they can do is support the body as it heals. More than that we know it is God who does the healing. Thank you for your continued prayers in asking God to do what only He can do.

You are all incredible. I love you!


Monday, September 13, 2010

Update: Monday 9/13 - GREAT NEWS

Great News: This is John Duval for Mark. Mark was able to go home this afternoon from Vanderbilt. He looks great, but is very tired. He was told that even though he was going home he is still under the care of Vanderbilt. Please pray that his recovery continues to progress as well as it has the past few days. Also, pray that his immune system will remain strong being in a new environment.

Mark, Leigh Ann and the family are so thankful for the continued prayers. Tracey Parker, Pastor’s Ministry Assistant, is collecting cards and notes of encouragement that will be delivered to Mark. Those can be sent to: Mark Marshall, 537 Franklin Road, Franklin, TN 37069, emailed to tracey@clearview.org or comments sent to the blog.

Verses to ponder: Psalm 121:3-8 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
3 He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber.
4 Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep.
5 The LORD protects you; the LORD is a shelter right by your side.
6 The sun will not strike you by day, or the moon by night.
7 The LORD will protect you from all harm; He will protect your life.
8 The LORD will protect your coming and going both now and forever.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Day 4 - Update 9/11

Update: Saturday, September 11, 2010
This is John Duval for Mark. Mark has had a very good day and his progress is right on schedule. Today is Leigh Ann's birthday and they have enjoyed their time together as a family. Sometimes it is not where you are or what you are doing to celebrate, but that you are together with those you love the most…in sickness and in health.

As a church, ClearView will gather together tomorrow for worship and Bible study, but we will also continue to rejoice in how God has been with our Pastor this week.

The dr. continues to request no visitors for the next 48hrs to ensure the recovery continues as planned.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Day 3 Update - Friday, September 10

This is John Duval for Pastor Mark. Mark is doing well, but in great pain today. White blood cells up slightly. He began rehab today by walking on a treadmill.

Besides Leigh Ann and the girls by his side, Mark is very fortunate to have his father, Rev. Carl Marshall and his mother by his side. His parents are a great source of Godly encouragement for their son and the whole family. Mark encourages so many of us through his preaching and words of affirmation, but it is good to know that during these days his family is a great source of spiritual encouragement. I have seen firsthand how God’s word has been the foundation for Leigh Ann, Tiffany & Brittany. Thank you for your continued faithfulness in praying for Mark’s healing. He is doing very well.

Dr. has extended no visitors for next 72 hrs. in order that his recovery will stay ahead of pace. I know he would love to have a roomful around him, but right now he needs the rest. I know you understand.

" LORD my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me." Psalm 30:2

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day 2: Update on Pastor Mark - 1:00pm

This is John Duval for Pastor Mark: Update 1:00pm/Thursday, September 9

The doctor just visited with Mark and his family. He said that Mark is doing exceptionally well and affirmed the success of the surgery. He explained that it was a very complicated surgery, but expects a full recovery. Mark did sit up in a chair for 4hrs earlier this morning and they will attempt to walk with him later today. He will be moved to a step-down unit later as well. With that said: Mark is in some pain and the doctor has requested no visitors (except family) for the next 48hrs so that his energy can be used to recover. Please continue to pray for him, Leigh Ann and the family during these days.

We all rejoice for the answer to our prayers for a successful surgery and now we pray for the physical healing. In true Mark fashion he was already witnessing to one of his nurses and inviting her to ClearView.

“Now this is the confidence we have before Him: whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.” 1 John 5:14-15

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Surgery went perfect...God is great

This is John Duval – 3:12 pm update on Pastor Mark: God is good, God is great! The doctor just spoke to Leigh Ann and the family to let them know the surgery went perfect. It was a very difficult surgery that did require the circumvent procedure and required the use of some of the donated blood. But, it was successful. Mark is now in recovery. Around 5pm – Leigh Ann will be able to see him. Thank you for the prayers – it was just what we had all prayed for – perfection. These next 3-4 hrs are critical in recovery – so your continued prayers are needed. Thank you, Lord.

1pm update on Mark

This is John Duval - 1pm update on Pastor Mark: he is still on the by-pass machine; vitals are good, surgery going as planned. Please pray during these critical hours. Thank you.

Surgery has begun...

This is John Duval for Pastor Mark: Mark arrived at the hospital at 5:30am this morning. They started anesthesia around 8:15am and surgery began around 10am. We have been told to expect a 7 hour surgery. Please continue to pray.

Leigh Ann shared the following with family: “I have a scripture I would like to share with you. I have always found the PSALMS to be of great comfort, but especially so through these last few days.”

'Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help , Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'
Psalm 27:1

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Final Pre-Op Post

Well, tomorrow is the surgery. There are certainly lots of thoughts that run through your mind once inside the 24 hour window. But honestly, I have such a peace. I wonder how much better life would go if I could learn to completely let go of control to the Lord 24/7 like I have regarding this surgery. You see, I don't have an option. I can't do the surgery on myself. I can't control the recovery and healing. It really is all in His hands.

I have thought ALOT about life after surgery. It will take me a few months to back to complete strength. I will count this as my mid-life crisis. Most men (or women for that matter) are not given the opportunity to push the pause button at 48 with the incentive I have been given to consider ... really consider ... what is important during the second half of life. I have been given just such a privilege.

No doubt, I will not be the same. I have said a few times I was afraid I would not be the same after this surgery. Now, I would say, I would fear being the same. I want to walk through all the changes God has for me. I want to be in a position for Him to use me more than before. Why else could I or would I ask for health beyond September 8? The only reason I desire health is to be better able to serve Him.

To all of you who read this who are part of the ClearView family, we are blessed to have capable and Godly staff who will continue to lead in my absence. I thank God for all of them. In order for me to heal as quickly as possible, I must trust them to continue leading. I do so without hesitation!

I thank God I am pastor of such a great group of people. If a guy has to walk through this kind of situation he could not ask for more support and prayer than I am receiving. We have heard from many of your personally and I know there are many more. We are being lifted up in prayer by churches and individuals all over the world. I have heard from Africa and from Australia, as well as many around the USA.

You should continue to have updates posted here in the days ahead. Thank you all for your prayers. Thank you for the support we have been and will continue to receive.

You will hear from me again as soon as they will let me back on this thing :-).

I love you!


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Greatest Fear

I would be lying if I said I have had no anxiety at all about this upcoming surgery. I have had some of the thoughts and feelings you might imagine. I have had some of the "what-if's" any human being might have.

Of course, one of the initial thoughts was, "There is a chance I don't make it through surgery". But as honest as I know to be with myself, I have dealt with those feelings and death is not a threat for a Christ follower. Would I want to die? No. I have the same desire and drive to live as anyone! Do I fear death? Absolutely not. Just so I am clear, I am going into Wednesday with no thoughts of not coming out of surgery.

So, do I have any fear(s) going into this "procedure" and recovery? I do. My greatest 'fear' (if that's what it would be called) is that I would fail to learn all God has for me to learn as I walk through this. This is the biggest opportunity for growth in my life (to date). God is sovereign. This test was custom designed for me from before the beginning of time. After all, I was fearfully and wonderfully made. I don't want to waste it. I surely do not want to repeat this one :-).

What do I need to learn about God? What do I need to learn by experience that I currently only know intellectually? How can this make me a better husband? Father? Pastor? Preacher? Obedient follower? Most of all, how can I learn through this to bring great glory to God?

1 Peter 1:6-7
6 You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to be distressed by various trials 7 so that the genuineness of your faith —more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire —may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

What trial is distressing in your life? It will prove the genuineness (or lack of genuineness) of your faith. It will drive you to what God has for you ... or away from Him. Ultimately, as Christ followers we want our trials to result in praise, glory and honor of Christ.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Grace for today

When most people think of grace they think of saving grace. That is, it is God's grace that saves us. True. And for those of us who have trusted Him for that salvation, what a truth it is!!

But there is more to God's grace than the moment of entering His Kingdom. It is called sustaining grace. It is the grace we need to walk through the difficulties of life. Paul spoke of it when he said in 2 Corinthians 12 he had a thorn in the flesh he had asked God to take away 3 times. This was God's answer: 2 Cor. 12:9 "But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.'"

Can I just be honest and say I would prefer God's power be perfected in some other way than my weakness? But, I know it to be true: It is when I am the weakest I become most aware of His power, because it is at those times I am most dependent on it. It is at those times I experience God's sustaining grace that gives me the strength (power) to see see Him do His greatest work in me.

I was reminded a few days ago in a piece written by John Piper in his book A Godward Life that you and I are only given enough grace for today. We are only given enough resources for today. This is why it is foolish to worry about tomorrow. We haven't been given those resources yet.

Now within 5 days of surgery, I know I will need more of God's sustaining grace each day before me. If I try to jump ahead and worry about tomorrow today, I am not given that grace yet, thus leading to anxiety. I am grateful for the grace of God in my life to allow me enough for today. I will have what I need each day that stretches out before me.

Lamentations 3:22-23
22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Whatever you are anxious about facing in the days ahead, you can know God is already there and He is waiting with all the mercy and grace needed to face your challenge. Trust Him in this and you will find a supernatural peace that goes beyond understanding.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Game Slows Down

Sports announcers and coaches often talk about the game slowing down for their quarterback. The more playing time a player gets, the more he understands the game and he can see things develop around him. It certainly doesn't mean the other players play at a slower pace. It simply means the quarterback has a different perspective and he can see things more clearly than before.

Well, my diagnosis and pending surgery have slowed the game down for me. Suddenly, there are things that might have distracted me a few weeks ago that do not seem like a big deal any more. My thoughts seem clearer. My focus is sharper. My time with the LORD is sweeter. My prayers are more God centered. My Bible study is more meaningful.

I think maybe part of what God is doing in my life through this detour is slowing the game down for me.

I pray for this kind of clarity of mind and focus to carry through beyond recovery.

Monday, August 30, 2010

While I Am Out

No one was more surprised by this forced "sabbatical" due to my health than I have been. Simply put, I don't like it. It seemed we were just beginning to see some things click. As I have said publicly, I have no doubt this time away has been God-ordained and designed. That being said, I have given some thought to what I am praying for during this time ... for me and for the people called "ClearView" I have come to love so much. Pray with me along these lines as well as whatever God may bring to your mind to pray during these weeks.

For ClearView:
1. Fresh wind of God's Spirit. It is easy to get in a rut and expect "more of the same" week by week. When it comes to God's work in our lives, that is dangerous. While God's character is consistent, He so often moves in different ways in our lives. Always consistent with His written Word, but always fresh. I am excited to see what God will do in fresh ways in the lives of the ClearView family during these days.

2. Be reminded of a lack of dependence on any human leader(s). I have said I would be honored if people would forget my name and remember God's work in their lives. My desperate prayer is that people see God at work in their lives and not Mark. The mission and ministry of ClearView must never depend on one person or even a small group of people for that matter. I fully expect the ministry of ClearView to thrive during this time I am away. It was thriving before I arrived 3+ years ago and it must continue to do so now. ClearView has strong leadership at all levels that will continue to lead.

For me:
1. A reminder it is not all dependent on me. It is easy to get a Pastor's complex that more depends on me than it really does. This is a time I am forced to step back and allow God to do what alone can do. At times, I tend to get in the way. This is a great time for me to learn again, "He must increase and I must decrease." I desperately want to learn what that looks like.

2. A time to reflect. I have already had a couple of experiences over the past few weeks that have caused me to reflect in ways I haven't reflected before. At the risk of being a bit melodramatic, a cardiac arrest (see post below) does get your attention. I have preached about the brevity and fragile nature of life before, but I can assure you it has never been more real to me than it is now. I have never had to take a break for this length of time. And I have never taken a break of any length when God has had my attention to the degree He does on this one.

My desire is to grow exponentially spiritually during this time. So my prayer is God will do a work in the heart of this pastor and the people I am called to shepherd so we may see greater miracles in the future than we have seen in the past ... all for His glory!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Change of Date

Well, it seems my surgeon will be out of town on Sept. 2. That will make it impossible to do the surgery :-). We have had a last minute change of plans. THE NEW SURGERY DATE IS SEPTEMBER 8.

That gives all of us more time to pray, right? [I am trying to see the positive in this] It has always been my opinion when something like this happens, God is moving it for a great reason we will probably never know.

As of this moment, all plans at ClearView will remain the same. Ed Stetzer will begin preaching this coming Sunday (August 29) and I will return to the pulpit October 31. We will do so under doctor's supervision and counsel.

Thank you for everyone's patience with this shift in plans.


I was not able to make it to the prayer service last night. My church family (ClearView Baptist Church) had a special time of prayer for me as I approach surgery. I was saddened I could not make it, but I am SO grateful for the time they spent lifting me up in prayer. I have heard from several what a special time it was. My family and I are truly blessed to serve with this group of believers.

We also put the word out we would like a few blood donors to contribute before I head into surgery just in case there is a transfusion needed. About 20 volunteers with my blood type stepped up immediately. As one who gets squimish when giving blood, I am humbled by that response!

My family and I have all said several times over the past few days we are blessed to be a part of this church family. We love you all!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Eventful arteriogram

The end result of yesterday's arteriogram was exactly what we wanted. We have clear arteries with no sign of cardiac disease / blockages as we go into surgery next week. My cardiologist said my heart is strong and my blood vessels are all clear.

However, we did have an incident during the test. It seems there was a place the dye they inject blocked some blood flow to the heart. I have an unusual layout for my arteries. I am not sure I even understand all the "why's" of what happened. But if your blood flow is cut from your heart you move into cardiac arrest. That is exactly what happened yesterday to me. I was in cardiac arrest for something around a minute. The cardiologist and nurses did all they were to do to revive me as soon as possible. So, I am able to sit here today and write this blog :-). I will be releasing my new book "Ninety Seconds in Heaven" soon. LOL

I want to be clear. I could not be more thankful for the doctor and nurses who knew what to do and acted on their training! But we know the One who deserves our highest praise is the Maker of Heaven and Earth ... God Himself!!! Every heartbeat is in His hands. Let's just say we had a praise time at our house last night.

For those of you praying between 7:30 and 8:00 yesterday morning you were spot on with your timing :). I will never forget the feeling coming back to consciousness. Many thoughts run through your mind, but the one I continue to sense above all of them is, "God has something more for me to do". So I will warn you, I will bringing some serious intensity and focus coming back at the end of all this.

John Duval is sharing this news with the church gathered to pray for me tonight as I type this blog. I want all of you to have accurate information.

Thank you for praying and thank you for continuing to pray.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Today's Surgery - Update

This is John Duval on behalf of Mark. This morning Mark had a successful heart catheterization. His arteries are fine and the doctor gathered information which will be helpful as Mark prepares for his open heart surgery on Sept. 2nd. He is in recovery and expected to go home later today. Mark and Leigh Ann are very grateful for your prayers today.

The ClearView Deacon’s will lead out in a prayer time for Mark on Wednesday August 25, 2010 at 6:00 PM in the worship center. We will use this time to pray for Mark and his family as he prepares to go through his open heart surgery and the recovery process.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Surgery date and recovery period information

Well, we now have a surgery date. The surgery is set for September 2. There are a few hoops to jump through between now and then. The biggest one will be a heart cath August 24. This is routine for any open heart surgeries.

Now for the hardest news of all for me. I will out of the pulpit for 2 months. I will miss preaching / teaching the people of ClearView.

However, I am excited to announce my friend Ed Stetzer will be preaching all but 2 of the Sundays I am gone. Ed is one of the most sought after preachers in the country. Ed is President of LifeWay Research, conference speaker, consultant, and preacher. He will do an extraordinary job of teaching God's Word every week. I am honored he is willing to help during this time.

On Wednesday evenings, we will have 2 solid teachers leading us. Dr. Micah Carter and Jedidiah Coppenger will be leading our Bible study times in the main room. Both men are good friends and exceptional teachers.

I have said all along this journey is for my growth without a doubt. But I also know it is for the flock I shepherd. I want to encourage you to make an extra effort to attend. God will deliver strong messages through these men during this time. He has something He wants to say through voices other than mine.

Monday, August 16, 2010


I MUST start this with a huge "Thank You" for all the prayers and support. I told the surgeon today we (he and I) had 3000 - 4000 people around the country praying for us.

I hesitate going into much detail. I guess those that are interested in those kinds of things can take this bit of information and piece it together. We are definitely headed into surgery. I have two pre-surgery tests / procedures I must complete before surgery. We hope to complete these this week or early next week. We will be setting these dates tomorrow. Upon completion of these 2 items, we will be going into surgery asap. We plan to have the surgery no later than 3 weeks from now.

The surgery will be to replace the aortic valve and the ascending aorta. It turns out this is going to be a bit more complicated than I first anticipated. The surgeon was clear this is a "complex" surgery we will be doing. Leigh Ann and I liked the surgeon. We have confidence he is qualified and competent to do what is needed. But, as all of you who read this blog know, our confidence lies in the Great Physician. This is all in His hands! When He knit me together in my mother's womb, He was fully aware this would be an issue for me to deal with some day. This is all a part of transforming me into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

When we have an exact date for the surgery we will let you know. It will be much sooner than later. For those of you who are part of the ClearView family, I will see you this Wednesday night or Sunday morning.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


There is not really much to update here. I do have a surgeon's name. My surgeon (at least for now) will be Dr. Greelish. We will meet with him Monday. I have a long list of questions to ask. After that meeting I hope to have dates and timelines, etc. for surgery and recovery.

I do want to say again just how much my family and I appreciate all of your prayers, cards, emails, facebook messages, and tweets. We are blessed to serve such a church family and to have so many friends around the country lifting us up before the throne. We are still at great peace about all of this.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Update and Next Steps

I want to first of all thank all of you for praying for me and my family. You cannot know the encouragement you have been to all of us.

The results from the tests this week are back and I just spoke with the cardiologist. The MRI / MRA confirmed what we thought we saw in an earlier echocardiogram. I have a bicuspid aortic valve which has a minor leak. However, this is not the primary concern. The primary concern is an aortic anuerysm on the ascending aorta. That's more medical information than most of you want to know :-).

I apparently have a collagen problem in this part of my heart / aorta that is the cause of both the bicuspid valve as well as a weakened aortic wall. Due to some high blood pressure the wall of the aorta has been under some pressure for a period of time, thus compromising the aorta itself. Blah, blah, blah ...

This "fix" is surgical. I won't bore you with the details. I will be meeting with a cardiac surgeon some time after next week. I had planned on a few days with my parents in S. Georgia and the doctor has given me the go-ahead to make that trip.

Again, thanks for all your prayers. We still have another pre-surgery test or two. I do not have any dates or timelines. I will let you know as I have those.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Test Update

I don't really have much to update, but I know many of you have been praying for me today so I thought I would add a thought or two.

First, let me say, I have been overwhelmed by the number of people indicating they are praying for me, Leigh Ann, and Tiffany and Brittany. We are a blessed family to have so many who love us.

The test this morning went fine. I guess I know for sure I am not claustrophobic :-). The results have been sent to my cardiologist, so now we wait for his call to give us next steps. I take it from no call today that there was not anything imminent. So, I took today's no call as positive.

I will update you when we have more information.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Health Report

I shared with my church family yesterday I was going through some health challenges related to my heart. I will do my best to keep you updated through this blog.

I contracted pneumonia while at the Southern Baptist Convention (insert joke here :-)) in Orlando in June. While in the emergency room, they apparently tested me for things completely unrelated to my illness. That has turned out to be providential. As a result of some things they saw in the tests, I followed up with a cardiologist after returning to Franklin.

Last week the cardiologist in Franklin did an echocardiogram which indicated a problem. As it turns out, I have had a congenital heart problem that has impacted my heart in a negative way as I have grown older (that sounds so ... old). Anyway, I will be going in for more tests this coming Wednesday (August 4) morning. If those tests confirm what the cardiologist believes is true, the next step will be to visit with a cardiac surgeon.

I will post the official diagnosis on this blog when I know. This could be as early as late on August 5 or as late as August 11.

How can you pray?
1. I would love to walk out of the test Wednesday with the doctors confounded that they cannot find the problem and thus the first test was in error.
2. Assuming we find what is believed to be the problem, pray for wisdom for the doctors. I can add here, I am so grateful I live in 2010 and not 1910. The medical advances are amazing.
3. Pray for healing however God chooses to do so. Doctors and medical advances are great, but we trust God as our Great Physician.
4. Pray for my family (wife and two daughters). It is always harder on the family members than it is the patient. They are all strong in their walk with the Lord for which I am grateful. Pray for peace of mind.

To my church family, thank you for all your emails, fb messages, etc. confirming what I knew to be true ... you are praying for me.

Finally, I would share with you the verse the Lord gave me through my friend James MacDonald for this time.

Isaiah 26:3 says, "You keep in perfect peace the mind that is dependent on You, for it trusts in You."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Update and thank you!

First of all, thanks for all the prayers over these past few days for all of you who have been.

Second, a brief update: While in Orlando for our denomination's meeting, I began feeling chilled and a bit achy Wed afternoon (I was to return to Nash Thursday morning). By the time I went to bed Wed night I knew I would not make that flight. But I did not realize I would not make it for 4 more days. The symptoms had taken a dramatic downturn. Thinking I had the flu (VERY bad self-diagnosis), I took some flu medicine and went to bed about 9:30. By the early hours of Thursday morning, I was feeling the worse I could ever remember feeling. This stuff (whatever it was) was moving fast.

Then I made the first of some bad personal health management decisions. I thought to myself, "I will rest here all day and stay on this flu medicine and I will feel better in 24 hours or so". I should have sought immediate medical help (that would come later). [See Leigh Ann, I admitted it] Very high fever, the worst aches I can remember ever having, and severe dehydration took over to a point by Thursday noon (I think) I was not completely rational (I know, some of you think that's my permanent state of mind).

Long story, short ... Friday morning I received help from some hotel personnel who got me to the medical help needed. This resulted in a 2 1/2 day hospital stay. I was diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia (thus the ineffectiveness of the self prescribed flu medicine :-)). Pumped full of antibiotics and fluid. My wife flew in to assist me (she's the best!!). I was released yesterday (Sunday morning)and flew home with Leigh Ann today (Monday). I am home now and will require several more "at home" recovery days. Needless to say, I am feeling much better and getting stronger each day.

I am grateful for the prayers and support of my family and my ClearView church family. I will see all of you soon.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Africa Update

Here is an update fresh from the field on our work in Africa. We have a friend on the field who recently visited with the group of people we (ClearView) has been working with. This is her description of that visit.

Early Monday morning, myself, the Hickmans (a volunteer couple that is here), and a translator headed out to visit ‘Chewy’ and the close-by village for now we will call the ‘New’ Village. We stopped in Segou to pick up our friend and translator Yac, and headed on out to the village. We arrived in ‘Chewy’ about 5pm, and did all of our greetings and then sat down with the chief to catch up. That night after dinner and baths, Yac, the chief, and another young man sat down and discussed how to study the Word. No one else gathered but later in the night (probably around 10:30-11p) the chief told Yac a man had come to hear stories because he had never heard them before. We looked at the man, who was now sleeping, and said we could tell him stories but he is sleeping. So, the chief woke him up. I told the story of the Demon Possessed Man, and we discussed it some. The next day we were able to discuss with a couple of the blvrs about why they had not been around very much... Jo and Rob. Jo had been very discouraged as one of the two that can actually read and teach. He did not feel he was getting the respect he thought he should get, and for Rob, we found out he is actually of a different background. He has been a blvr for awhile but with a different denom. He was wrshpng with the blvrs there but they were not accepting that he was from a different background, also he feels like there is no structure in the ch, which right now is actually all new blvrs who are still trying to figure out how to be blvrs. We were able to discuss with them some on what it means to be a blvr and encourage them that do not have to rely on others to be able to wrshp Father. After hearing the story of Abraham, Jo said it taught them to love their neighbor as themselves and to love their enemy, which I believe is something they are struggling with in the body of blvrs. The next day the Hickmans went to a market via horse cart with the chief and another man, while Yac and I stayed behind. That was the same day that the local Pas (also from another Denom.) came to visit. Yac stayed and visited with him, and the chief’s wife wanted me to go visit her friends and family with her, so that is what I did. That night we had another opportunity to story, so we told two David stories, and discussed them. There was some good discussion but they were all very tired. The last full day in the bush we decided to go visit the new blvrs in ‘New’ Village. We walked for about an hour before reaching the village and when we arrived the blvrs from ‘Chewy’ had already set up and starting wrshpng. They asked the new blvrs to stand up and 12 men did, after that Yac was able to tell the C2R story and asked if anyone wanted to follow. Five women came up and said they did, so we prayed with and for them, and then sang a few songs and were getting ready to leave when one women stood up and said there are more that want to follow but were afraid to come up. So, 4 more women came up and we did the same. When we stood up to leave the second time, some of the women wanted their babies given blvr names. So, we named them. The first girl that came, I was given the privilege of naming, so I did. Her name is Rachel, which is pronounced Rachelle in French. After this it was getting late, and we still had an hour walk back to ‘Chewy’ so we asked for the road and headed out. That night in ‘Chewy’ everyone went to bed early because of the traveling, and the next morning we headed back to Bamako.PRYR Request:New Blvrs in ‘New’Encouragement for the blvrs in ‘Chewy’Planting and Harvesting as the Rainy season is approaching

Sunday, May 2, 2010

ClearView and 2010 Flood

This post is specifically written to and for the great folks of ClearView.

We have no way of knowing exactly how many people who are a part of ClearView have had flooding in their home or property due to the flood. We do not know to what extent they may have suffered damage. Our congregation lives in a wide geographic area in middle Tennessee. My guess is there are more who have been negatively impacted than I know.

Some of you have already asked how you can help. I love that about you! Until we get specific names and needs we can't answer that question (we already have some). One thing we know for sure is that we are here for each other and we will indeed help those who need it.

So, here are next steps and how you can help.

1. If you need help (moving furniture, pulling wet carpet, etc.) please send an email to pastor@clearview.org. In the subject line type: NEED HELP. In the body of the email please give some details of your situation that will help us know how we can help. Also please give us contact information. If you know of a ClearView member who needs help but can't contact us, please let us know.

2. If you can help please send an email to pastor@clearview.org with a subject line I CAN HELP. In the email please let us know when you might be available to help. Also please give us contact information.

We will begin to match people who need help with those who can help some time in the morning. For now, we will limit our help to physical help. We may need financial help later, but until we know what we are facing we will hold off on collecting funds.

It will take until at least late morning on Monday for us to begin to sort what we have so you won't hear from us before then.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Reading Luke weekly

Part of sermon preparation each week for me is to read through the entire book of the Bible through which I am preaching. I will read through that book every week at least once. I began a series I am calling Investigating Christ which will take us through the Book of Luke over the next year or so.

I challenged the congregation to join me in reading through the Book of Luke each week. If read silently, the average reader can read through the book in approximately 2 hours. I have had many who have taken the challenge. Yes, it's early, but I believe we will see many carry through. If you are one that has taken the challenge, I can say with confidence God has some amazing things He will teach you through this book on this life of His Son. If you miss a week for some reason, don't let that get you down. Pick it up again the following week.
I got several emails about this challenge, but I wanted to share one with you that can help you with the project. I received this from a member of ClearView. It really helps to break reading up into smaller, bite-sized pieces.
"How can I possibly find time to read thru the entire book of Luke every week for the next year?"
24 chapters; 4 chapters a day for 6 days with Sundays off ; 2 chapters in the morning - 10 minutes; 2 chapters in the evening - 10 minutes.

"But my day is already too full; I just don't have 20 minutes to spare"
Get up 10 minutes earlier and go to bed 10 minutes later; Your body will never know the difference.
Turn off the news after the top stories; You'll be back before the weather.
Read it on the treadmill; You'll be done before you break a sweat.
Download it to your ipod and listen on the way to work - http://www.freeaudiobible.net/ ; They're going to play the 3 songs you missed 5 more times today.
Facebook junkies: Read it online - bookmark http://www.biblegateway.com/ ; you're 3 clicks away and you'll be back before your chat friends notice you're gone.
Do you REALLY want to be the one who doesn't raise your hand when Mark asks who read thru Luke this week?
Thanks Todd!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Reflections on Piper's decision

I have admired John Piper's ministry from a distance for some time. Anyone who can plant his life in a church for 30 years has some things to teach us all as pastors. Last Sunday John Piper made an announcement to his church that he is taking an 8 month leave. You can read about it here.

I have a desire to stay where I am pastor for at least a couple of decades. So, I have reflected on this decision by John Piper more than once over the past few days. Here are a few random thoughts as I have done so.

1. My family (especially my marriage to Leigh Ann) is front and center. If I lose my marriage, I lose my ministry. More than that, if I lose my marriage I lose my most prized earthly possession. I must be intentional about cultivating my relationship with my best friend.

2. Guard my heart (soul). John doesn't share details but he does point to pride in his soul. What a wake-up call. There is a great nugget in Proverbs 4:23 Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life . I am still working through what this means.

3. The church is more than one man. Trust me, no one is more keenly aware of this than I. However, I sometimes catch myself, in weaker moments, thinking "it all depends on me". If someone of the stature and visibility of John Piper can step away, it is obvious he has done a good job of leading a group of people to not be dependent on him, but on the Lord. That is my heart's cry for ClearView.

4. Accountability is vital to long term health of a leader. I would add, especially a pastor. The elders of Bethlehem have obviously been a major part of helping John make his decision. A man who stands alone will not stand for long.

5. Transparency. John has been transparent with his church about the fact that he is working through some things. There is a delicate balance a pastor must walk. Share enough that people understand you are human (which should keep you humble). Yet, not so much that people think your life is falling apart. A humble strength. I think this is what is termed "meekness" in Scripture. I am still wrestling with what to do with this one, but transparency for John is a part of who he is as a pastor / leader. John mentions a culture of transparency at Bethlehem. How do you create that? Is length of time as a pastor a factor in doing so? Trust is obviously a key factor. You can't be transparent with someone if you think they are going to hit you over the head with it.

The primary lesson for me is not to fall asleep at the wheel of my own life. I admire John for sharing this with his church. And I appreciate his church for being an example of what it looks like to want the best for her shepherd.

God bless you John. And God bless you Bethelehem Church.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Responses to Discipleship Questions

Yesterday, I had someone send me an email with 4 questions regarding discipleship and my thoughts on the subject. This was an interview they were doing for a class at a University. I thought I would share what I shared with this person. The 4 questions were:

1. How do you define being a "disciple"?
2. What is your vision for how Clearview can "make disciples" (strategies, methods, materials used, etc.)?
3. How do you evaluate success on an individual or corporate level?
4. What advice would you give to a minister just getting started and designing a discipleship program?

And my 4 responses were:

1. A disciple is one who has chosen to follow Christ, taking seriously what Christ said as well as what Christ did. If a person's life has not been changed and if it is not being changed daily by their relationship to Christ, they cannot call themselves His disciple. I would add something here we miss badly in American (Western) Christianity. If a person is not reproducing themselves in others they cannot call themselves a disciple. This is the entire meaning of the Great Commission. The Great Commission was not given to an organiztaion (the church) it was given to each of us as individuals.

2. Disciples are made through various types of accountable relationships focused on God's Word as the content of discussions as people do life together. This may be through 1 on 1 mentoring. This can be in a small group of people who know, love, and trust one another. Currently, we have a number of various kinds of these groups taking place in the life of ClearView. One thing for sure, discipleship is not a simple program. It is life on life. As far as curriculum is concerned, it must be Scripture driven if it is going to make disciples. I have seen a lot of topical stuff that is like eating cotton candy (and it gives the same result). I am not saying you can't start with a topic, but it must drive the person / group to dig into The Word or it is useless for discipleship. Discipleship is not about having some good "discussions" about our opinions. It must be about finding God's heart on the matter which can only be done by digging into God's Word.

3. This is tough. Evaluation of a heart is something only God can do. At best, we can observe behavior. For example, we still do not see the level of personal evangelism (a behavior of a disciple of Christ) on a broad basis that we should see. I still see individuls, families and marriages struggling in ways followers of Christ should not struggle. We have pockets of health, but overall, we have a long way to go as a church. One thing for sure, I do not consider numerical growth in any program (Bible studies or SS classes) as an accurate measure of discipleship. However, I do long to see MORE people involved in these opportunities that may help in discipleship. Hope that makes sense.

4. Start everything with HIGH accountability. We do not set the bar high enough as we begin discipleship. Jesus set the bar at the top when He said, "If you want to be My disciple, you must take up your cross daily ... you must hate mother, father, brother, etc. ..." We have dumbed down what it means to be a true Christ follower and as a result we have anemic churches made up of people who will one day cry out, "Lord, Lord, we cast out demons in your name ..." and He will say to them, "I never knew you". In my opinion, everything a church does depends on its intensity of its disciple making.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Africa Report

Six of us returned from our most recent trip into Africa. What a week. Many of you know I went to a village in West Africa this past October. On that trip, we baptized 19 new believers. With limited contact with the village, we have not known the strength of the believers we left behind. Well, the Holy Spirit has been at work big time. When we arrived this past week, we asked the believers what they had been doing with their new faith. They gather to worship and pray together and tell stories every Sunday. We asked if they would have a worship time Tuesday evening this week for us to be a part of.

Wow! Did they worship! They sang and danced for 4 hours ending some time after midnight. They have created some worship songs that include the stories we told from God's Word. They dance to all their worship music. It was an experience I will never forget as they did this under the moonlight that night.

They have begun to spread the word of God's love and desire for a relationship with people in other villages. We were asked if we would visit one of these villages with one of the believers from our village ("Chewy"). We did so as we left our first village. We brought greetings to the second village and told stories from God's Word. Five men responded that they would like to become Jesus followers.

I know the men that went with me will agree. This was another unforgettable trip. What a privilege to be used by God to make Him famous to the ends of the earth!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Prayer for Africa

I know many of you will be praying for the group that leaves for Africa this coming Saturday. Here are some specific ways you can be praying.

1. Safe flights and smooth passes through customs at all points
2. Safe travel to and from the villages with no vehicle problems (i.e. flat tires, engine problems, etc.)
3. Restful nights so our bodies can be replenished for each day of sharing in the village
4. That we know what to say in the village … questions to ask and stories to tell
5. Recall of stories memorized
6. Openness to the stories by others who have not yet chosen to follow Christ
7. That we will be open to and aware of the guidance of the Holy Spirit
8. That our driver and translators will be open to the stories about Christ (we just found out they are not believers)
9. That the believers we found in October will be strong in their faith and will bring new persons to the story telling times
10. That we begin to discover new villages of our people group
11. That we have no delays in travel coming back to the States.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Haiti Relief / Tennesse Baptists

I know many of you that are part of ClearView are anxious and desirous of going to Haiti to help with relief efforts. This is the latest news I received as of this morning (January 21)

Many people are eager to respond to the heartbreaking disaster in Haiti. There are serious infrastructure and coordination issues that are hampering the disaster relief response. Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief continues to be in daily communication with our partners: Baptist Global Response (Southern Baptist Entity with primary responsibility for International disaster response), the Florida Baptist Convention, North American Mission Board and our sister state conventions. BGR, Florida Baptists, IMB and North American Mission Board now have personnel on the ground in Haiti and are feeding information back to us on conference calls daily.

A primary hindrance to Southern Baptists sending in teams is the transportation issues. The airport in Port-au-Prince is still closed to commercial flights. The 200 mile trip from Santo Domingo to Port-au- Prince that would normally take 7 hours to drive now takes 18 hours. All roads are heavily damaged and vehicular travel is very slow and extremely hazardous. Another issue is the safety and security of volunteers. There are no secure areas for teams to sleep. When teams are deployed, they will more than likely be sleeping in tents.

At this time Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief is not collecting any items to be shipped to Haiti. The docks at Port-au-Prince are expected to be closed for up to 90 days and non-governmental air cargo is very limited. Our Southern Baptist leadership has requested that money be given to be used to buy items needed in bulk. We are praying that shipping ports will re-open soon and more supplies can be sent.

BGR and NAMB are telling us that it could be 90 to 120 days before Disaster Relief teams are needed in Haiti. When called upon the teams that will go will be food distribution, medical, restoration, rebuild and chaplains. It is anticipated that this response to Haiti will last three years and perhaps longer. We as Southern Baptists want those people in Haiti to know we will be there for the long haul. Thank you for your continued patience as we seek the best way to respond to the needs of the people of Haiti.

For now, we hope you will continue to pray, give, and prepare to go.