2015 has been one of the most challenging years for me personally that I have ever walked through. I can't recall a time where I faced more direct resistance from the enemy directly than perhaps 2008 when I first began my weight loss journey and recovery from paralysis .
Any of the things I am about to mention could easily take up several blogs by themselves so while I am not trying to minimize any of what happened, I am trying to be brief and summarize.
Earlier this year I chose to have an afib ablation which is a surgical procedure where they cauterize areas of the heart to stop the atriums from going out of their normal rhythm. I had fought with afib for years and while I had some success, I could never eliminate it entirely so I gave the green light on it and am happy to report that it was a wonderful success but the recovery from it was stressful to be sure.
In addition to moving both of our older sons out of the house this year and dealing with the empty nest that comes with that...twice... Lori and I also went through the local church emotional grinder once again this year having friendships and close relationships interrupted and broken off by insecure church leaders intimidated by us.
After 45 years of not knowing who my birth mother was, I found her earlier this year which triggered a cascade of unexpected emotions that I am still processing through. I also have a reasonably good idea of who my birth Father is now which has triggered even more feelings to process through.
Someone who I trusted and personally mentored for almost a decade chose to redirect her commitments to a different ministry this year and her loss added fuel to the fire. Speaking of Fire, our ministry's Weekend of Fire Conference, normally held every July had to be rescheduled and done in December which actually turned out to very much be a God thing but the stress surrounding that entire situation was not fun to say the least.
Lori's mom has struggled with some serious health issues which as any of you that have ever walked through that know first hand, is never easy. Compounding that is a litany of family drama on her side. I learned my parents (the ones who raised me) are moving out of Ohio so for the first time in my entire life they will be over 1000 miles away and their health is hit and miss so of course I am concerned for them.
Our personal ministry, Healing Media Inc has undergone a shift in support where most monthly partners have cancelled and instead God is using one time gifts to help us fund our efforts. Not having that solid monthly support base is new for us and stressful for sure.
Our local school district started off our 2015 by misdiagnosing our then 10 year old and then they turned their guns on Lori and I as his parents leading to me running for a seat on my local school board which really opened up Pandora's box against me. From within the school district itself came allegations that I was committing adultery with teachers and paying them to cover it up, that I was a tax cheat, that I could not be trusted and many others brazen lies just to protect their perceived seats of power. Of course most of them engaged in the slime against me were publicly professing Christians which is perhaps the saddest part of it all. The emotional toll that took on Lori was hard to watch.
There is more but you get the general idea.
One thing that has been a constant is the gentle presence of the Holy Spirit of God Himself. Through every trouble, trial and situation both good and bad I am keenly aware of His beautiful presence. As 2015 comes to a close, I find myself standing at yet another fork in my personal road. I feel the draw of the Lord to minister more and now more than ever in my selfish flesh I want to hide in the cave, tell people to buzz off and just enjoy the Holy Spirit privately... but that is the woundedness in me crying out for agreement.
I am called to pour my life into others just as many of you are in this season and just as I would answer my wife's call to help her anytime, anyplace, I hear the Spirit of the Lord drawing me out into the depths of public surrender yet again and I almost instinctively now respond with a "Yes".
Lori and I went to several Christian concerts this year and we saw everyone from TobyMac, Third Day, the Newsboys, Michael W Smith and many others. One group that God has used in the last 30 days especially opened up for The Newsboys, it was Hawk Nelson. It's funny how God's presence just seems to saturate a given song in a given season. For me the song "Sold Out" has His unmistakeable touch on it. My soul is wrapped in His unconditional acceptance every time I hear it..which is odd being that it is such a fast paced song. Usually slower songs tend to hold that sort of anointing.
When Sold Out comes on at the gym or when I'm out running, I have to be careful or I will find myself off in a corner in tears, it is that strong for me every single time right now. It's not even an emotional thing directly, it's a Spirit thing bypassing my natural and fallen mind and instead He uses it to re-expose me to my destiny. I'm sold out, no longer living just for myself, running after Jesus with my whole heart. With every single step that I take now, with every drop of blood that's in my veins now.
I ain't got nothing else to be afraid of, I'm sold out... What about you? What about right now? Would you join me in stepping out without hesitation? You can't face this kind of Grace and leave the way you came!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
I keep hearing sobering statistics being offered up that talk about church decline. Here, here and here for example just to name a few. The take away is always the same, on average only about 20% of professing Christians are actively attending church on a regular basis and it is a trend that I don't see turning around any time in the near future.
There are about 4000 churches a year that go belly up and disappear but only about 1000 a year that start up and that trend has been going on now since the 70s. So many things could be said and have been said about all of this and I could personally blog for days on end about it all but instead I want to focus today on what I feel the Lord saying to all of us in this hour as we bring 2015 to a close next month.
Notice the picture I used for today's blog. It's a tree that has fallen and was once blocking a path. As I was out hiking a few weeks ago I came across this and the Lord spoke to me. He said Mark, you are usually the one to pick up the fallen tree, nurse it back to health and let it take root afresh again which is the normal way to save the tree and reopen the path for others but in this next season of life I want you to leave the trees alone and trust me to come and cut them in half so the path's may be unblocked.
This was a pretty big word for me to handle at first and took a few hours to really sink into my heart and spirit before it began to make more sense. Even now it still has fresh meanings but here is the big take away. For this season, I don't have to get as directly involved in "clearing the path" or setting that atmosphere for others but instead it is ok to focus on myself for a while and God is going to do the path clearing for a while.
Especially in the 2016 Election cycle as the backdrop, I hear the Lord saying that He and He alone is going to cause some things to take place that will "clear the path" for America once again. The giant trees of an antichrist agenda have blocked many paths but the Lord is not going to heal those trees to live again but instead He is going to saw them in half and separate them for all to see the real agendas of the godless. I believe this has already begun in Chicago and it is only the tip of the iceberg.
What was once hidden will be made known. Current heroes will be brought down while unlikely and humble new ones will be elevated in our midst. Once again in 2016 the Lord will confound the worldly wisdom that has crept into the church.
Look for unusual partnerships with ministries and secular organizations along with unbelieveable advances in health and medicines in 2016. Things that were said to be years and years away will come to pass in 2016. Also passing in 2016 will be several "generals" of the Faith and to the undiscerning eye this will look like loss but it is actually a clearing, a changing of the guard so to speak.
The modern church will continue to lose attendance but that will matter less and less as a true and real groundswell of revival fire for the first time in generations will begin to be teased and the catalyst will be mass death. The little Satan will strike and seriousness about where we as a country are with Jesus will be reintroduced to America's soul.
Overall I have the impression that God's move is going to get ultra and uber personal. The Holy Spirit while pouring Himself out on various gatherings and cities is going to microtarget individual hearts. New "kings" of cities and territories will be raised up in the Spirit as Apostolic power is rediscovered by a new generation. Humility will need to walk within the Prophetic however or there could be some big problems. Pray that Wisdom and Humility are in all of our right and left hands respectively.
Lastly, the Lord's heart hears the cries of our children who have been abandoned by the local governments that once sought to protect them. The presence of God will again visit local schools and the kids for the most part will recognize Him while the adults for the most part will not.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.