If I only get one thing right…

I have about a dozen BIG goals for my life (in no particular order):

  • Love my kids, and teach them to be good adult followers of Christ.
  • Pastor for 30+ years.
  • Train up another generation of church leaders.
  • Be a voice that calls my generation to it’s potential.
  • Be a part of a national/worldwide revival.
  • Start churches on every inhabited continent.
  • Lead without a paycheck one day…
  • Give more than half of my total life’s earnings away.

And I pray for these things daily. These are not just goals and wishful thoughts. I want to see each of these things happen one day. But I made a decision about 12 years ago that still guides me and is at the heart of everything I do. By now, someone is thinking up some great spiritual answer like, “Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind.” Yeah, but that’s more of a mission statement than a goal.

If I fail at everything I set my heart and mind to do, Oh Lord, let me succeed at this one thing – to love 1 woman my whole life. Unconditional,ly passionately, unwavering, uncompromising. And earn her love in return.

I love the church. I love the calling that God has placed on my life, to serve in ministry. I love the people that I get to serve with, both here at Edgewood and around the world. I couldn’t picture doing anything else with my life (which is great, cause I’m not good at alot of other things). But every thing else pales in comparison to my undying love and commitment to my first calling: Tiffany Markum.

I love you, sweetheart. Besides Jesus, you’re the best thing God ever gave me.

Your husband

The GOOD in man

I have to retrain the way I see people. Allow me to explain…

Church, as I have known it for the majority of my life, has had a bad outlook on humanity at large. From a spiritual standpoint, we would argue the “depravity” of mankind as evidenced by our observations of society. The world is full of sin, crime, hate, and immorality. To be sure, Scripture supports that condition of the world. But what is so startling, is that according to the Gospel that Jesus-freaks like me claim to believe, God loves this world. Not to say that He loves what this world is doing to itself, but He nonetheless loves “the world.” Every stranger to me, every rude person in traffic, every loud mouth in the checkout line ahead of me wasting my time, every adulterer, liar, white-collar criminal, religious hypocrite, drunkard, and promiscuous teenager is a soul that God values.

Counter to what some Bible “scholars” may state, there is something in humanity that God loves, desires, and finds good in. Genesis 1:26 tells us that God created man “in His image,” and despite the sin, rebellion, and brokenness of our planet, God finds something good in each human being simply because we bear His image. Marred, muddied, and cracked as it may be, we resemble our Creator. While no amount of noble attempts can change our eternal destination apart from Christ, there are moments of good in human beings: charities to cure disease and provide sustenance, strangers helping strangers, even little courtesies hint of the moral conscience imbued to man by their Creator. And sinful and broken as man may be, God finds pleasure in cleansing, restoring, and remaking His fallen creation into the image of His Son.

On a personal level, what does that mean for me and you? Do I tolerate all of the “miserable sinners” that make up my world? Or do I see inside of each stranger that I encounter the image of their Creator who loves them beyond human comprehension? Do I maintain an us/them mentality to the world? Or do I realize that according to Ephesians 2:1-5 that I am the same as them apart from Christ?

When I choose to see the image of God in every person, I am better enabled to love them like Christ loves them. And my ability to share the Gospel, and effectiveness in doing so increases. We often say that we want to see people the God sees them… so why don’t we?

 

John

Speak Life

One of our biggest mantras in our Saturday night service, The Awakening, is “Speak Life”. The thought behind this is that we have opportunities every time we speak to offer words of life, or words that are full of death. When we “speak life” we are bringing people closer to God by offering words of encouragement, healing, and blessing. We are making a positive investment into their soul. When we “speak death” we are saying things that take away from that persons connection to God and giving words of criticism, gossip, and tearing them down. When we do this it’s like making an overdraft in the bank account of their soul. This is not an original idea on our part. It comes straight out of Scripture in Proverbs 18:21, where it says, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue…” We try to apply this to everything we do: when we preach, pray, sing, fellowship, work and so on.
I’m not suggesting that we don’t confront people. I’m suggesting that even when we do, we speak life instead of death into that person. When I discipline my children, am I taking the time and patience to speak life over them and call them into their potential out of my love towards them? Or am I yelling and being harsh to my kids out of anger and frustration? It’s all about attitude and motive. Sometimes we don’t just choose between speaking life and speaking death. We choose between speaking life and not speaking at all. And often, not speaking at all is the same thing as speaking death.
The terminology of speaking “life” has special significance for me because of one individual who demonstrated this when I needed it the most in high school. It came from the most unlikely source: a guy in my class who was loud, opinionated, and somehow even goofier than me. His name was Bryce. He was my friend in high school despite attempting to steal my girlfriends on multiple occasions. Despite his lack of tact (or social etiquette regarding his friends’ dates!) the best thing he did in my life happened during a closing shift that we worked together at a Wendy’s Restaurant. I’m not sure if he realized it at the time or not, but as I came into work that night I wanted to die. Literally. I was planning to end my life. The reasons don’t even matter now, only that I was to that point of hurt and desperation. I had reached a place of feeling so utterly useless and worthless that I was convinced that this was what I deserved: that my world would be better without me in it. He saw the look on my face, and the tear-stained cheeks and asked if I was alright. I heard him and responded, but I felt so empty and alone that I don’t even think I was answering him. I just spoke to… the air I guess. I was in my own terrible, painful, unrelenting world of anguish. What I said out-loud was, “I don’t think I’m even worth the air I’m breathing.” His response pulled me out of my world for a moment and literally saved my life. Without hesitation he said, “You are absolutely worth it, man.” Not super profound. But exactly what I needed so desperately to hear in that moment. After the store closed, we got Mountain Dew and Honey Buns (still my favorite snack combo) and sat in his car talking. The week before this, I could have slugged him for flirting with my girlfriend. But on this night, he was the best thing that ever happened to me.
I have often wondered where I would be today if he had not spoken life over me… Would I be alive? If so, would I have still ended up in ministry? Where would my wife be today if Bryce had not been there for me? Would my beautiful kids have ever been born? And what of the people I’ve been able to impact since then? How many more suicides would there be if not for Bryce?
Who could you be saving with your words of life? What could be at stake if you held those words back? Or spoke death over people? You may change someone’s life and never even realize it by choosing to speak life.

John