Posts Tagged ‘God’


Recently I had the privilege of interviewing John Mark Miller, a musician and writer who leads worship at First Baptist Church of Sunset, Texas. John Mark inspires and encourages other Christian artists with his blog and has recently been showcasing various artists. I was blessed to be on his list.

What I admire most about John Mark is his genuine love for the Lord, music and fellow artists. He exudes grace and kindness. I hope you enjoy getting to know him as much as I have.

Hi, John Mark. Thanks so much for spending some time with us today. I’ve appreciated reading your blog and interacting with you through comments and emails. I guess we’ll jump right into the questions I have for you.

First, let me ask when did you first know you were born to be a singer and a writer?

I was born singing, and I caught on to writing as soon as I could! When I was just a toddler, my mom remembers finding me rolling around the back yard on my riding toy, singing a hymn that she and my dad had sung in church that morning. She was impressed that I remembered the melody perfectly, and started to encourage my musical gifts. I sang my first church solo when I was five years old and started taking piano lessons when I was seven years old. I honestly cannot remember a time when music wasn’t an important part of my life, and here I am all these years later, still making music and teaching others how to join in!

Interestingly enough, it was my dad who honed in on my gift for writing. He read some of the stories I wrote for spelling class and told me that he thought I had real talent. He was a pastor, and before I knew it I was writing articles for the church newsletter and helping him prepare Sunday School curriculum and church publications. One weekend as we drove to a funeral, he realized he needed a poem to recite for the Graveside Service and told me to write one on the spot! I did… and thanks to his belief in me as a writer, I’m still at it!

It’s great that your parents were so encouraging and helpful in fostering your God-given talents. Perhaps that’s one reason you are so great at encouraging other artists.

So, along those same lines, what is your favorite worship song?

My all-time favorite worship song is “Before the Throne of God Above,” but I also find great inspiration in “Give Me Jesus” by Fernando Ortega and “All of Me” by Selah.

I love that song by Fernando Ortega as well. A few of his CD’s spend time in my player!

And how about favorite books?

Where books are concerned, I’m going to have to break this down into categories! I would say that my favorite devotional book is “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers, my favorite fictional book is “The Robe” by Lloyd C. Douglas, and my favorite biography/memoir is “Rocket Boys” by Homer Hickham.

That’s quite a nice collection. I read and re-read “My Utmost for His Highest” over a three year period, and it literally changed my life. What do you feel most inspires your creativity?

I feel most inspired when I spend time outside, either walking for exercise or just sitting and drinking in all of God’s beauty. Taking time to notice the splendor of Creation helps me to quiet the distractions, focus my prayers, and allows me to listen for His still, small voice. It has been during these quiet moments of reflection that many of my greatest ideas have come to me.

It’s amazing how even a little bit of time outside can bring out the creator in us!

Now this may seem like a strange question, but I think you can tell a lot about a person by their favorite “working” drink. I tend to stick with water or tea. How about you?

I absolutely love a steaming mug of hot tea (either Earl Grey or Vanilla Rooibos) while I’m working on a project. The warmth is comforting, and the aroma stimulates the senses. I’d have to agree with C.S. Lewis, who said, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me!”

That’s a great quote! I might have to add it to my bulletin board. When is it that we would find you nursing that steaming mug of tea? Are you most productive in the morning or at night?

Though I’m married to a night owl, I will forever be a hopeless morning person! Much to my wife’s dismay, I wake up bright and early and ready to work. My best work takes place early in the morning, and I’ve noticed that my writing is much stronger and more focused after I’ve spent some quiet time with the Lord.

I so agree with you. Spending time with the Lord makes the difference between a good and rough day, writing or otherwise. Do you have a “life verse?” How does it influence your creative endeavors?

Since high school, my life verse has been John 15:5: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” I used to get very nervous playing the piano in church, to the point that my fingers and pedal feet would shake uncontrollably and cause the entire piano to have tremors! I remember sitting in church waiting for my turn to play, and reading this verse on a small index card. It was comforting to remember that without God I could do nothing, but with Him behind me I was guaranteed to bear good fruit. I have clung to this through the years, and it’s just as helpful to me now as it ever was!

That’s a verse my husband has been meditating on lately. It’s so true that whatever we produce comes from Jesus working in us. It’s a great reminder. What would you say is the most important message you want your listeners or readers to take away from your work?

The sole purpose of launching my blog, The Artistic Christian, was to help people realize that the beauty of God is all around us. There is such rich beauty in the midst of the most everyday moments, and all of it declares the truth of Who God is. Psalm 19:1 says “the heavens declare the glory of God,” and each aspect of nature tells us something about God’s character. Immovable mountains declare His strength, soft rose pedals declare his tenderness and beauty, and so on. Not only this, but anytime an artist creates he or she is imitating God, since we are all made in His image (Gen. 1:26). Because of this, artistic works also point us to God, since they reveal the divine spark which lies in each of our hearts.

I hope that by reading my work, my readers will have their eyes opened to the beauty and splendor that lies everywhere they look, and realize that all of it was designed to draw our hearts toward worshiping God. And once they begin to see this, I want to remind them that if they will seek God with all their heart, they will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).

I certainly get that from your blog. Where can people find your work? Can they purchase it yet?

I am still working on getting a book published, but my reflections on art, culture, and life can be found at my primary blog, The Artistic Christian, at http://theartisticchristian.wordpress.com.

Also, my sermons and thoughts on Bible Study and church life can be found at my self-titled devotional blog, at http://johnmarkmiller.wordpress.com

Finally, readers can keep up with my thoughts and latest releases by following me on Twitter: @JohnMark_Miller

Thank you so much for investing this time with us today!

Thank you for interviewing me. It’s been an honor.

Go visit John Mark Miller on Twitter and his blogs. I guarantee you’ll be blessed and glad you did!

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We’re continuing our series on becoming free…

I recognize women who have tried to protect themselves by denying the truth of their past sexual abuse, domestic violence or a spouse’s sexual addiction. Denying the lie they are living and the part they play. It’s excruciatingly painful to face the truth head on. To acknowledge the depth of dysfunction, and the stuck place we can’t seem to get out of. But the cost down the road, if we don’t, is so much greater than our current pain. Europe 228

I wish I could tell them.

These women see the consequences of their broken lives in themselves and in their children and are in despair, but they are afraid to look at the truth. How they got there and why they stay. They are lost in a hurting, hopeless world. I know.

I was one of them.

I believe the woman in the Bible, the one at the well, was one too. But when Jesus sought her out and spoke truth to her, she glimpsed a glimmer of hope.

‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.’” (John 4:19-20)

She believed he was a prophet. Maybe he could untangle the mess that was her life.

Was she ready for that?

I wonder if she was trying to change the subject, or if she was trying to prove how “good” she was by telling him what she knew about religion. Often, when the Lord whispers some truth about our lives that we aren’t sure we want to deal with, we focus on a past or future circumstance – well, it was like this… – or another person’s issues instead. Maybe we bring up someone else as a comparison to alleviate our shame, or to evaluate how good we are based on how bad they are.

And how many times do we respond based on what we think God (or someone else) expects?

Or maybe this woman wished she could have a relationship with God, but because someone told her there was only one way and one place, she felt excluded. Besides, the shame she felt was enough to make her exclude herself from any kind of worship. Don’t we often deny ourselves from connecting with God?

How could he want someone like me?

Jesus declared, ‘Believe me, woman…true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.’”

The truth is, Jesus is happy to have us come to him any time, place and way, if our hearts are sincerely directed towards him.

The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’” (verse 25)

This woman clung to what she knew. Someday Jesus was going to come and explain everything. That was her hope. I can imagine her wistfully looking towards the mountain, picturing how Jesus would make everything in her life right again.

Someday.

Can you imagine her astonishment when Jesus said,

‘I who speak to you am he.’?”

The same shame-filled woman, who had earlier avoided the crowd, now went eagerly to find them. She couldn’t wait DSC_0020 (2)to share how simply being in the presence of Jesus had transformed her life.

And God has the same for us.

When we worship, when we take in his words spoken to us through the Bible, when we engage with Jesus, he transforms our life. No matter what it looks like. No matter what we’ve done or what’s been done to us.

So, what if this is the year we face our life? What if this year we let him transform us?

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2014 was a rough year.

Continuing illness from our house with mold, landlord issues, lack of employment, moving across country, saying goodbye to friends and family, and then a job loss took its toll on our family.

So when our pastor, Matt Keller, at Next Level Church here in lovely, balmy Florida began talking about choosing joy during his holiday sermons, you can imagine my divided thoughts and emotions. Yes, I know God’s good, and in all of it, he has done incredible things.

But we were challenged to choose joy. In every setting. You know the verse in James, “Count it all joy, brothers…”

REALLY??

Interestingly enough, around the same time, I was contacted about Margaret Feinberg’s new book, Fight Back With Joy. Would I be willing to write an honest review if I were provided a few chapters?

Naturally I said yes.

I don’t think this was a coincidence. Joy seemed a struggling commodity in our lives this past year. I wanted joy. I need joy. Maybe my word for this coming year should be “joy.”

Margaret says in her book that she always thought of “…joy as a natural byproduct of a life well lived.” I think that is what I believed too. But if that was the case, then I hadn’t lived well the previous year, had I?

Was joy the measure of whether my life was good or bad?

It couldn’t be. And if joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in my life, something God grants me then couldn’t I have it for the asking? Couldn’t it be cultivated in my heart?

What is joy anyway?

This is what Margaret Feinberg reveals in Fight Back With Joy.

And she goes a step further, showing how she chose joy in the midst of a diagnosis of cancer. Say what? Who does that?

In her typically engaging, lay-it-all out there way, Margaret shares how her life-threatening challenge created a compelling platform for discovering and communicating what true joy is and what it meant in her darkest time of need.

Defiant joy that declared darkness would not win.

We are encouraged that joy doesn’t deny hardship. It doesn’t sugar-coat our trials and pretend they are easy. No,

…joy is a weapon we use to fight life’s battles.”

Wow. It seems my battles have been joy stealers. The concept that I can choose joy to fight gives me hope and fills me with – joy!

Margaret goes on to explain all the ways God gives us joy. Such as through embracing his love for us, looking for joy in each good thing, being blessed by people God sends to refresh us (like Philemon for Paul in the Bible) and choosing to create moments and situations of hilarity. Those are only a few of the thought provoking and uplifting discoveries this encouraging author offers.

I nearly cried when my first few chapters came to an end.

This is a book I needed. And I have the inkling that many others do as well. We need this honest look at how to deal with the trials of our lives. Life, especially these days, is rough. Not everyone is facing cancer, but as Margaret acknowledges, every one of us has dealt with or is going through some difficult situation.

And God intends for us, enables us to live in joy.

Even in the darkest, most heart-wrenching of times. Not putting on a fake smile of “Everything’s great!,” but existing with something deeper and stronger in the midst of pain or sorrow.

I for one need that.

Thank you, Margaret, for sharing your story. Thank you for showing us how to fight in life with true joy.

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In the distance, fireworks staccato an overture to 2015.DSC_0033

As this year comes to a close, I’m reflecting on all the difficulties, the challenges and the blessings of the previous year. Through it all, the good, the bad and the ugly, God has been faithful to heal, discipline, restore and redeem. Nothing is wasted with God. No trial too small or too big. No delight left unanswered. No heartbreak left unattended.

So, with all the pain and joy, it has been a good year.

A very good year.

And I want to thank you, my readers and comrades in this life journey for walking with me, offering encouraging words and prayers, supporting me and allowing me to speak into your lives with words that I pray have come from the Lord.

Will you celebrate with me over these milestones?

  • I published my first book, The Miracle of Us: Confessions of an Online Dater. Yippee! And people like it. I am humbled and grateful beyond words.
  • I welcomed grandchild #7 and #8, a seven month old granddaughter who lives with mom and dad in Poland, and a grandson born one week ago yesterday. I have yet to meet Liwia, except on Skype for now, but we will become friends that way until I get to hug her in person. In two weeks, I will have the pleasure of holding my youngest grandson, Zion.
  • I finished writing my first novel, A Voice from the Past.  Double yippee! Looking for an agent, but may end up with another self-publish. We’ll see…
  • We got out of the moldy house!!!!!!!!! Feeling so much better, but still on the mend.
  • We moved across the country from California to Florida, and we all love it here. God has answered so many prayers with this move. (Though I sorely miss my family and friends – especially grandkids #4 & 6 – they grow so fast!)
  • My husband has 2 great jobs now which we pray will soon stabilize us financially. Thank you, Lord for provision.
  • I’m homeschooling our youngest two children in jr and sr high. I love having them around, and they are growing remarkably in every way.
  • I’m working on a new e-book which should be out in about a month or less….(you’re curious now, aren’t you?)
  • I’ve started work on three other projects: a non-fiction sequel called Beyond the Miracle: When the Fairy Tale Becomes Reality that follows the lessons learned in our first six years of marriage ; a biblical historical novel Rachel’s Son, and a suspense novel Silk Stalkings. Only God knows in what order they will be completed.

Thank you all for your wonderful support in every way. May God bless your coming year with fruitfulness and joy.

What are some of your highlights of the year?

 

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We continue our series on deliverance from spiritual bondage

In our trouble, there is hope.145 (2)

Jesus is always waiting for us with open arms. And he finds ways to draw us to himself so we will want to seek what he has for us.

Like the woman we’ve been reading about. First, Jesus spoke to her when others wouldn’t have done so. Next, he offered he something she needed. Water.

Something so simple, but with such depth.

The woman was invited to find out more. And she needed something. So she asked

Where can you get this living water?” (Verse 11)

She wanted to understand who it was that dared speak to her. Her curiosity led her to ask if he was greater than the only thing she knew who had authority, which was Jacob, the patriarch of the Jews. But Jesus is greater than she understood, and what he offered her was more than she could imagine.

Bigger than her expectations.

His offer ignited hope.

Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him, will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” (verse 13-14)

Initially, I think the woman was simply looking for a practical way to avoid facing the daily shame of going to draw water in public. Maybe she was tired of trying to go there in the heat of the day to evade the crowd.

She didn’t realize that Jesus had so much more for her. Not just a quick fix for the symptoms of her life, but a change of heart, and life with a new beginning.

Nevertheless, she was hooked, and wanted whatever he had.

The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this living water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”(verse 15)

And because she asked, Jesus gave.

He began by revealing the reality of her current life to her. He gave her the chance to confess, repent and allow Him to exchange the brokenness of her life for something new.

Jesus did this by asking her to call her husband. She answered she didn’t have one. She told him part of the truth; he told her the rest of it.

Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have said is quite true.”(verse 17-18)

No condemnation. No judgment.

Jesus simply spoke the truth in love and left it to her to decide what she wanted to do with it. He knew her heart was tired and ashamed, that she longed for something better, but first she had to look at the truth of what her life had become.

Why do we hear the truth spoken in love by God or a dear friend or family member as judgment?

Most of us have been spoken to with that self-righteous finger-pointing attitude. And we’ve have spoken with that accusing tone too. Haven’t we?

But that isn’t Jesus’ heart towards us.

That is Satan’s voice. The wolf after sheep, the prowling lion looking to devour. He is the accuser and condemner who entices us into something, offering it as the answer, the valuable thing, the only way out and then turning on us when we are trapped by it, jabbing us with a jagged finger of judgment.

Is it any wonder we point at others desperately seeking escape?

But God offers us truth as a way out.

It may be painful and feels counter intuitive. But it is where we begin to break free. And Satan loses his grip one clawing finger at a time.

What is the reality of your life? Are you ready to ask Jesus to help you with it?

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Have you ever asked yourself that question?IMG_0368

I don’t mean in a skeptical, it-won’t-do-anything kind of way. What I’m talking about is that deep searching of what prayer means. It’s not like God needs us to tell him what’s going on in our lives. He knows everything. And he knows what we need, so do we need to remind him? Besides, He is God Almighty, creator of the universe and the one who holds everything together and controls it all. Does he need our input?

So what is the purpose of prayer then?

Well, I asked Him. After all, in James he tells us if we lack wisdom to ask and he will give it to us. So I asked. And I guess that is the first purpose of prayer. God wants to give us things and he’s waiting for us to ask. He says if we ask, we will receive. And wisdom is a good thing to start with. But sometimes we can feel like we’re asking Santa for a Christmas list, and that’s not the point. Even though God longs to give us the desires of our heart.

I thought there was something more.

Partnership is a concept we’ve discussed in church. A former pastor, Daniel Brown, used to describe God wanting to partner with us in doing his will. Like a father asking his son to help him take out the trash. Dad doesn’t need his little boy’s help, but it’s about the relationship. Doing something together. I like that.

But, I still believed there was even more.

So when I asked, I was reminded of the Lord’s Prayer. We call it that because it is how Jesus told us to pray. Hmm…maybe there’s something in that.

I grew up reciting that prayer as a rote tradition. Even singing it, while deeply moving, didn’t impart the depth of it’s meaning to me. But the day I asked Jesus about praying, this is what struck me…

If God is all about us talking to him, and asking him for things, and partnering with us, then maybe praying that prayer would look something like this (translation my own):

Our Father, who is in heaven, I praise your holy name! I honor you as Almighty God. You are so holy! You are so worthy of my praise. Because You want to do good things for us, I invite you to bring your kingdom into my life and do your will just as you have purposed it already in heaven because you are great and good and have wonderful things planned for me. Whatever that is, I want it, so I ask you for it. Please, Lord God, I ask that your kingdom would come here to earth. That your will would be done here on earth. And please, since you know all I need, will you provide it. Just for today? I won’t worry about tomorrow, but trust you to give me what I need today. And about forgiveness, Lord. You forgive me for everything so will you please make me willing and able to forgive others the same way? Thank you that temptation is never from you. Will you please deliver us from evil? That awful enemy, Satan, who is looking to distract us from you and destroy our lives? I know you can and will do all this because your kingdom is glorious and powerful, and you love me so very much.

What do you think?

I’ve begun to pray this way, acknowledging who God is and inviting him to bring his kingdom to earth. That his will would be done in my life, in my home, my marriage, my children’s and family members’ lives, my friend’s lives, in my church, community, city, state and nation, as well as the world. Because if I believe God is who he says he is then I have to be open to and accepting of what he wants to do here on earth.

And I’m seeing incredible things happening.

Not always what I expect, but always great and good. In my life, my husband’s life, our marriage and family. Truly amazing.

God is a gentleman and never forces us. But he longs to do good for us, with us and through us. As soon as we invite him, remembering who he is and what is truly important, he will bring his kingdom to us.

I challenge you to give this a try and let me know what you see happen in your life.

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Last week I slipped out for a morning walk as the sun crept up into the morning sky.Sunrise in Aptos

Birds called, lizards skittered across the sidewalk and a couple squirrels chased each other up and around a tree. A few blocks into my outing, the bright pink blossoms of an oleander bush brought a smile. I longed to pick a few and take them home, but didn’t want to spoil the view for someone else. Then I noticed a dozen or so scattered on the ground. I felt okay about carting one of those beauties home with me.

But when I bent to take hold of it, I was disappointed.

Small, brownish spots marred the petals. Naturally. The flowers had fallen from the bush because they were dying. But from afar, I hadn’t noticed. They looked as unspoiled as the ones still blooming.

God had a picture in the petals for me.

In our new home, the paint marks of a darker hue mar the surface of most of our walls where the previous tenants tried to touch up nail holes. For some strange reason, the paint that is supposed to match, doesn’t. I had been so disappointed with the messed up walls that I had been focusing on it for days. What could I do? How could we match the paint? Should we repaint or ask the owner to?

In that narrow focus, I was losing sight of the our home being a gift from God.

Like viewing bacteria under a microscope, I saw things hugely disporpotionate to their actual size. It changed my perspective and created an attitude of discontent and worry instead of thanksgiving. Before my scrutinizing, my home was a beautiful blessing from the Lord. Just like the blossoms dropped on the sidewalk.

And there was more.

I contemplated these things as I continued my walk and entered the nature trail. The wide sidewalk was cool and shady, a respite from the growing heat. But I also began to feel nervous in this new setting. Trees emerged from the dark, swampy ground on each side of the path and hung over the top like a canopy. Thoughts of alligators began to plague me. What if they were lurking within grabbing reach of my hesitant steps? Fear crept into my heart where none resided before.

On the left!

A cheerful voice called out from behind me.

An older couple smiled and waved as they rode by me on bikes. I smiled as the fear melted a bit inside me. Within a few steps, another biker rounded a bend in front of me, calling out

Good morning! Beautiful day, isn’t it?

Yes. Yes it was. Especially with a change in my perspective.

I hadn’t seen or heard the approaching neighbors because they were outside my scope of vision. Once again, I couldn’t see the bigger picture because of the narrow focus of my situation.

God reminded me that morning that if I look too intently at my circumstances, I can miss the beauty in what he has for me, or what he is doing. I lose sight of him and his goodness, his provison and his love. Which is exactly what had been happening as I contemplated our dwindling finances, my husband’s lack of job, our belongings damaged by the movers, and of course, the paint spots on my walls.

Our pastor said something similar this weekend.

If all we see is short range, then the long range will always look fuzzy.

His words reminded me of my morning walk.

I don’t want to miss the clarity of the Lord’s perspective and trusting that the big picture is a good one from where he sits. I don’t want to let my narrow view draw me into fear or discontent or thinking that the beauty and goodness of what’s he’s done for me has been lost or ruined by the markings of life.

So, what’s your perspective?

 

 

 

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