EDITOR’S NOTE: Just because someone is raised in a Christian home and surrounded by church all of the time does not guarantee salvation. For Mark, being raised in the church and in a Spirit-led home gave him the knowledge of God, but it wasn’t until he only had God to trust in that He learned what it truly meant to be a follower of Jesus.
If I were to describe myself in one sentence it would be as follows: I am an ordinary Christian man empowered by an extraordinary God. Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Apart from Christ I am extremely limited, but when I put my faith and trust completely in Him, there’s no telling what can be accomplished.
I was blessed to be born into a Christian family. I think it’s safe to say that the first Sunday after coming home from the hospital was my introduction to the inside of a church building. We were one of those families that attended church every time the doors opened. The churches we attended throughout my childhood through early adulthood were either Baptist or non-denominational. At the age of 6, I came to understand who Jesus was and what He had done for me. During a family bible study, I remember kneeling at my father’s easy chair and asked Jesus to come into my life.
I was about 10 when I picked up my first guitar. By my Junior High years I was leading the singing for our youth group. This early “worship leading” lasted right on through the college Sunday school groups I was part of. I was also involved with choirs and ensembles throughout Junior High and High School. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was all early training for being a Worship Leader later in life. I also began writing songs about and to my Lord and Savior during high school and college years.
Between Church, Sunday School, Youth groups, several Christian camps, growing up in a Christian home, living for over 10 years on the grounds of Campus Crusade for Christ at Arrowhead Springs, attending a Christian High School my Junior and Senior year, and spending two years at Azusa Pacific University, I gained a great deal of knowledge about God and His word by the time I left school and was married in 1983. Unfortunately, and in spite of my significant Christian experience, I gave into several negative influences in my life and proceeded to put God on the proverbial shelf for a few years in the 80’s. As is the case with most Christians, when you try to live your life ignoring God, life becomes increasingly frustrating and stressful; especially when you do things that you know in your heart to be wrong. Fortunately, even though I chose to leave God out of my life during that time, He never left me nor forsook me.
In the spring of 1989, my Dad and I had lunch at a local restaurant. Eventually our conversation turned towards spiritual matters. I can only remember how our conversation ended. He simply asked me something like “when are you going to start living for God again?” I don’t recall specifically how I answered, but I do know that the following morning I picked up the Bible and began having a daily devotion time, and began praying daily. Since that day I can honestly say that in each year, there are probably only 2 or 3 days that I might miss my “quiet time.” In my opinion, taking time with God each day by reading His Word and talking to Him is the most critical aspect of living a victorious Christian life.
Shortly after “rededicating” my life to Christ, my family once again starting attending church on a regular basis. After a few years the Lord opened up the door for me to start leading worship for a local church. During the 90’s, we also teamed up with the Pastor of the church we were attending (they were/are also close friends) and began a ministry called “It’s Fun Being Saved”. Our ministry would meet weekly for prayer and worship, and we would travel to various churches as God would open up doors for us to minister. We also found ourselves ministering on various Indian reservations in California and Arizona. It was during this time in the 90’s that my desire for God and serving Him grew by leaps and bounds. I came to clearly understand the difference between being an “ordinary” Christian (one who has been saved, but is not “walking in the Spirit” or living his/her life under the constant influence and power of the Holy Spirit), and an “extraordinary” Christian. This is not by any means to say that I became, or am currently free from ever giving into sin, or will ever be while on this planet. But it does mean that my desire for the things of this world has greatly diminished in the light of His glory and grace.
In the late 90’s, I briefly led worship (2 years) for another church that was a plant from the one mentioned above. Then, in July of 2001, the Lord opened up the door for me to lead worship at the church I am currently serving with (Morongo Faith Chapel). This church is actually on the Morongo Indian reservation in Southern California.
Just like the 90’s, the last 10 years have also been very spiritually eventful. I had become a licensed minister back in 1997 and as a result, I have had the opportunity to officiate over numerous weddings and funerals since that time. In the last 3 to 4 years, the Lord has also opened up the door for me to preach behind the pulpit on dozens of occasions. I actually found myself frequently sharing a short word as God would impress this upon my heart during times of worship, but as more and more opportunities to preach have come across my path, I sense that God may be leading me in this direction.
Probably the single most significant spiritual event that took place in the last 10 years was when I felt compelled to leave a 12+ year successful secular career and pursue the ministry full time. Without going into great detail, it was around 1996 when I first sensed the call of God on my life. I knew at the time that God simply said wait and I will tell you when. Well, in 2005, several events and “small” miracles took place that convinced me that God was saying “now”. In August of that year, I gave my boss a one month notice and officially quit 1 month later. Some within the circle of my friends and relatives thought I was a bit nuts, others cheered me on from a distance, and a small handful gave their full support. Unfortunately, my wife was part of the first group of folks.
I know that I made many mistakes as a started out on this journey. I frequently found myself caught up in time wasting efforts and distractions. Ultimately, things didn’t turn out the way “I” expected. By March of the following year, the finances had dwindled and I found myself searching for ways to help “support” my family in the midst of doing ministry. Hindsight clearly reveals to me that God needed to “burn” away a lot of useless stuff and poor habits I had developed; especially with handling finances (an area that still needs a bit more work).
I don’t regret what I did in August of 2005. I believe firmly that this was all part of His perfect plan. He has used the last several “difficult” years to draw me into a closer relationship to Him. Difficulties that included getting booted out of a house that we were renting with only 3 days notice because we had fallen behind on our rent. Fortunately the in-laws took us in for what we thought would be a month or two at the most. Two years later, we were finally on our own once again. Talk about learning to be content under extremely trying circumstances. But, once again, I believe all the difficult circumstances have served their purpose; to help us be content in all situations, and learn to rely on our Lord and Savior for everything. To be completely honest, our life has been one miracle after another for the last few years. We have come to the end of our rope so many times, and yet God just keeps making a way at just the right time.
I know that I am still a work in progress, and this work will continue till the day that Jesus takes me home. Sometimes it seems like the closer I get to God, the more inadequate I realize that I am. But, Praise God, because it’s not about me, it’s about Him and what He can do through me. I just need to be a willing vessel, ready to do His will. I know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.