Re:MARKS

The Peace that Guards Us

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV.)

In the previous update, I shared the lessons the Father was teaching me regarding my anxiety. If you missed that article, you can read it here: https://timothymark.com/countdown-to-antarctica/

At the time, little did I know how quickly circumstances in my world would change.

Within days of posting the previous blog, the sailboat sold! It is an immense relief to know it is taken care of before departing for Antarctica. I celebrate this milestone.

That’s the good news. Now for the bad news.

This past Tuesday evening, I received an email from my supervisor in Antarctica. The subject line read, “Unfortunate News.” Cautiously, I opened the email. The National Science Foundation (NSF) oversees the research and work at McMurdo, Antarctica. Due to the escalating pandemic, they decided to cut back the scale of work at McMurdo this season. Unfortunately, as a result, my position was eliminated. That’s right. Downsized. Cut. Gone. Crickets chirping. I am back in alternate status. If anything opens up, they will let me know.

I sat there on the couch, trying to process the message, and reread the email on my cell phone. And I smiled. Yes, I actually smiled. And here is where it gets interesting.

You would imagine I would be disappointed, sad, bummed out. But I was not. I sat there smiling, completely content, not a care in the world, not the least bit disappointed. I began to wonder if I was mentally okay. Have I finally lost my mind? Has the stress become so great that I have completely lost it?

I had the most astounding peace. I do not have words to describe it. No worry. No anxiety. Just complete, utter peace, satisfied, full of joy. Not a care in the world.

And that is when the lesson I recently learned came back to my mind. Ah, yes, the Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious. Surrender everything to the Father. And the peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind.

There it was! I was experiencing the peace of God that is beyond understanding! It was guarding me, protecting my heart, and defending my mind. I was flabbergasted. I’ve never experienced anything like it. Honestly, I kept waiting for the other shoe to fall. Surely dismay would follow. But peace remained, anchoring me, filling me, washing over me.

I settled in to spend a few moments talking about the situation with the Father. Then, in my mind, I saw myself sitting on his lap, on his left knee. His arm was around me, his hand resting on my leg. I craned my neck and looked down over the side of his leg. There, on the floor below at his feet, was a tiny toy sailboat lying on its side. Nearby, to the right of the sailboat, was a small toy home. Then, just further away, I saw a child-sized puzzle, partially finished, the three or four remaining pieces scattered about the edges. On the face of the puzzle was the continent of Antarctica, nearly complete.

In that beautiful moment, I saw my life from the perspective of the lap of God, and it changed everything. My toys, the things I highly value in my childlike mind, lay scattered at his feet. There on his lap, none of them mattered in the least. His embrace overwhelmed me. His love filled me to the full. I sat there looking at my toys and realized there is simply no comparison to the feeling I get when I am with my Father God. Nothing even comes close. I sat there on his lap, resting in his peace, willing to set aside my toys for the joy of being with my Father, who loves me so profoundly.

I don’t recall ever experiencing peace like this in my life. It was a big moment, one I will long remember. I suspect the path to this overwhelming peace begins with surrender. I believe the moments of surrender I experienced a few weeks ago made possible the peace I enjoy today. For I think it’s unlikely that peace is possible while we cling to our toys, our problems, and our circumstances.

Further, the peace of God is not something we generate through will or effort. It is something that is given to us by God. It is the peace of or from God. Some reading this will think, “Wow, look how Tim is responding.” But that implies that I am somehow willing myself to have peace. That is not true! No, it is the supernatural peace of God at work. It is his peace that is doing the heavy lifting.

The Bible says the peace of God guards us. In the original language, it is a military term. His peace sets up a perimeter around us like a special forces team with guns drawn, defending against anything that would discourage, defeat, or cause anxiety from affecting our hearts and our minds. I merely sit there in the middle, surrendered to the Father’s embrace, surrounded by his peace. His peace guards our hearts, that place of emotion and feeling. And it guards our minds, that place of intellect and thought. Ironically, the Bible says the peace of God is beyond understanding. So while we cannot comprehend it, we experience it to the full in our hearts and minds.

The Bible says when we are aware that the owner of our lives and toys is near, we have no reason to be anxious about anything. We bring all our requests to our loving Father by prayer with thanksgiving. Then, the peace of God, which is beyond comprehension, guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7) The result of all this is that his peace protects us! Imagine. All our anxieties are vanquished. We rest in his care.

The Lord is at hand. I rest in his embrace.

Antarctica Update

With this change, there is still a possibility I will be in Antarctica this winter. If an existing team member falls ill or leaves the program for some reason, management may ask me to replace them. So I keep my bags packed and ready to go on short notice. I know of other past season team members who were alternates who were called in November to join the team on base. So we will wait to see what God has planned. The good news is that if I do not make it to the Ice this year, I get priority in joining the team next year! So there is still a great deal of hope to see the puzzle completed.

Once again, I will not have access to Facebook or any other social media sites in Antarctica. The only updates I expect to make will be through the email mailing list. If you are reading this on the website or from a forwarded email and are not currently a member, join the community here: https://timothymark.com/email-signup/

 

The Lord is at hand

As a reminder, I will not have access to Facebook or any other social media site when I am in Antarctica. The only updates I expect to make will be through the email mailing list. If you are reading this on the website or from a forwarded email and are not currently a member, you can join the list here: https://timothymark.com/email-signup/

“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5b-7, ESV.)

The clock is ticking, and the day of departure for Antarctica is only a few weeks away. Recently, I reviewed my journal of this journey over the past few months, and I noticed a disturbing trend. Again and again, I wrote about the anxiety I was feeling through the process of getting the job and preparing to leave. A sense of anxiety seems to be on repeat play. Throughout this season, there have been many moments when I felt anxious. The dream is so big and challenging to attain. It is a rare handful of people who get the opportunity I have sought. Now, feeling so close to the finish line, I feel stressed instead of at peace.

For several years, I have felt overwhelmed by my responsibilities with the ministry, work outside of the ministry, owning a home, owning a vehicle, and sailboat, all of which need attention and focus. Now, with deploying to Antarctica on the horizon, I feel like I am driving a car 100 miles per hour, trying to bring it to a complete stop before I leave. I am standing on the brake as hard as I can, but it feels like I am locked up and in a slide out of control. The perception has filled me with anxiety over and over again.

I can give many logical reasons why I should not feel anxious. But anxiety doesn’t respond to logic. Instead, anxiety glares at me, demanding my attention. When I lay down to sleep, it awakens, prodding me, imposing itself, stealing slumber and rest. Instead of shutting off, my brain turns on, trying to settle anxious thoughts that have rested in the background all day. The only way to break the cycle is to get up and read a book or watch TV until I finally feel able to go to sleep. This cycle happened to me in the process of getting the Primary position at McMurdo. And I find it happening to me again as the days tick down to deploying in September.

I’ve worked hard to check things off my list as I close down my life here for the time being. I’ve purchased all the items required, and my bags are still a few pounds under the allowed weight. But one essential thing remains unresolved – what to do with my sailboat.

In Florida, the winter months are the best months for sailing and living aboard the vessel. Most sailboat owners put their boats into safe storage for the summer hurricane season. It does not make sense to keep the sailboat since I will likely be working in Antarctica for the next few winters (i.e., the best time to live aboard and sail). So, I decided to sell it.

During this time, writing the book has been my primary focus. After that, I focused on preparing for a week of meetings at the end of last month. Now, with just five weeks away from the expected departure, I am finally getting around to listing the boat for sale. Once again, a sense of panic settled in. I began to feel anxious about it. Logically, I know I can just put it in storage and manage it next year. But again, my anxiety does not respond to logic.

Anxiety gnawed at my gut. At the height of my concern, the Father reminded me of a verse I learned as a child. It says, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:-7, ESV.)

I looked up the verses on my laptop. I noticed an odd thing. In the English Standard Version, the phrase, “do not be anxious about anything…” begins in the lower case, implying it is in the middle of a thought or sentence. Curious, I looked up the whole passage to consider the context. There it was. The preceding phrase says, “The Lord is at hand;” Read together it says this: “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything….”

I looked into the original language for the phrase “The Lord is at hand.” For the word “Lord,” Strong’s Concordance describes it this way: he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has the power of deciding; master, Lord or the possessor and disposer of a thing.

I was taken aback. The answer to my anxiety appeared in a straightforward phrase. “He to whom a person or thing belongs.” Those words exposed the heart of my fear. The glaring truth is that I was attempting to play God. But God alone is Lord. I belong to him.

Further, everything in my care belongs to him. I am merely the steward. I take care of his things the best I can. Even my body is his. I cannot change myself. I cannot control whether or not I get Covid before I depart for McMurdo. I cannot change my circumstances. I can only surrender, yielding my rights of ownership, yielding control, giving up the right of deciding what is best for me or my possessions. I belong to him. My home belongs to him. My car belongs to him. My sailboat belongs to him. It all belongs to him, and he alone has the power of deciding how to use it or even dispose of it. I say again. He alone has the power of deciding how to use it or even dispose of it.

For days I had tried to discipline myself not to be anxious. But trying harder to overcome my anxiety did not work. Surrender did. Appalled, I confessed to the Father how I have attempted to control my situation with getting the job in Antarctica. Same with taking care of the sailboat before I leave. I have tried to figure it out on my own instead of resting in the knowledge that my Father is the only owner of the vessel. He alone has the power of deciding what is best and how to dispose of it if necessary. If he doesn’t want to sell it, it won’t sell. If he wants to store it, he will store it. It is not my decision to make. So I wait for him to tell me what he wants me to do with his things.

Further, the Bible says, “The Lord is at hand.” He is not some faraway God, unconcerned with our day-to-day lives. He is near. He is with us. The one who owns all things and has the authority to decide what is best is close. He is aware. It is not as if he is somehow preoccupied somewhere far away in the universe. He is here! With us!

According to this passage, my sole responsibility is to bring all my requests to the Father, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving. I spent an hour talking with the Father, surrendering anew and afresh, letting go of my desire to control, yielding fully, finally resting in his embrace. My prayer had little to do with going to Antarctica and even less to do with a sailboat. It had everything to do with emptying my heart. The one thing that actually matters to my Father. My heart.

For me, the key to overcoming anxiety is not trying harder. It is surrender. And so I do not ask for relief; I ask for conformity. The Father pulls, stretches, slowly conforms me to the image of Jesus. Jesus, the son who trusted his Father fully even to the point of laying down his life. When we are aware of the presence of the Lord with us, we do not need to be anxious about anything. He is at hand. He is near. He is with us. Because of that, we let go of our anxious thoughts.

At that moment, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. When I surrendered control to my Father, I found a fresh perspective and peace. Options for storing the boat became clear, negating the pressure to make a quick sale before departure. Peace settled in where anxiety had ruled. And most importantly, my Father realigned my heart with his.

Antarctica Update

Note: This blog was originally posted July 12, 2021

Saturday afternoon, I received a phone call from my contact with the Lodging Department at McMurdo, Antarctica. I was surprised to get a call on the weekend. She called to offer me a Primary Contract as a janitor. Of course, I said, “Yes!” I am over the moon excited. I was driving when she called. After I hung up, I looked around the car to confirm the windows were rolled up,  and I shouted for joy!

So it is official! I deploy September 11 for orientation in San Francisco and then two weeks of quarantine in Christchurch, New Zealand, before flying to the ice sometime around the beginning of October. I’ll write more later, but I wanted you to know before I begin posting on social media.

Celebrating the Father’s kindness,

What matters most

Note: This blog was originally posted in July of 2021.

This morning in my time with the Father, I spoke with him about an issue that has been hounding me – my alternate status with the team preparing for Antarctica. I envy the folks who have primary status. When I scroll down the page of Facebook post of team members, I am excited for them, and frustrated at the same time. Their plans are set in place. As an alternate, I prepare as if I am going on October 1, with no idea if that will actually happen. I’ve scrutinized the gear needed down to the specific fabric content of the recommended base layers. Amazon delivers packages to my front porch almost on a daily basis. A storage bin in the back of my closet, dedicated to McMurdo, is overflowing at this point. But the one thing I cannot purchase is peace over not yet having a job placement. Over the past few days, I’ve talked with the Father about my longing for a primary position. I’ve asked him to give me a job placement. I’ve told him how unsettled I feel in the process of waiting. I’ve asked for resolution, not because I want a specific job, but because I want certainty.

But this morning, my mindset changed. As I sat meditating and praying, I was reminded of the joy of experiencing the presence of God. The manifest presence of the Father in the midst of the everyday moments of life is a treasure. To know he is near brings me joy. When his love washes over me, the unnecessary things fade away. And the things that are critical come clearly into focus. Distinguishing between the two is crucial to understanding the peace the Father longs for us to experience.

When I was reminded of his presence with me, suddenly the room felt illuminated, lighter, carefree or at least care-less. In that moment, whether or not I even went to Antarctica did not matter. If I got a job assignment, or what placement I got did not matter. Only the presence of the Father mattered. Suddenly praying for these things seemed frivolous. The Bible says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9, ESV). The Father thinks thoughts that are far different from mine. To flip the script, my thoughts are lower than the Father’s thoughts. My ways are lower than his ways. I’m a low-thinker. I’m concerned about a job placement. The Father is a high-thinker. The Father is concerned about drawing his kids closer to himself. He longs to dwell with them. This is the thought that consumes him. The key is to learn to think like he thinks, prioritizing thoughts of his presence with us. Focusing on the one thing that matters: dwelling with him. When we do this, we find the other things we thought were so important are not. Suddenly it no longer matters what job I get, or even if I go at all. All that matters is that I dwell with the Father wherever he leads. Today, in this moment, I dwell with him. Tomorrow, whatever may come, I choose to dwell with him. I practice the priority of his presence and nothing else.

This is not to say that my low thoughts do not matter to the Father. It is just that he sees them in the proper context. It is the difference between how a toddler thinks and a father thinks. A toddler thinks about what will make him happy in the moment. If he wants a toy, he will cry if he doesn’t get it. All that matters is his happiness in that specific moment. The father understands, but he also is thinking about the health and safety of the child. The father is thinking higher thoughts. The child is thinking low thoughts. The father loves the child, and loves doing things that will make the child happy. But the father is always aware of the higher issues – the health and wellness of the child. The happiness of the child is far less a concern.

So I let go of my toys, and crawl unto his lap. He lifts me unto his knee, and brushes a hair from my face. I reach up with my tiny hand to feel the stubble on his chin. He laughs. He smiles as he looks into my eyes. I collapse unto his chest, feeling the warmth of his breath on the back of my neck. All is lost in the moment. All concern, stripped away as his chest rises and falls beneath me. I am a child with my Father. In this moment, nothing else matters. His thoughts become my thoughts. And the things I thought were important suddenly seem so far away, so distant, in a muffled haze.

In the stillness of the moment, I realize I have forgotten what I wanted to ask.

Antarctica!

Lord willing, this October through February of 2022, I will work at the McMurdo research base in Antarctica as support staff for the ongoing work of the National Science Foundation. I imagine this is a shock to many of you. My disdain for cold weather is legendary. But my love for adventure is far greater than my dislike of the cold. And, as a bonus, the Extreme Cold-Weather (ECW) gear is provided.

Let me explain how the idea of working in Antarctica came about.

For over twenty years, I have wanted to experience Antarctica. Cruise ships can take you there, but you hardly get any time off the boat on land, and it is costly. I wanted the grand adventure of living there. In 2007, I applied for a position but did not make the cut. Usually, my ministry schedule doesn’t allow me to consider the idea. Enter the pandemic, and the ministry schedule ground to a halt.

Last October, I realized the pandemic opened up an opportunity to work in Antarctica. I researched job opportunities at the three United States bases. On December 31st, 2020, I applied for eight different jobs. I applied for anything I was remotely qualified for, from janitorial, kitchen crew, and administrative positions.

On March 22nd, I received an email stating I met the minimum requirements to work as a janitor at the McMurdo base. I was beyond excited to learn I had the bare-minimum skills necessary for a job as a janitor! I laughed out loud. I was over the moon. I couldn’t sleep. I called friends and family with the news. Next, I had an hour interview with the head of the Lodging Department. Finally, on April 30th, I was offered a contract with the United States Polar Services as a Janitor Alternate. The alternate status meant I was not selected for a primary role but would have to wait for a position to open. It also meant I needed to get a background check, drug testing, and an extensive medical clearance. I had to get Physically Qualified (PQ’d).

First up was a trip to my local lab for bloodwork. Next, I had a complete dental check-up. The physical exam lasted two hours. The staff at the medical clinic said it was the most extensive physical they had ever done. It certainly was the most intrusive medical exam I’ve ever had! There are limited medical resources at the base, so it is critical to know if I have any health issues which would preclude me from going. Finally, I submitted the completed paperwork to the University of Texas Medical Unit Polar Services and nervously waited. On June 3rd, I learned I was officially PQ’d! UTMU cleared me to work in Antarctica! It was the final hurdle.

At this time, I am in limbo for a job assignment. The Program Director said they expect all the alternates to receive a job placement this year. Any open position I am qualified for becomes an option, so I may not work as a janitor in the end. I would happily take the janitor role, but we will see what becomes available. McMurdo is the largest of the three U.S. bases, with around 300 support staff supporting approximately 600 researchers. It is the primary hub for most of the research in the region.

There is the possibility I will not go this year. The Bible says it is better to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:15). Submitting our plans to the will of the Father is an important truth. Budget cuts affecting the National Science Foundation Antarctic research may cause a reduction in support staff.  A primary position may not open up. I wait to see what God has planned. I am content to know he is entirely in control.

Ministry-wise, I have planned the time in Antarctica into the timeline for launching the book I am currently writing. I am excited by the progress I am making on the book. Every weekday morning from 7 – 11, I write. I shut off my cell phone and block off distractions. I usually start with some time sitting on the lap of God, asking him what he would have me to write. Lord willing, I will have the first draft completed by the end of July. When the rough draft is complete, I will begin rewriting, editing, designing the cover, developing the marketing plan, etc. Some of this process will transpire while I am in Antarctica. When I return in late February, I will set in motion the process leading to publication in June 2022. If for some reason, I do not travel to Antarctica, the timeline would remain the same. There is a strong fatherhood message in the book, so I want to launch around Father’s Day next year.

With my ongoing ministry work with house churches and prayer gatherings, I hope to plant a prayer gathering at McMurdo. Isolation so far from home draws many together who seek community in interest-based groups. Outside of work, there are music groups, crafting groups, lectures, and community bulletin boards to gather like-minded folks. There is no internet to speak of, no cell phones to distract, just long conversations with friends. I hope to share the prayer gathering model with other believers who work there. And I hope to connect with the military chaplain there to support their ongoing work of ministry. I can hardly wait to see what God has planned.

Throughout the long, drawn-out process, I saw the Father at work in my personal life in my relationship with him. At times, I felt anxious. I sensed I was pushing too hard to make it happen. The goal seemed so close. I grew weary from the adrenalin roller coaster from getting good news and waiting for long periods for the next step to happen. In the quiet moments, I heard the Father say to me, “Tim, do you trust me or not? Do you trust that I am in control? Are you willing to let me orchestrate whether you go or stay?” Those times with him led to sweet conversations about his love for me. I rest in his embrace. I love him alone. I am content with whatever he chooses for me.

Last month, in the monthly newsletter, I wrote about learning the art of sitting still on the lap of God. Now you know why I was learning that lesson. In his love for us, God longs to see our relationship with him growing in depth. He longs for us to experience the fullness of our relationship with him.

Have you experienced moments of anxiety as I have? At the core of our stress is a lack of trust. We doubt the Father can take care of our situation. We lie awake into the night, trying to figure out what we need to do to see a resolution. Far better to find ourselves safely on the lap of the Father as our concerns melt into a sea swirling at his feet. It is as if a hurricane of needs whirl around him in ever-widening circles. But at the center, in the stillness of the eye of the storm, the Father’s sits quietly, playing with his child. To our wonder, we discover it is the Father who swirls the storm with his finger.

Yes, he is trustworthy. He is worthy of our trust. When we are near him, we are at peace. When we stray from his lap and try to make life work apart from him, we find ourselves in the storm.

The Bible says, “I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand” (Psalm 31:14-15, ESV).

What a treasure to rest in his care.

Summer Update

When the year began, none of us expected a pandemic would turn our lives upside down. Yet here we are! I pray you are well. I am well and getting along fine with minimal interruptions to my daily routine.

I am grateful to share an update with you. God is still at work. He is still speaking to us. In this update, I share a recent experience I had in learning to trust God more. I hope you are encouraged when you read it.

Update on the Giving Challenge and the Love One Another Challenge

Thank you to everyone who participated in the 2020 Giving Challenge in April despite the pandemic hitting at the same time. The Giving Challenge is a matching grant campaign provided by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County with funding provided by the Patterson Foundation. We participate in this unique giving opportunity every eighteen months. This time I did not feel comfortable marketing the matching grant campaign with so many people out of work and struggling financially. Instead of marketing it on social media, I only shared the information with you, our core supporters. I was surprised by the response. With matching grants, the ministry received over $4,000.00 because of your generosity. These resources help tremendously, especially with the external work of the ministry shut down for the foreseeable future. Thank you for your kind and generous giving!

Publicly, instead of promoting the Giving Challenge, we asked our Facebook friends to find someone in need and meet those needs instead of giving to the ministry. We called it “The Love One Another Challenge.” For several weeks, I updated Facebook with thoughts on how loving others matters. Again, the response was outstanding. I don’t know the exact amount of gifts made to others. However, I received many stories of how God was using folks like you in radical ways to meet other people’s needs. One artist sold several pieces and used the income to bless a waitress with a need. Some used their government stimulus check to meet someone else’s needs. Someone gave an extra car they had to a family with a transportation need. It was exciting to watch God moving people to love one another. From my perspective, this giving blessed me as much or more than the Giving Challenge matching grant campaign. As a ministry, our goal is to influence others to love God with abandon and to love others selflessly. It was a blessing to watch others fulfill the mission of our ministry through their kindness and generosity.

As a ministry, we have a small group of friends who support the ministry on a monthly basis. If you’re interested in supporting the ministry with a one-time or monthly gift, click here for our secure giving platform:  https://timothymark.com/financial-support/

In the holding pattern

As uncertainty over the virus continues, I am focusing my efforts on the final edits for a new book and working on new music. In time, I look forward to ministry in Seattle, southern Michigan, Bolivia, and Asia with prayer gatherings and house church planting. Thank you for your part in all that God is doing through your prayer and financial support. You are a blessing!

Learning to trust

As you can imagine, ministry wise, everything is in a holding pattern right now. Here in Florida, my home is in an area with minimal impact from the virus. I am not traveling with the prayer gatherings or house church planting ministry. I have had only one ministry event since the pandemic began. At this time, there is nothing on the schedule for the rest of the year. However, seeing God at work motivates me for the ministry ahead.

In June, a conference center in New Hampshire asked if I would speak for seven sessions in a Family Conference. The conference was in two weeks! Oh my! I said, “Yes,” and immediately started praying. It is pretty much impossible to prepare seven messages in fourteen days. So my goal was to spend as much time in prayer as possible. I wanted to make sure my heart synced up with the Father’s heart. If I could align myself with his heart, he could say what he wanted to say through me. I chose to surrender my voice to the Holy Spirit. I decided to focus on sharing my passion instead of points. I would share my hunger for a relationship with a loving God. And I would wait for the Holy Spirit to tell me what he wanted to say.

I wish I could say I trusted God fully in this, but the reality is I went back and forth with God on whether I would trust him or not. What if I didn’t prepare well enough, and I look like a fool when I speak? What if I only have ten minutes of material but am expected to share for forty-five? One day, in a moment of panic, I heard the still small voice of God speaking to my spirit. “Tim,” he said, “I am only giving you two weeks’ notice so you will not over-prepare. I want you to rely on me instead.”

The Holy Spirit reminded me that I had decided to focus on sharing my passion instead of points. He just kept saying to me, “Tim, will you trust me to speak or not?” For two weeks, it was a reoccurring conversation with him. Would I trust him or not? Some days I felt a surge of confidence. Other days, not so much. I am not the Apostle Tim. I am just Tim trying to follow God the best I can. Notice the issue was not for wisdom to know what to share at the conference. The question was whether I would trust the Holy Spirit to speak through me. Was I willing to step into the pulpit with little preparation and let the Holy Spirit have the floor? As a result, I spent more time in prayer than preparation. And, oh my, what a difference!

I’ve never seen anything like it. Session after session, the Holy Spirit took over the room. In one session, I started the introduction and finished speaking forty-five minutes later. It was then I realized I had never walked back to the podium. The sermon notes I had prepared sat unused in a neat little stack on the podium. Yet, from my perspective, it was the clearest I have seen the Holy Spirit move while I was speaking. It was shocking.

I am still riding the high from the week of ministry. What a privilege! I believe the lesson God taught me in trusting him will stay with me for a long time to come. Just yield. Let go. Let God take over. Imagine what God could do if we yielded fully to him.

Surrender

My story is unique to me, but I suspect the principle behind my experience is universal to all who follow Jesus. We surrender to him. We lay down our abilities, our talents, our desires, and we follow Jesus. Jesus then takes our abilities, our talents, and our dreams, and the Holy Spirit uses them to bring others to the Father’s love.

Friend, is the Holy Spirit speaking to you, asking you to trust him more? What area of your life are you struggling to let go and let God take control? When we surrender to him, we find he does much more than we could ever think or imagine. Trust him today!

 

 

 

The Love One Another Challenge

Quick facts:

April 28-29, noon to noon

Find someone in need and give generously to meet the need.

Challenge your friends to participate using the hashtag #loveoneanother

 

Background

Every 18 months, Timothy Mark Ministries participates in a matching grant Giving Challenge funded by The Patterson Foundation. During this 24-hour event, the Foundation doubles any donation to the ministry up to $100. Many of you have participated in the past, and you know what an exciting event this is. This rare opportunity helps fund our mission to see renewal in the Church in North America and abroad.

However, the timing of the 2020 Giving Challenge comes during an unprecedented shutdown of the world economy. Millions have lost their jobs. Countless are struggling to pay bills. Some are struggling just to provide food for their families. Many feel a sense of uncertainty for the future. Many feel lonely and isolated in this new world of social distancing. I understand. I hurt for the many lives that are affected.

The Crazy Idea!

So I came up with a crazy idea. What if we encouraged people not to give to Timothy Mark Ministries during the event, but to give to meet a personal need instead? What if we could start a movement of generous giving to see needs met across the world? That’s where the Love One Another Challenge was born. As a ministry, our mission is to help others to love God with abandon and to love others selflessly. When you personally give to meet a need in your neighborhood during the 24-hour Giving Challenge instead of giving to us, you multiply our influence. When you give to others during this event, you help us to fulfill our mission.

Find someone in need

Right now, think of someone you could bless during the Challenge. Pray and ask God how he would have you to give. Then, on April 28 and 29, noon to noon, bless them with your gift! I promise, it will feel incredible!

Maybe your finances are tight, and helping someone with a financial gift is impossible. Consider baking a batch of cookies for a neighbor, and write a note of encouragement. Share your extra toilet paper! Ring the doorbell and run! Giving is fun! Plan now how you will participate.

Usually, when we participate in a social media challenge, we support a great organization. This time, we are supporting people with needs. What could be more rewarding!

Share on Social Media – #loveoneanother

You can make a difference by challenging your friends to take the Love One Another Challenge. When you share, add the hashtag #loveoneanother so we can follow where God is moving around the world.

Will you take the Love One Another Challenge? Let’s make this an exciting 24 hours of giving! Love God with abandon. Selflessly love others. Be the one to share the love of the Father during the Love One Another Challenge!

 

If you are also interested in supporting Timothy Mark Ministries during this 24-hour event, click here for information on the 2020 Giving Challenge matching grant campaign.

2020 Giving Challenge

 Quick facts:

 

 

The Details

During this trying time, I’m focusing my efforts on encouraging folks to bless those around them with the Love One Another Challenge. Some of you may also want to support the ministry during the matching grant campaign.

The 2020 Giving Challenge is an exciting 24-hour giving event taking place from Noon to Noon on April 28th and 29th. To strengthen giving, The Patterson Foundation will provide a 1:1 match for all unique donations, up to $100 per donor. All donations made during the Giving Challenge are unrestricted gifts to the ministry.

How to Give

On April 28, beginning at noon, follow the link to the Giving Challenge website. You can check out the site in advance, but the option to donate is not available until the Giving Challenge begins at noon. The event ends at noon on April 29.

Click here to give with matching funds during the noon to noon window. Only donations made through the Giving Challenge link will qualify for matching funds.

Prior to and following the event, click here to support the ministry through our regular giving page. We appreciate your support all year long. Thank you!

Matching Grant Information

The Foundation will double a maximum of $100 from each unique donor. If you want to give more than $100 and want to get the best donation possible for the ministry, then individual family members can each make a donation with different credit cards. A husband and wife could split a gift of $200, and each contribution of $100 would double. But the Foundation will only double a maximum of up to $100 of any unique donor’s gift. For example:

If you give $25 to the ministry through the Giving Challenge portal, the foundations will match your donation, and the ministry will receive $50. If you give $50, the ministry receives $100. If you give $500, the Foundation will match $100 of your gift, and the ministry gets $600.

The 2020 Giving Challenge is presented by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County with giving strengthened by The Patterson Foundation.

Questions?

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at timothy@timothymark.com.

How to host a Church gathering in your home

Many of us around the world are under a shelter-in-place order. Most are limited to gatherings of less than ten people. Many do not have the option of streaming a live service. At such a critical time, how can we continue to meet and encourage one another as the body of Christ? Here is how we do it.

 

 

• Meet with other believers in your home. Keep the gathering under the number allowed by your local authorities.
• Instead of trying to do a service, host a gathering of the body. See below.
• Care for one another.
• Pray with one another using the prayer gathering model.
• Share a meal.

Here are the details.

Meet with other believers in your home.

Keep the gathering under the number allowed by your local authorities. This is important. In our area, we can have religious gatherings if the attendance is below ten people. On a practical note, this is also easier for the host to have enough seating for everyone. Keep it small. Keep it simple.

If you are not able to physically meet together, consider using online meeting apps such as WhatsApp, Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc. Again, keep it small. It is much easier to use an app with fewer people.

Host a gathering of the body instead of trying to do a service.

I encourage you to have a gathering instead of a service. Let me explain. A gathering is different from a service.

We usually think of church as a service instead of a gathering of the body of Christ. In a service, we tend to have a time of worship, then a time of announcements and an offering, then a message. The service usually lasts about an hour.

When we have a gathering of our house church on Sundays, we meet together for three to four hours. How can we possibly meet for that long? Because we have a gathering, not a service. Think of it this way. If I have a gathering of close friends in my home, it would seem weird if we all left after only an hour. It would also seem odd if one of us dominated the conversation, and the rest of us just sat there and listened. It is the same with our house church gathering. When we meet together, essentially, it is a group of close friends gathered together as the body of Christ. The conversation flows naturally. We learn from one another and pray for one another. We find out what God is doing in each other’s lives throughout the week. We meet each other’s needs. When we do this, our gathering lasts around four hours.

Since we have a gathering and not a service, it’s okay if kids are coming in and out, sitting on laps, or playing in another room. Encourage participation as the earliest age possible.

Have a gathering, not a service. When you gather, begin by caring for one another.

Care for one another.

Take some time to find out how everyone is doing. How has God been at work throughout the week? What is God teaching you? How do you see God at work around you? Learn from one another and encourage one another. During this season, find out if anyone in the group has a financial need. Encourage everyone to meet one another’s needs. Pool resources together. What’s mine is yours.

Pray with one another using the prayer gathering model.

Have an extending time of prayer together. This is vital. This time of prayer is the one non-negotiable we have each week. We use the prayer gathering model. The focus of the prayer time is to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking to the group. This is how it works.

1. Assign someone to start the prayer time and someone to close. The one who closes the prayer time should be comfortable with the long gaps of silence. Don’t close it down too quickly. Remember to wait on the Lord.

2. We don’t expect everyone to pray. We do not pray around the room. Pray as you feel led to pray.

3. Expect long gaps of silence. Wait on the Lord. Become comfortable in the silence. Remember, we are listening to God as he speaks. When he speaks, then we respond. In the silence, listen to him talking to you in your thoughts, then answer in prayer.

4. Respond as others pray. As you are listening to someone pray, something may deeply connect with you. Respond to God with your prayer on that topic. Often, the Holy Spirit will develop a theme as the prayer time continues.

5. If a passage of Scripture comes to mind, read it to the group. You may think, “This passage doesn’t have anything to do with what is going on in my life.” Read it anyway! The Holy Spirit may be trying to speak through you to another member of the group.

6. If a worship chorus comes to mind, play it to the group on your cell phone. Often, worshiping to these songs is as powerful as a corporate worship experience. (Tip: If you use a Youtube video, silence the media volume on your phone until you can skip the ad. Then bring up the volume for the song. I’m smiling as I write this because this will probably happen in your gathering. Just laugh it off when it does.)

7. The prayer time ends when the person assigned to close in prayer believes the Holy Spirit has finished speaking. When I am assigned to close, I just ask God, “Are we done?” If he says, “Yes,” then I end our time with prayer. If he says, “No,” then I wait. Often, God is just getting started, and we shut it down too soon. Sensitivity to the Spirit is essential. One time I thought a guy shut it down too quickly. It felt like we were just getting started. But then I watched the Holy Spirit guide the conversation that followed. The Spirit was still moving. God wanted to minister to a need in the body. It was powerful! So just follow the Holy Spirit.

8. Sometimes while we are praying, the Holy Spirit may speak to someone with a thought that may be for someone else in the group. This word can be shared as the prayer time is progressing or after we have closed in prayer. We never say, “I have a word from the Lord…” We say, “I feel like God may be saying this for you.” We always want humility and godliness in our words. If done at the end, then ask if anyone feels God was speaking something to them, which might be for someone else in the group.

I encourage you to read this list to the group at the beginning of the prayer gathering, so everyone understands how the prayer time progresses.

And finally,

Share a meal.

We usually have a meal together. There is something about food with friends that binds us together. We keep it simple. The host provides a protein, and the rest of us bring a side dish. No one should feel pressured to make something from scratch. It does not need to be complicated. Hot dogs and chips work!

This model is how God has led us when we gather as a body. I imagine there are other ways to do this. Whichever way you choose, let’s love on one another and focus on the needs of our neighbors during this challenging season.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact to me. I am glad to help.

 

A letter to the Church during the Covid-19 Pandemic

I love the Church. I love the body of Christ around the world, but I have a special place in my heart for the Church in my country. It saddens me to see her struggling. For many years, I have prayed for a renewal of the Church in North America. Now, with fears of the virus spreading, our church buildings are closed. Most gatherings are suspended in our churches. On a personal level, many wonder how long it will take to get through this. How long will it take to recover economically when all this has passed? As I ponder these thoughts, I wonder if we are missing the point. What if God is trying to speak to us? And what if we miss it?

I want to be clear; I am not claiming this pandemic is a judgment from God. But I think we have to ask, is God trying to speak to us? Do a simple word search in Scripture for “plague” and read the number of times God used outbreaks to speak to his people. Over and over again, he sent plagues to initiate repentance. He sent plagues to show those in authority he was God alone. He sent plagues to bring humility. He sent plagues as judgment. These are all ways God has already used plagues in the past. Therefore, if historically, God used plagues to initiate change among his people, isn’t it likely he is doing the same for our generation?

In 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, God says to Solomon, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Notice the pattern: God initiates a trial. God’s people respond. Based on the response, God responds with forgiveness and healing.

God longs to forgive. God longs to heal our land. He wants the very best for us. So he sends a drought, he sends an invasion of locust, and he sends a pandemic. Why? Because he loves us and wants our hearts to return to him.

Naturally, we tend to focus on how we can get out of the situation. We want to get back to normal life as quickly as possible. All of us want this to be over. This desire is human. But I doubt this is God’s perspective. What if God calls us to change, and we miss it? God help us if he has to send something worse to get our attention.

In this passage, we see four areas where God desires transformation: humility, our prayer lives, turning from sin (repentance), and seeking the presence of God. Based on this word from God to Solomon, here are some questions we might ask of ourselves and our churches:

1. Am I humble? Are there areas in my life where pride or self-sufficiency has taken hold? Before we answer, remember, pride is easy to see in others, but it is almost impossible to see in ourselves.

As a church, are we humble? Do we rely on God alone, or is there a part of us that relies on a great band, cool lighting, a beautiful building, quality teaching, or other resources to build the body? Do we believe God alone is enough, or do we think we can take of it ourselves?

2. Am I praying? Do I regularly spend time talking with God? Do I listen to him? Am I bringing my financial needs to him, or am I looking to others, a bank, a credit card, or the government to meet my needs?

As a church, are we praying? Do we believe that prayer matters? Do we spend time as a staff praying together? What part does prayer have in our services? Are we teaching our people how to hear God speaking to them through prayer? Are we expecting God to speak to us when we pray? Are we listening? Is God leading our church, or are we? Are we trusting God alone to meet our financial needs, or are we looking to others, a bank, a credit card, or the government to meet our needs? Is it time to call our people to fast and pray?

3. Am I seeking God’s face? Am I seeking his presence in every aspect of my life? Does his presence matter to me?

As a church, are we seeking the presence of God, or are we content to have a service done with excellence without a clear realization of the presence of God? Does the presence of God matter in our services? If so, what are we doing to foster his presence? How are we making room for his presence in our orderly, timed-to-the-minute one-hour service? What if the presence of God filled the temple? Would we continue doing what we already had planned?

4. Am I repentant? Am I turning away from known sin in my life? It is one thing to ask God to forgive me for sin. It is another thing to turn away from that sin, so I don’t repeat it tomorrow. Repentance involves turning.

As a church, are we repentant? Do we even realize we need to repent? Are we leading our people to repent? Is there brokenness over sin? Should we start over with the list and ask ourselves if pride is present? Is prayerlessness a sin? Is neglecting to seek the presence of God sin? Ask the hard questions.

I believe God is speaking to us as a Church. I’m concerned that we may not listen. I doubt God wants us to return to business as usual. I believe He is calling us to humble ourselves. He is calling us to pray. He is calling us to seek his face. He is calling us to turn from our wicked ways. Then he will hear us. Then he will forgive us. Then he will heal our land. This progression seems to be the pattern in Scripture.

It is likely, once again, God is speaking to his people. Oh, that we as a Church would hear his voice and respond.