A Map of Life’s Journey

In a few months time I will be 58 years of age. As I grow older, I find myself reflecting more on my life. Where I’ve come from, where I’ve been, where and who I am now, and where I am going. I also observe other people in their own journey as they seek to make sense of this amazing gift called ‘life’.

I read a few intriguing personal news items these last few weeks (see more below). After doing so, I sketched out the following stages as a sample map of life’s journey. Here is what I observe.

1. Construction

We all grow up in a context – a family, a country, a village or tribe, a set of values, and for many, a religious belief system. This is the ‘construction’ we emerge within. There are shapes, lines, borders, and boundaries that we learn to live and move within. Other people created this construct for us. Often they are the influential people in our life or our environment. It’s what we inherit we when start out on our journey.

2. Conversion

At some point, as we grow up, we start to find ourselves. We determine what we believe and what is true for us. For many people, there is a sense of conversion, where we embrace our world because it works for us. This conversion may be dramatic and at a specific point of time. Or it may be less spectacular and more gradual in its emergence. This is where we identify with who we are, based on the construct we have grown up within.

3. Questions and Doubts

[NOTE: There are people who stop after the first two stages mentioned above and they are content with those experiences … for the rest of their lives. They never doubt or question. Life and faith works for them. They can also tend to view people at the following stages as ‘backslidden’, ‘apostate’, or never ‘saved’. After all, where you stand determines what you see.]

For many other people, questions and doubts emerge. They start to critique the construct they have grown up within and even their conversion experience(s). This often occurs as a result of meeting other people who live outside of their construct and from hearing stories of other worlds and other world-views (belief systems).

For those who have grown up within a Christian environment or construct, the questions frequently centre around perplexities such as the existence of hell, why there is suffering in the world, the exclusivity of the Christian faith, the reliability of the Bible, the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, and the marginalisation of LGBTQIA+ people.

4. De-Construction

As a result of the questioning and doubts, many people start to de-construct the world that other people handed them. They begin pulling out some of the Jenga blocks other people gave them. Even those passed on from parents, teachers, and authority figures. After a while, the construction starts to sway and some of the blocks topple … and for some, the whole construct comes tumbling down to the ground … with an almighty crash!

5. De-Conversion

Some people move into de-conversion after a time of de-construction. They don’t believe what they used to believe. What was once true for them isn’t true anymore. They would be hypocritical to continue to declare allegiance to the construction that no longer feels like home to them. They have changed. They have moved. Reason has triumphed over past faith.

Recent examples of people who have arrived at this stage of de-conversion include Joshua Harris, a best-selling Christian author, and Marty Sampson, a well-known worship leader from Hillsong. They are not alone … or new. Consider the intriguing de-conversion stories of people such as Charlie Templeton (peer to Billy Graham), Dan Barker and John Loftus … if you dare.

Other people skip this step altogether and move from de-construction straight into re-construction.

6. Re-Construction

Now, a time of re-construction begins. It’s time to build a new world with what truly has meaning, value, and truth to us. We begin to think for ourselves. We choose to be authentic about what we believe, apart from what others have told us we should believe. This new construction may include some aspects, beliefs and values from our past. These are now seen from a new perspective. It also includes new things that weren’t part of our past at all. This can be quite scary … and liberating.

Summary

I am still learning and researching this. I am listening to other people’s stories and reflecting on my own life journey. This is not a linear process. Life is far more circular, unpredictable, and random. Nor is it everyone’s story. Not everyone goes through each stage on this map. Nor do they identify and understand each stage. But someone does.

A few final reflection questions:

  1. What stages of this map of life’s journey do you identify with? Where have you been?
  2. Where are you now?
  3. Have you ever had questions and doubts about your inherited construct? How have you processed these? Were you given permission to lean into them or were you shamed for experiencing them?
  4. Where do you see the other important people in your life right now?
  5. How do you handle or cope with people at different places than you?
  6. How can we better truly listen to and understand other people’s stories more deeply … without judging or trying to ‘fix’ them?
  7. What emotions does this discussion about a map of life’s journey evoke for you? It is resonance, dissonance, fear, anxiety, annoyance, anger or excitement and hope?

I’d love to hear from you. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below. If you can’t see the Comments section, click on the title of this BLOG post then scroll down to the bottom off the page.

ORIGINS: Genesis Re-Visited

The book of Genesis is a narrative of the origins of the world, but in particular the family of Abraham. Three major world religions trace their roots back to Abraham – Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The first 11 chapters cover what is often referred to as ‘pre-history’: from the beginnings of the universe through just after Noah and the flood. The rest of the book tells the story of Abraham and the eventual birth of the nation of Israel.

Back in 2013, I helped to lead a series of messages called ORIGINS, drawing themes from these early Genesis stories. You can read a summary of three of these messages, including a link to a podcast of the messages as follows:

  • ORIGINS: Genesis. In this message, I share an introduction to the book of Genesis, helping us understand and apply this ancient text to our lives today. 
  • ORIGINS: Creation. Science and faith, dinosaurs and the big bang. These just a few of the kinds of questions people come to book of Genesis for, hoping to find some answers. In this message, I takes an in-depth look at the story of creation, which clearly shows us who created the world and why. 
  • ORIGINS: Noah and the Ark. In this message, I look at the classic Sunday School story – Noah and the Ark. Humans fail to be faithful covenant partners in God’s world resulting in chaos and destruction but in God’s mercy he promises that “never again” will there be a flood that destroys the earth. 

Sometimes it helps to look backward before you move forward, so you live your life from a much bigger perspective. I love the idea of an ‘ancient future’ faith. By going back to the beginning, we can glean some amazing insights about God’s original purpose for this world, all of which are incredibly relevant for our lives today in the 21st century. History really is HIS-story and you and I are called to play a significant part in the unfolding redemptive narrative. As you explore some of the early stories in Genesis, I hope that the gift of hindsight creates in you a fresh vision (foresight) of who you truly are. 

How to Create a Culture of Generous Givers in Your Church

Over these last few years, I have been coaching quite a few pastors across Australia and a few overseas. It’s a privilege to come along side these church leaders from different denominations and contexts and offer them encouragement and advice in a wide range of aspects of personal ministry and church life.

One of the most common questions I am asked it about church finances and especially how church leaders can raise more money for the vision they have for their church. Because of this, I was excited to be asked by Generous to participate in an upcoming webinar on “How to Create a Culture of Generous Givers in Your Church”.

If this is of interest to you, join me as I share practical ways that pastors can inspire their congregation to be more generous in every area of their lives and to contribute financially to the vision of the church.

Check out the Facebook video below …

Why not sign up now!

Mid-Year Update from Mark Conner

Hi there. I haven’t blogged for a while so I thought it was time for a mid-year update.

Can you believe we are into the second half of 2019!? Time sure flies, and more so as you get a little older. I turn 58 years old in a few months time and I often wonder where the years went. It seems like yesterday I was only 20 years old! With more of my life behind me, it definitely makes me consider what is important and what has meaning for me. Simply being ‘busy’ or accumulating more stuff or becoming more ‘popular’ quickly looses its significance. Family and friendships become more meaningful. So does reflection and contemplation. How easy it is to be living in the ‘fast lane’ without ever thinking about your life and its overall direction. Doing work that makes a genuine difference in the lives of people also matters more.

What about you? Have you paused to think about your own life lately, what you are learning and where you are heading? The clock tends to dominate our world – “what time is it and how much have I got done today?” In contrast, the compass is an important measurement instrument that so often gets neglected. It is more about direction than speed and it prioritises purpose over mere progress.

In the last 12 months …

My dad and step-mum, Kevin and Rene Conner, both passed away. They lived full lives and influenced a lot of people. I miss them both but I’m very thankful for their input and encouragement to me over the years. I’ve been putting quite a bit of time into ensuring my dad’s legacy lives on through his teachings. His web site has information about all of his books, a new podcast of his teaching through the years, and two new online video courses, which were his original ‘Key of Knowledge’ seminar that equipped hundreds of people around the world to study and interpret the Bible for themselves.

Nicole and I relocated to Melbourne last May after 18 months living in the Sunshine Coast. We loved our time in Queensland. It was a time to refresh, refuel, and re-calibrate after many decades of crazy-busy ministry leading a large, growing church. However, we missed Melbourne (even the rain … and the four season in one day!) and especially our family. In the end, for us, relationships trumped geography. After renting in the Blairgowrie area on the Mornington Peninsula for a year, we are now renting in Elwood – near the city and the Bay. What a beautiful part of our city.

Nicole and I recently celebrated 33 years of married life. Nicole is engaged in a variety of things at the moment, including teaching part time at Eastern College for their history subjects as one of their adjunct lecturers and she has also recently launched her own narrative therapy practice.

Personally, I am enjoying being part of the teaching team at Bayside Church for Rob and Christie Buckingham where I speak about once a month as well as speaking at other churches (including a few churches in Perth that I am assisting) and training events (see my schedule) and providing personal coaching to quite a few church leaders around Australia. I am thoroughly enjoying this new season of life and ministry. I sure don’t miss the constant pressure and burden of leading a large, complex organisation. For me, it’s all about a “a slower pace, a simpler life, and a smaller world”, which was why I decided to make a significant vocational change back in early 2017 (see “Time to Say Goodbye“).

Last year, I wrote three new books. I have another three books all ready to write but just need to allocate some time to do so. Hopefully, I’ll get started in the next few months. My new podcast is starting to gain more interest too (also available on Apple iTunes).

Well, that’s all from me with this mid-year update.

I’ll finish with a prayer for you from the apostle Paul … which I will be speaking on at Bayside this coming weekend as part of a message entitled ‘Finding Hope’.

UPDATE: Watch the video of this 30 minute message on You Tube.

Songs of Praise by Mark Conner

In my younger years, I was very involved in church worship music. I played the piano for church services, led times of worship, wrote songs, directed a choir, and did some studio recording work. Occasionally, when speaking at various churches and conferences today, I will go to the piano and sing one of my own compositions.

Here is a list of some of the songs I have written that have been recorded. Included below is an audio of each song, as well as words and music. I hope you enjoy them.

Jesus, I Desire to Know You More. This is a very personal song of devotion written in 1990. For the ‘Windows to Heaven’ studio recording in 2002 at the then Waverley Christian Fellowship, Carl Laurens sings and I play the keyboards.

Jesus, I Desire to Know You More

It Was On the Cross. After reading an article about how few praise and worship songs back in the early 1990s were referring to the work that Jesus did on the cross, I went straight to the piano and wrote this song quite spontaneously in a very short time frame. It was recorded as part of the ‘Be Strong’ album in 1999 at Waverley Christian Fellowship, produced by Keith and Cathy White.

Continue reading “Songs of Praise by Mark Conner”

Kevin Conner’s Legacy

It’s hard to believe my dear dad, Kevin Conner, is gone. He passed away peacefully just over 4 months ago. He had recently turned 92 years of age.

I miss him. However, his legacy lives on in our hearts and lives … and in his contributions. Dad was a well-known Bible teacher. He wrote over 60 books, all of which continue to speak to people all over the world – in paperback format and many also in eBook format. Visit his web site for a list of all of his books, listed alphabetically and by category.

Dad didn’t only study the Bible, then teach and write about his insights. He loved to train others to do the same for themselves. His “Key of Knowledge” Seminar was attend by 100s of people and empowered them to do their own Bible research, interpretation and application. This week-long seminar is now available as an online course, with over 13 hours of video teaching, downloadable textbooks, and step-by-step instructions on how to apply the teaching. There are two parts:

  1. Methods and Principles of Bible Research.
  2. Interpreting the Bible.

Visit the links above to find out more and also to take advantage of some special deals on right now giving you lifelong access to these materials. These can be used by yourself or by a small group of people who want to do the course together. The first lesson in Part 1 is free, so you can see if this course is for you.

Thanks dad for your example and for your ongoing contribution to the church world-wide.

Seasons (Part 5)

One final reflection … (read Seasons Part 1 for background).

Endings Make New Beginnings Possible

Once Paul and his team had said their goodbyes, they were on their way … to Jerusalem then Rome (Acts 21:1), where he would spread the good news of Jesus even further, as well as speak to kings. Good days were ahead for him but none of this would have happened without the ending in Ephesus. Endings do make new beginnings possible.

Some chapters need to be closed before a new chapter can be written. Death is a necessary prelude to resurrection! Jesus’ life is a pattern for our life too. Some things must die so new things can grow. Endings can be opportunities for a new future. Today may be the enemy of your tomorrow. The tomorrow you envision may never come to pass if you do not end some things you are doing today. To get to a new level, a new tomorrow, or the next step, something has to end. What’s in your hand that you are holding on to that is hindering you from receiving the new things God has for you?

“True life success is doing the very best you can at where you are now then not being afraid to end that and take the next step. The endings and the great beginnings are somehow linked together. You can’t have one without the other.” Henry Cloud.

“Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Roman philosopher Seneca

“On the spiritual journey … each time a door closes, the rest of the world opens up. All we need to do is stop pounding on the door that just closed, turn around – which puts the door behind us – and welcome the largeness of life that now lies open to our souls.” Parker Palmer

It’s been just over two years since I made a major change in my life and vocation. It involved everything we have talked about – a significant ending, letting go of the past, and grief. But despite all of this and the adjustments it has involved, Nicole and I are loving this new season of our lives. We are experiencing so much joy. I am finding my new montage of contributions meaningful and fulfilling – speaking and training others, coaching people, writing, and spending more time with my family than I have been able to for so many decades. I sure don’t miss the constant pressure and burden of leading a large, complex organisation. I am so glad I recognised the need for change and had the courage to launch out into the great unknown. No regrets!

Final Comments

What is God up to right now in your life journey? Are you experiencing a new beginning, an in-between time, or an ending? What has ended for you? What needs to end for you? Are you “stuck in a moment”, feeling paralysed (physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually), unable to move, comfortable and content with a certain attitude or outlook? Could Someone be calling you to stand up, take up your mat, and move to a new place?

Is there a new opportunity awaiting you that will only come after a door closes (an ending)? Is there something you need to let go of, that is hindering you from receiving the new things God has for you? Maybe it is bitterness, resentment, anger, regret, guilt, shame or grief. Is it time to move on?

All the best with the seasons of your life!

P.S. If you found this series of BLOG posts helpful, you might enjoy hearing the message I gave back in 2015 where I first shared these reflections. It is called “Seasons” and it is now available on my podcast.

Seasons (Part 4)

Here is my next reflection … (read Seasons Part 1 for background).

Endings Involve Grief

As Paul left Ephesus, not only were their final words and prayers, there were also tearful and painful good-byes, knowing they would never to see each other again. In the Message Bible, Eugene Peterson translates this moment this way:

“Then Paul went down on his knees, all of them kneeling with him, and prayed. And then a river of tears. Much clinging to Paul, not wanting to let him go. They knew they would never see him again — he had told them quite plainly. The pain cut deep. Then, bravely, they walked him down to the ship.”

Acts 20:36 – 21:1.

We experience grief anytime there is a loss in our lives. Even good changes involve loss – leaving the past behind. Grief includes a range of emotions: sadness, disappointment, frustration, and even anger at times. Usually there is process that includes initial shock, eventual acceptance, then letting go, followed by reaching out to a different future. We need to take time to be grateful and to grieve our losses.

Nicole and I have had to grieve many losses over the years – of some hopes and dreams, of homes we loved, of positions held, of opportunities, of communities and teams we have been a part of, of family members who have passed on, and of friends. Letting go of what is comfortable and familiar is not easy. There have been tears and some painful moments. It’s been incredibly hard at times … but that is part of this journey called life.

Henry Cloud encourages ‘metabolising’ endings for our benefit. We ingest life experiences like we ingest food. Keep what is usable to you and eliminate what is not. Talk it out, cry if you have to, feel your emotions fully, express them, forgive, then let it all go … after you have given it adequate attention (not denial). Only then will you be ready for whatever is next.

In his excellent book, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, author William Bridges notes that it is often not the endings that do us in, it is the transitions. Transitions involve the emotion of change during the in-between times, like a trapeze artist hanging in the air! This can be exciting, yet frightening. In these liminal spaces, nothing is familiar or normal. [Some of you might be interested in a book Nicole recently contributed a chapter to called Neither Here Nor There: The Many Voices of Liminality.]

  • What losses have you had to face? Name them and go gently with yourself. All losses need to be grieved appropriately.
  • What has not changed for you? Identity the continuities.
  • In non-Western countries, they often take weeks or even months to grieve the death of a family member loved one. What can we learn from this practice?
  • Reflect on an ‘in-between time’ in your life where you found adjusting to change extremely difficult. What was most helpful during this time?

Read Part 5.

Seasons (Part 3)

Here is my next reflection on Paul’s transitioning from the city of Ephesus where he had spent the last three years of his life (read Seasons – Part 1).

Endings Require Us to “Let Go” of the Past

Moving on, required Paul to let go and the church at Ephesus to let him go too (Acts 20:36-37). Saying “good-bye” like this is never easy (Acts 20:25). They actually clung on to him, not wanting him to leave. Why? Because most of us don’t like change … unless we are initiating it. In fact, by nature, most people resist change. It’s difficult and we experience it as an unwelcome intruder into our life. We prefer to be in control and operate in familiar terrain. We tend to hold on to the past rather than let it go. But we can’t freeze this moment forever or go back to the way things were. Things change and that means letting go of what was.

Could it be that you are nearing an ending and coming to a time of letting go? Nothing lasts forever. Life is about growth and growth requires change. Not every problem can be solved. Not every chapter has a happy ending. Some things need to die so that others can be born. Resurrection life only comes after death.

Signs of a possible ‘ending’ nearing may include loss of passion, loss of motivation, or simply an unsettled feeling (restlessness) or a calling to something else. This requires much discernment, courage, a great deal of wisdom, and possibly some difficult conversations. Do you simply hold on through the current storm, hoping things will get better, or is it time to acknowledge an ending has arrived? To give up hope when there is victory in sight is a mistake but to hang on to false hope is a fantasy that can end in dismal failure. Admit it when more effort will not bring about a different result.

Henry Cloud writes,

Those with greatest difficulty abandoning things are often those unable to face reality. Understand the lifesaving virtue of hopelessness. Get hopeless about what will not work.

Hope is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. With hope, we can endure almost anything. Hope keeps us going … and that is the problem. When it comes to seeing reality, almost nothing gets in the way like a hope distortion, in ether direction. Sometimes, people keep hoping in spite of a clear reality staring them in the face.

A desire without adequate grounds is merely a wish. Hope is not a strategy. In the absence of real, objective reasons to think that more time is going to help, it is probably time for some type of necessary ending.

If you are in a hole, rule number one is to stop digging.

Get to the virtue of hopelessness by seeing that there is no reason to believe that tomorrow is going to be any different than today. You will finally have gotten to reality. It is hopeless to continue to do what you are doing, expecting different results. The right kind of hopelessness gets us on the right track.

While hope is a great virtue, hope in unreality is not. Sometimes, hopelessness is the best virtue to have, because it can finally get you to the pruning moment.”

From his book “Necessary Endings“.

I found these insights incredibly helpful when I was processing my own decision to make a significant vocational change just over 2 years ago now. It was hard and uncomfortable. It took time to process and there was a lot of wrestling inside my heart and mind. Gaining clarity was a long process.

Interestingly, the apostle Paul took time to seek God and read his own heart. Luke tells us this: “We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. He had made this arrangement because he was going there on foot (Acts 20:13).” Although he had eight other comparison on his journey (Acts 20:4), Paul chose to walk alone on this segment of the journey. This was a 32 kilometre walk for him. Was it on this walk that he decided it was time to say a final goodbye to those in Ephesus and move on (see Acts 20:1 then verses 17-22)? Maybe he was preparing his final speech. Either way, he took time to breath in some fresh air under open skies in an environment of solitude and space for thinking.

Walking is a great way to reflect and think about our life. Solitude helps us to turn down the noise of everyone else’s opinions and the clutter of the many distractions all around us. Is it time for you to take a long walk and think about the season you are in and whether an ending is coming in some area of your life? Is there something you need to ‘let go’ of? Could it be an unhealthy relationship, a dead-end job, a home that no longer serves your needs, a ministry that no longer stirs your passion, or the security that hinders you from the adventurous mission God is calling you to?

Read Part 4.

Seasons (Part 2)

Here is my second reflection on Paul’s life and the transition of seasons he was undergoing in leaving the city of Ephesus (read Seasons – Part 1).

Seasons are Marked by Endings and Beginnings

Paul felt an urgency that compelled him to leave Ephesus and go to Jerusalem, though he was completely in the dark about what would happen there (Acts 20:22). In fact, he knew there were hard times and imprisonment ahead (Acts 20:23). What mattered most was to finish what God had started through him – letting everyone know about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God (Acts 20:24). While with the church at Ephesus, Paul gave it all he had (Acts 20:18-21). He was with them totally, doing is best, giving his all (Acts 20:26-27, 31). But now he knew his time in Ephesus was coming to an end.

I know the feeling. I served on staff of a large church for 32 years – 22 years as the Senior Minister. I gave it all I had. I did my very best. But in the end, I was tired … I was spent and ready for a change. I had said and done everything I could and needed to. As I reflected personally and discussed this with my family over a period of time, I sensed that an ending was at hand. It was time to move on.

Life’s seasons are marked by endings and new beginnings. In fact, life is a series of endings, in-betweens, and beginnings, all interconnected. Examples include family changes (getting married, becoming a parent, a marriage breakdown, sickness, aging or death), school changes (from primary to secondary to university), work changes (career changes, downsizing, mergers, acquisitions, promotions or a new boss), house changes (moving, immigration, relocation), church changes (relocation, changing demographics) and ministry changes (transitions, relational changes).

Henry Cloud is his helpful book book Necessary Endings says:

“Endings are a natural part of life – we either face them, stagnate or die. Without the ability to do endings well, we flounder, stay stuck and fail to reach our goals and dreams. Endings are crucial but we rarely like them. We naturally avoid them. That’s the problem. When endings are done well, the seasons of life are negotiated, and the proper endings lead to the end of pain, greater growth, personal and business goals reached and better lives. Endings bring hope. When done poorly, bad outcomes happen, good opportunities are lost, and misery either remains or is repeated … Endings are not failures or something to be avoided. Nothing lasts forever. Endings are normal. Life produces too much – more relationships, activities, clients, mentors, partners, strategies and stuff than we have time and room for. It it time for pruning? An ending does not mean you have failed. Avoid misunderstood loyalty and co-dependency. Insecurities and fears cause us to resist endings.”

The first half of life involves mostly beginnings. In the second half of life there are more endings and new beginnings. What endings have occurred for you that led to new beginnings? Make a list of them all. You’ll be surprised how many there are in life. What were these times like for you? What were the various feelings you had to navigate? How are you different now? What did you learn?

Read Part 3.

Seasons (Part 1)

I love Autumn! It is one of my favourite seasons of the year. The somewhat cooler days, the clear blue skies, and the glorious colours of the leaves. Change is in the air. The cycle of life is moving forward.

Nicole and I moved back to Melbourne last May after 18 months of living in the Sunshine Coast. We love Queensland but one of the things we missed were the seasons. I remember Nicole saying to me one day after 6 weeks of continuous sunshine and 32 degree days – “I really miss the rain!” Then when we were driving into Victoria, the first thing we noticed were the beautiful autumn leaves everywhere. We were coming back ‘home’. Yes, we have fallen in love with Melbourne … again.

Our time away was vital for us. It was like a long drink at the fountain, a place to re-fresh and re-fuel, a time to re-calibrate and transition into this new chapter of our lives. I am deeply grateful for it. It was part of my ongoing metamorphosis – of becoming who I truly am, apart from the various roles and responsibilities I have had for so many decades.

Today, I want to review some thoughts I shared back in 2015 about ‘seasons’. Take some time to read the story of the apostle Paul when he was about to leave the church at Ephesus. It’s recored for us in detail in Acts 20:13-38. Here are my observations:

Life is a Journey with Many Seasons

Paul grew up as a strict Pharisee, committed to his Jewish faith and its legal requirements. After encountering Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), his life was radically changed and he became an apostle to the Gentiles, sharing the gospel of Jesus to people from every strata of society. He ended up basing at the church in Antioch from where he travelled out on a number of church-planting missionary journeys (Acts 13). Eventually, he re-located to Ephesus where he had three years of his most fruitful ministry. This episode in his life shows us his transition away from Ephesus towards his eventual destination of Rome, the centre of the Roman Empire.

Paul’s time in Ephesus was about to come to an end. His life, like ours, was a journey with many different seasons, a story with many different chapters, much like a movie with many different scenes. Time is a constant as everything continually moves forward and is continually changing. Today becomes yesterday and tomorrow becomes today … and more quickly as you get older! We can’t control or stop the seasons, which are under God’s control (Ecclesiastes 3:1). However, we can decide how we will respond to the circumstances and the seasonal movements in our life.

In his book The Making of a Leader, leadership expert Robert Clinton says that each person that God uses goes through a common journey with different phases – sovereign foundations, ministry maturing (a primary focus on ‘doing’), life maturing (a greater focus on ‘being’), convergence, and then afterglow. There are many tests and incidents along the way – both positive and painful. There is benefit in stopping and reflecting on your journey. Life is lived forward but often understood backward.

Take some time to reflect on your life. Look back … where have you come from, where are you now, where are heading? What is God up to? What are incidents that have shaped who you are today? What have you learned? What season are you in right now?

Experience isn’t the greatest teacher. It is only the experiences that you reflect on that have the potential to become insight.

Read Part 2 of this series of BLOG posts on ‘Seasons’.

P.S. If you haven’t already, have a read of my poem entitled ‘Seasons‘.

Do You Have a ‘Secular’ Job?

Every now and then when I am talking with someone, in the course of the conversation, they will mention their ‘secular job’. I always pause and think about that statement. It actually grates me. Why is that?

Unfortunately, many people have created a division between the “sacred” and the “secular”. This dualism is a product of Greek philosophy that has so influenced our Western worldview. Life is often seen as a series of boxes– one for family, one for work, one for friends, one for recreation, and one for faith (God or our “spiritual life”). As long as we prioritise correctly and make appropriate contributions to each box, life will work out for us. This results in a compartmental style of thinking. In contrast, in the Hebrew or Jewish mind, and also from a Christian perspective, life should be viewed as one large circle with God in the centre. Everything else is to find its meaning and perspective from that centre. God wants to be involved in every area of our life – not just our spiritual life. All of life is sacred and God is interested in every dimension of our lives. 

Brother Lawrence, a French monastic from the seventeenth century, is well known for writing a little booklet that has touched millions of people’s lives. It’s called Practising the Presence of God. It’s about living with a greater realisation each moment of every day that God is with us and interested in doing life (including work) together with us.

The apostle Paul put it this way: “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17).” Doing something in Jesus’ name means to do it in his character. It means doing it as Jesus himself would do it if he were in your place. Paul is saying that our entire lives – from the moment we wake up until the time we lay down to sleep – are be lived out ‘in the name of Jesus’. Yes, God is interested in our work life. It matters to him and hopefully it matters to us too.

I hope you enjoy your job this week, whatever you may find yourself doing, and that you see it as part of your meaningful contribution to making the world a better place.

On my new podcast, I recently released a two-part series of messages called “Your Work, God’s Work” given back in 2013 which present a holistic view of our daily work. Visit Podbean or iTunes or your Spotify account to listen. You can also read the summary notes on my BLOG.

Freedom from Depression

Depression has been called “the common cold of the emotions”. Depression simply means “low mood”. Every one has time when they feel down or experience low mood but sometimes those feelings can linger for days, weeks, even months at a time. This can be quite debilitating, especially when others around you don’t fully understand what is going on.

The biblical stories include people’s experiences with the full range of human emotions, including depression. Famous people such as Moses, Job, David and Jeremiah went through bouts of depression, even cursing the day they were born. One of the more well known experiences of depression is the great prophet Elijah. He was so down that he had even become suicidal.

God shows us some excellent counselling skills as he walks Elijah through this dark valley of depressing emotions. I unpack these more fully in a BLOG series I did in 2017 called “Dealing with Depression“. Take some time to read through those posts, especially if you are facing depressing feelings currently. It will also help you to be a better support to people around you who may be experiencing low mood at the moment.

To listen to a message on “Freedom from Depression”, which was part of a teaching series at CityLife Church back in 2007 called “Prison Break”, visit the Mark Conner’s new podcast.

The full content of this message on freedom from depression, as well as teaching on freedom from other common challenges such as anger, worry, fear, rejection, addictions and spiritual bondages, purchase a copy of Mark’s best-selling book Prison Break – Finding Personal Freedom from WORD in Australia or Amazon internationally.

NEW Podcast of Mark Conner’s Teaching

I am excited to announce a new podcast of my teaching messages. This podcast is available directly from Podbean (including on their mobile Apps) or from Apple’s iTunes (including all iTunes Apps) or from within Spotify (if you are a subscriber). It is not possible to publish podcasts on Google Play from Australia yet.

Every week or so a message will be published, selected from recent messages I have spoken at various churches or conferences, as well as some messages given over the years when I was at the Senior Minister at CityLife Church (1995-2016).

I also intend on including some conversational podcasts on a variety of relevant issues and topics in the near future.

Be sure to subscribe so you are notified of recent releases.

Enjoy!

Mark Conner

Celebrating the Life of my Dad – Kevin Conner

Thank you to all of those who attended or watched the thanksgiving service for my dad, Kevin Conner, today at CityLife Church in Melbourne, Australia. We also appreciate the many messages that people have sent in, offering support and prayers, as well as commemorating my dad’s life.

On my dad’s web site, you will find more information, including:

A link where you can watch a video of the funeral service.

Eulogy of his life – 92 years, well-lived.

A Poem I wrote about him, called Nearing the End.

A dedicated web page where you can leave a personal tribute to his life.

Information about what’s next in my dad’s ongoing ministry impact.

Dad was a remarkable man, rising above adversity and rejection to make a significant mark on his Pentecostal religious world at this time in history. He grew up as an orphan, without a mum or a dad, yet he did his best to be the dad he never had to my sister, Sharon, and I. Our loss is heaven’s gain. No doubt, he is hearing from Jesus, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.”

Dad, thanks for everything. I love you very much!