Category Archives: Personal growth

Of titles and degrees

During my recent trip to Russia, John Musgrave paid me a compliment I value highly. He said that one thing he always appreciated about working with me was that I didn’t make a big deal about the fact I have more education than he does. I have two graduate degrees while he has an undergrad degree. He explained that some men he worked with made a big deal about who went to seminary and who didn’t.

I thanked him for the compliment and said that while I have titles, I am not overly impressed by them. I leave it up to the individual as to what they call me. The only place I am known as Dr. Wheeler is at Regent University where I am an adjunct professor teaching online courses. Everywhere else I am known as Mark or Pastor Mark.

One element of my approach relates to the concept of mutual submission. When I am in Russia, I submit to John’s leadership because he is in charge and I am there to serve. The level of education is immaterial.

I also recognize that my graduate degrees say more about my level of persistence than about my intelligence and qualifications. Having several degrees don’t mean I am any smarter, it just means I kept plodding forward until I reached the finish line.

In addition, I believe that true education often begins when school ends. John is a lifelong learner with a boatload of life experience.

Add all of this up and it leads to the conclusion that I view John as a peer and teammate.

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Posted by on May 20, 2019 in Personal growth, Russia


Of root canals, pressure washers, and soul care

What do root canals and pressure washers have in common? On the surface, not much. But both were reminders this past week of my need to care for the health of my soul.

One month ago, I was fighting a cough and cold. When I woke up one morning with my teeth hurting, I assumed it was because I was grinding my teeth while struggling not to cough. Later that morning, I almost went through the roof trying to drink a cup of coffee. One side of my lower jaw was extremely sensitive to hot and cold. Realizing I had a bigger problem than I earlier suspected, I called and made an appointment to see my dentist.

Sitting in the dentist chair, he confirmed I needed a root canal. The root was dying and had become infected. He put me on a course of antibiotics and made an appointment to see me in a month. (I left town the next week for 10 days and then he was gone for a week after I returned.) We met this past week to have the offending tooth drilled out and filled in.

My failing tooth reminded me of the need to make sure the roots of my faith are firmly planted. Matthew 13:1-6 contains that parable of the sower. Some seed fell on poor soil and withered under the summer heat because they had no root (6). I don’t want a weak, rootless faith.

My root canal also reminded me of the need to fix and heal broken relationships. Hebrews 12:14-15 explains that a broken relationship or a wrong priority can lead to a “root of bitterness” which can lead to trouble and defilement. The infection of sin can easily spread if it is not rooted out.

Root canals remind me that on the one hand, my faith needs to have a healthy growing root in good soil. On the other hand, I need to guard against the infections that can come in to cause my soul to become diseased.

On Saturday, I rented an electric pressure washer to try to clean the deck on the back of my house. The last time it was done was prior to when we moved in seven years ago. Seven years’ worth of dirt, grime, and grease takes more than a bucket of soapy water and a brush to get rid of. You need extra pressure and force to strip away the layers.

In Psalm 51:2, David wrote, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin!” 2 Corinthians 7:1 explains that we are to “cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” Rather than allowing sin to build up on my soul, I need to keep short accounts and confess my sins and seek God’s cleansing on a regular basis.

If I ignore the health of my soul, I may need to undergo a spiritual root canal to heal a diseased root or a spiritual pressure washing to cleanse my soul deeply. How much wiser it is to maintain a healthy soul.

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Posted by on May 1, 2019 in Personal growth, Scripture


A desire to finish well

I started rereading Replenish: Leading from a Healthy Soul, by Lance Witt. It was one of the books recommended at the SonScape Retreat. I agree with the author’s statement at the end of the first chapter.

I want to get to the finish line still in love with Jesus, still in love with the church, still in love with being a pastor. With my head held high, with my dignity and honor still intact, I want to look back over my shoulder and say it was worth it.

To that, I say, “Amen!” I want to finish well. But it means I need to guard my heart and feed my soul.

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Posted by on April 22, 2019 in Personal growth, Quotes


Pursue intimacy with God

SonScape devotional Day 7

You are headed home with new commitments to do life differently. The most normal reaction would be to go home and add your new list to the already overloaded existing list waiting for you. Don’t do it.

God is calling you to something deeper than a bigger “to do” list. He is calling you to deep change.

”Deep change differs from incremental change in that it requires new ways of thinking and behaving. It is change that is major in scope, discontinuous with the past and generally irreversible. The deep change effort distorts existing patterns of action and involves taking risks. Deep change means surrendering control.

Most of us build our identity around our knowledge and competence in employing certain known techniques or abilities. Making a deep change involves abandoning both and “walking naked into the land of uncertainty.” (Robert Quinn, Deep Change)

”Walking naked into the land of uncertainty!” Totally exposed to God. Totally exposed to yourself. Willing to face whatever obstacles may be to this new journey in the “real” world.

Let us remind you one last time: intimacy with God is the top priority. This being with God must come before everything else, and thus give expression to what you do. It is not your job to fix your world or even yourself when you go home—it is your job to find your “rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

”Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.” (Psalm 91:1-2, NLT)


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Posted by on April 10, 2019 in Personal growth, Psalms, Quotes, SonScape


Oxygen for the Soul

Frequent fliers are well acquainted with the safety spiel given by flight attendants. “In case of emergency, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead bin. Place yours on first before trying to help your children.”

As pastors, we must look to our own soul care before we can help others. Too many pastors are putting oxygen masks on other people while they themselves are passing out from lack of oxygen.

Devotional shared by Shini Abraham at SonScape


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Posted by on April 7, 2019 in Personal growth, SonScape


Stop rushing around

Someone asked me recently what was my biggest regret in life. I thought a moment, surveying the vast and cluttered landscape of my blunders and losses, the evil I have done and the evil that has been done to me.

”Being in a hurry,” I said.


”Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I’ve ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all that rushing.”

Through all that haste, I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.

Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God


Learning to align your will with God’s will

Book Review: Sacred Pace: Four Steps to Hearing God and Aligning Yourself with His Will, by Terry Looper with Kris Bearss

How can the average person know God’s will for their life? How can they learn to hear God’s voice in regards to making decisions? How can we train ourselves to slow down and wait on God for direction?

These questions lie at the heart of Terry Looper’s practical instructions in his book, Sacred Pace: Four Steps to Hearing God and Aligning Yourself with His Will. His desire is to help people learn to hear God more clearly in their most important decisions. What sets this book apart from most books on discovering God’s will is that it is not written by a pastor or theologian. It is written by a businessman who shares his heart about what God has taught him on this topic.

The book is divided into four parts. In the first section, the author tells his story about being a hard-charging entrepreneur who was focused on the next deal and making as much money as he could. In the process, he drove himself into burnout.

In the second section, the author reveals his four-part strategy for making decisions. His approach is based on three key verses (Psalm 37:4; Proverbs 3:5-6; Romans 12:2). It incorporates three core truths. God knows best, and I only think I do. He sees the future, and I can’t. He loves me and everyone around me more than I ever could. The key verses and core truths lead to his four step process: Step 1: Consult your friend Jesus. Step 2: Gather the facts. Step 3: Watch for circumstances. Step 4: Get neutral.

In section three, the author shares several lessons he learned along the way over 30+ years. He explains the difference between the Holy Spirit’s guidance and intuition, when to slow down, how to stop from running ahead of God, not avoiding pain, and determining whether a desire is God’s or his own.

The final section describes how to practice the principles in the most important relationships of life—marriage, parenting, business, during negotiations, ministry, and giving.

The book is easy to read and understand, and very practical. The author shares numerous personal illustrations from his marriage, family, and businesses, both where he succeeded and where he failed.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on March 20, 2019 in Books, Personal growth, Scripture