Mighty Grace, my debut album released in 2017, was recorded with a phone and a podcast mic. All thirteen songs are raw, acoustic overflows of personal experiences I had with Jesus. I was never intending to release them and never dreamed they would touch so many people! To this day, I constantly receive testimonies of people experiencing God through this simple album ⏤ particularly freedom from depression and anxiety. I believe it is because the gospel of Grace is the power of God to bring salvation in every area of your life. I have hidden in every track a prayer that you would experience God's rest and Grace.
Love Secrets, my first studio album released in 2019, was recorded in a home studio alongside producer and friend Dani Schick. Thematically, all thirteen songs tackle different aspects of God's loving nature: faithful-i-choose-you-love, marriage-union, enjoyment, wonder, fatherhood. Each song carries unique production elements. Maybe you can help me classify its genre. The heart of this album is to dive head-first into the pleasure-pool of God's love. We have been made righteous, apart from our behavior, for a reason: to enjoy God. It would be silly to use such incredible freedom on cheap imitations. I pray your heart engages the Person of love as you listen!
I'm John Mark. I live in Lynchburg, VA where I just bought my first house. I'm recording my third album at said house with my friends. The living room has many pianos. I was able to leave my full-time roofing job this year to do ministry + music full-time; it's honestly a dream come true. I love songwriting. I'm learning how to paint. I like to throw mugs on the wheel. I could go on a bike ride every day and be okay. That's about where I am now. Here's my full story.
My Grace Story
My mom and pops were traveling singers. Remember those wood-paneled station wagons? Childhood home. Small quarters for me and my three older brothers. I would pretend to be Fred Flintstone while staring through the holes in our passenger seat floor traveling from church to church. Imagine desperate hope as the love offering passed across the pew. The love was real but times were hard.
When we settled down in the blue hills of Virginia I remember being scared of two things as a first grader: music and church. I grew up in church but I didn't get to know God. Momma was a piano teacher but I didn't touch music. God wasn't real at sixteen (addicted to video games). At nineteen, God and I went on our first date. It was confusing. He was pissed. And controlling. And demanding. But also love? Six months later, I fell in love with Big Mama's (grandma) piano. It had been collecting dust at the base of the stairs my whole life. I put note-coded scotch tape on each key and clawed chords. I never tried other people's songs. I couldn't stop creating new things.
I tried writing music about God but it always felt forced. And lame. At twenty-two, God and I had been on a three-year rollercoaster and I hate those; nausea. I hated the Christian life. When I did good - never enough. Do this, do this, doo doo. When I failed it was a guilt fest. Should I wear a mask today? I confessed until I was blue in the face. Heavy, burdensome Christian religion. The overall impression: God is very displeased. You give so little. Spirit of grumpy. Three years of failing and I walked away. So much for the abundant life. I became a pot-head; high all day everyday for two years. You know: Nutty Buddy's and failing college.
Colorless, bland living ensued. I would curse your socks off if you killed my buzz with conversation about God. Meanwhile, deep in my heart stood the question, "Will God have me back?" I wasn't sure if I wanted Him. When guilt is the epitome of a relationship you don't exactly run home. I was just a boy believing lies. I took a summer trek to Arkansas at twenty-four. God was waiting for me there in a Walmart parking lot. A Spirit-filled podcast preacher cut to my heart and read my mail, describing me and my situation perfectly. When you grow up Baptist - this is voodoo nonsense. It wasn't. "The LORD wants to show Himself to you as Abba!" For the first time in my life I cried out to the LORD, "Dad!" The Holy Spirit hugged my neck like the Father hugged the prodigal son; with many kisses. I got sloppy-wet-kissed. God's heart was so different than I thought; infinite levels of kindness-beaming-proudofyou-singing-dancing-happy-tender type of different. You've got the wrong guy, God. I suck, remember?
Taste and see. God wants us to drink Him to know Him. I could describe to you an apple cobbler. Or you could take a bite. I didn't need any angry-redfaced-preacher-man to motivate me into relationship with God after the sloppy-wet-kiss. I drank in God's love everyday, all day for three years. Ain't no high, am-I-right?
Before when I heard people tell me God was loving I thought they were just hippy-loving tree-huggers. I wondered, "What about sin?" In my 3-year drinking sabbatical, the eyes of my heart were opened to the gospel of Grace. Wow. It's so good. Understanding the gospel gave a much needed rest to my conscience and opened my heart to receive God's love without hesitation.
2 Corinthians 5:21
God made Jesus Himself, who knew no sin, to become sin for us, so that we could become the righteousness of God in Christ.
This verse lightning-bolted my heart and my eyes saw Jesus receiving our sin on the Cross. My conscience had always been demanding a sin-payment and I continually offered myself as the sacrifice. I had been entering God's kitchen with freshly-roasted, self-effort, grade-A flesh, insulting the Lamb He had already set and prepared for me to enjoy. The entirety of my Christian life was spent trying to pay for a debt that had already been paid in full and finish a work that Christ emphatically said is "Finished". Jesus did such a perfect job that the Holy Spirit now witnesses to us, "God will by no means count your sins against you or ever remember your lawless deeds" (Heb. 10:17). My conscience needed settling that God was not holding my wrongs against me. We tend to try and settle it with good behavior (that's called dead works) when only the Cross has the power to free the conscience. It was settled: I am wildly-perfectly-forever-forgiven. My eyes turned from self and onto Christ; from empty works to faith, from behaving to beholding, from working to resting.
That was all about sin. But what really confronted me was the second half of 2 Corinthians 5:21; "become the righteousness of God in Christ"? Jesus did not become sin by doing. And we do not become righteous by doing. He received our sin. We receive His righteousness. Righteousness is a gift we receive by faith. And it's not a ruddy run-of-the-mill righteousness. It's the full throne-room, world-breathing, eye-ball melting, purity-enriched righteousness of God Himself. The courts of heaven have a clear verdict.
My question was always, "Am I right with God?" My reality morphed and I began asking, "Is Jesus right with God?" I could no longer define myself or relate to God apart from my union with Christ. Jesus, Himself, is my righteousness. Can we just stop and have a dance party about that? I remember the first time I knew and believed; wide-eyed-white-boy-celebration-jump-party on the couch. I'm hidden in Christ. He's bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. I can rest from trying to get on God's good side; I am His side. This is what Jesus finished on the Cross; mystical, holy union. Ooey gooey, air-tight, glad tidings. Christ in me. I in Him and He in me. As Christ is, so am I. As He is righteous, so am I. Heart-emancipated, doubt-free, I left my rags of self-reliance and self-righteousness and rushed into God's heart. Christ is the solid ground that dancing can happen on.
1 Corinthians 1:30
God has united you in Christ Jesus. Christ Himself has become to us our
wisdom, righteousness, holiness,
Gulp, gulp, gulp. Arkansas was my wilderness but I met God there. I was effortlessly set free from all my addictions. Grace is the power over sin; only rest required. I wrote no music. At twenty-seven I moved back to Lynchburg and the songs started flowing. All of the songs on Mighty Grace were birthed from the closet of my room; literally. It felt like exploring God. My desire is that my music would help you rest. That you'd stop striving to love Him and let Him love you! That you'd cease from your works and rest in what Christ has done. That you'd be radically set free from the bonds of addiction by resting. That you would wake up to His gift of righteousness! That you would enjoy God. Receive deeply, friend.