Uncategorized

When It Counts the Most

Doing a lot of character studies, it occurred to me recently that I have never did one on Jesus. I have read through the Gospels, but never actually focused on the character of Christ. So, I took on the challenge only to realize that it was four books to go through, each presenting our Lord in a different way. Needless to say, I am only about halfway through Matthew and there is already an overwhelming amount of the character of Jesus that I can pick out and desire to imitate like no other person in Scripture that I have studied. There are plenty of books and literature on the person of Jesus Christ, and this post is in no way meant to summarize who Jesus was, rather what I gleaned from one chapter.

One of the things I love most is the genuine emotion of Christ, lead by his focused mission. He was intentional with everything he said and did; he was intentional in where he went, when he went, and when he left, yet, he was far from one-dimensional, which is what we see in Matthew 14. In this chapter is the famed story of the feeding of the five thousand, but it is before the fish and loaves that brings an extra dynamic. Jesus had been ministering for some time to the people and interacting with the Pharisees and scribes, healing, teaching, confronting, and all that jazz when there is a shift of attention. At this point, John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin was locked up, which we learn in chapter 11, and because John confronted Herod about his relationship with his sister-in-law, Herod wanted him dead, but it was his sister-in-law who actually saw his death come to pass. Jesus found out.

Considering who John was to Jesus by family and in ministry, we can only imagine how devastated Jesus was when he was told what happened to his cousin. To grieve, Jesus got on a boat privately and went to be by himself. Nevertheless, he had compassion on the people who followed him to wherever he was going. Let’s pause here and think about this. If you had just lost a close family member within a day’s time, it’s not weird for you to want to get by yourself to process the situation and cry, and the last thing you want is for a whole bunch of people to come around you who only want something from you or want you to do something for them, especially if they knew what had happened, you would consider them inconsiderate jerks. Now we don’t know for sure if the people knew Jesus’ cousin had just died, but it is very possible at least some of them did, but perhaps they saw Jesus as a superhero who doesn’t have vulnerable moments, so they didn’t really think anything of taking advantage of Jesus being alone. Perhaps, that is why Jesus showed compassion.

Image result for Jesus feeds the 5000

I have heard it in a similar fashion before, but ministering counts most when you don’t want to; it matters most when you have to go out of your way. If I was in a similar situation, I would have cussed them out in my mind and turned right back around in my boat and went somewhere no one could find me, or I would have told them straight up to get away from me and come back later when I felt like being bothered. But by God’s grace, Jesus is not me or you and that is not what he did. He put himself on the back burner and showed love at its finest. We see the precious humility and grace of our Lord so much in so that he stayed with them for hours that same day and his compassion and selflessness led to one Jesus’ greatest miracle, the feeding of the 15,000.

As an encouragement to us, the more we take ourselves out of it, the more miracles we can witness, and we can trust that God will allow us the time we need to breathe and regroup with Him, for it was after the miracle that Jesus took the opportunity to get away and spend time in the presence of God in prayer. How awesome is it that Jesus knew he needed supernatural strength to continue his journey. He was fully human and wise enough to know he needed fellowship with his Father. Likewise, God knows what we need and when we need it, even if we need time and space to be alone, as did Jesus, and sometimes He knows it before we do and creates a situation that forces us to get by ourselves. Thus, we must trust that He doesn’t play with our heart and with our emotions, and when we are obedient, He makes sure we get Heaven’s best, refreshed and renewed to continue being ourselves for His purpose.

Related image

At the closing of the chapter, we see another famed account as the day continued. After Jesus received what he needed at the mountainside, he went to be with the disciples, but they were too far off in rocky waters, so he decided to go out and meet them by walking on the water. Something special happens when you meet with God, things start happening that you have to step back and people will be wondering what is going on, as did the disciples, and all you will be able to say is, “to God be the glory.” It is then we see the power of the God in us, because in verse 32 we read that as soon as Jesus got in the boat, the winds stopped. He didn’t say a word, they just stopped. The disciples neither mentioned it nor asked Jesus to calm them like he did in chapter 8. Still, when Jesus got in, the winds stopped. How incredible is that?

If you are like me, there are times that you really don’t want to be bothered, whether you have a good reason or not, but it’s in chapter 14 we see the heart of our Lord as an example of choosing to love people and put their needs above our own with God’s wisdom and discernment. The more we show God’s love, the more miracles we can be a part of and experience.

Advertisements

A Dark Fresh Start

I have read Ruth a few times and I know the majority are familiar with it, for you often hear women talk about meeting their Boaz and how like him, Christ is our kinsman-redeemer. My focus here though is in the beginning where we learn about the matriarch of the story, Naomi, who lost her husband first, then her two sons and back in those times, that meant that she pretty much lost her livelihood. What is your livelihood? Family? Career? Business? A talent? A dream? Times are different now, but there are things that make us who we are and like Naomi we get comfortable and believe nothing could go wrong. However, everything that could go wrong went wrong.

First, it is interesting that Naomi and her family went to Moab, because Israel and Moab did not have a friendly Image result for naomi and ruthrelationship and God had plenty to say about them throughout their history as well. Both Naomi and her husband were Israelites, but they left the people of God because of a famine and went and settled in unfamiliar territory for help where they probably should never have gone. Nevertheless, one can assume they didn’t trust God to keep His people in hard times, granted their story falls in the middle of when there was no king in Israel and people did whatever they wanted. Although, in the midst of all that happened, she was left with her two daughter-in-laws and was forced to go back home, learning that God was helping His people.

Naomi was a survivor and took whichever chance she had to keep her life in good standing, but it seems that she needed God to prove Himself to her that He could take care of her, and even after she returned home, she still wasn’t convinced. Not only had she changed her name from “pleasant” to “bitter,” but she made it known that God had let her down, and initially she wasn’t that fond of Ruth going back with her as if she wanted to sulk alone. Furthermore, she claimed that when she left home she was full, but it was the Lord who emptied her (and other lovely verbs), suggesting that she had no other expectations of God’s work in her situation than mere existence. But in fact, God had other plans.

By definition, you can’t blame Naomi or her family for the decisions they made and many of us have done the same thing. We make decisions in life, without ever really consulting or trusting God, even the “good” ones; we go with the flow without looking at things with spiritual eyes and we fill ourselves up and we lose focus on God’s plans, if we ever really knew what they were in the first place. This very thing happened to me. I never actually considered what God wanted for me vocationally, including my college studies, and it took a pouring out for me to get aligned; I had to be emptied. The Lord had to break me and take away my dream, my livelihood, of what I thought I was going to do with my life in order to open my eyes for His greater purpose, and by God’s grace, what I studied and experienced in school and other pieces of my life that seemed irrelevant fell in line with what He called me to do. Though, it was only His Spirit that could have revealed it to me, and I haven’t looked back.

For Naomi, she was bitter and had low-expectations, but little did she know that with all that had happened, the pieces of her past would bring her the greatest victory. Not only was Naomi apprehensive about Ruth, but it was the Lord who called Ruth, the Moabitess, into the lineage of the Lord Jesus. I can’t imagine that either of them knew God’s full plan, but Naomi was the first to notice things happening on their behalf when Ruth went to work, and hence, met Boaz. They were just trying to survive, but God chose them to change history.

Sometimes we have to start fresh when we get in dark places and go back to where we know God is, like when we have our “mountain top experiences” and we connect with God and lay our hearts out before Him, and ironically, Bethlehem, Naomi’s home, is in the mountains. So often we have to be broken and emptied in order for the Lord to build and fill us up again, which means whenever we get to the place where God is in our lives, we should live in high expectation that God will give us victory and conform our life to His best, which is always far greater than our own. In the same manner, we must ask for discernment and spiritual eyes so that we can recognize when God is moving in our lives in even the smallest ways, and if you are like me, I get so excited when I begin to see God working in the unnoticeable small ways, because I know that He is setting me up for something that is above I can hope for or imagine. So, as you be yourself for a purpose, if the Lord takes or is taking you through a breaking and pouring out season, let Him. By continually surrendering and letting the process happen, you are allowing God to pour back into you and fill you up with Heaven’s best.

 

John Mark

It’s definitely safe to say that Acts is now one of my favorite books in Scripture. There are so many characters at play and it is really so exciting, yet it makes me mad at the same time, because I desire to see the work of the Spirit more frequently in the [Western] church and believers to be used by God in the magnificent ways that He used the apostles. But that is another post altogether. Subsequently, there is one character that I want to point out that appears a couple times in Acts, then resurfaces a few more times in Paul’s epistles. His name is John Mark.

When we first meet John Mark, we learn of his mother, a Christian woman who lodged Peter after he escaped prison. Afterward, he goes off with Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey, which is when the story gets interesting. We learn about two chapters later that John Mark decided to go back home, for reasons unknown. I have heard many say that it was because he found the work too hard and or it was more involved than he realized, but there is also the possibility that he went back home to care for his mother, whichever reason it was, we don’t know for sure. Nevertheless, his departure caused a split between Paul and Barnabas (his cousin) later on; Barnabas wanted to welcome him back and bring him along on the missionary journey, but Paul wasn’t having it, thus Barnabas and his cousin went in one direction and Paul another.

So, what’s the point.

After considering the reactions of Paul and Barnabas, I can understand why each felt the way they did and can’t say either of them was wrong for their choice. As we deal with people in living out our purpose, we must not only recognize that people don’t always think like us or agree with us,  and like Barnabas our perspectives can be influenced as well by family. Again, this doesn’t mean that we are right or wrong, however, this story does compel us to develop not only wisdom and discernment, but compassion and patience as well when dealing with people, because even though John Mark’s reason for leaving them was deemed inexcusable, it teaches us that sometimes people just aren’t ready for what we hope or don’t see themselves as we see them. For, John didn’t leave the faith, as some assume, he left his assignment. Unfortunately, people will walk away for one reason or another, and we have the choice to trust them should they return or leave them, which is when discerning the voice of God comes into play.

Ultimately, we see that both Paul and Barnabas did what they thought was right, and God honored them both, even though they were separated for a time; whatever work Barnabas did with John paid off because not only did he end up in prison alongside Paul some years later, but Paul had also requested his presence in ministry, validating his value in the work of the Lord.

It’s not clear in Scripture when exactly Paul and Barnabas and John Mark all reunited, but the Spirit was obviously present in the development of their relationship. The point I desire to make in all of this is that God is one of reconciliation and restoration, in His timing and His way, and he does allow the people we work with to come in and out of our lives for seasons, but that doesn’t mean we stop praying for them or condemn their choices because of  a difference of opinion. Furthermore, some individuals do require extra grace and extra encouragement as they are figuring their way out and trying to honor the Lord and do what He has purposed for them to do, and if God has called us to extend that grace, then we must, because we never know what blessings we may forfeit if we turn someone away who disappointed us. How many times have we failed or disappointed God and He still keeps His arms open? But again, our journey may require us to not allow someone in our close space to protect us and protect them, like Paul, but if the Lord brings you back together, we must trust Him.

To be honest, I don’t know if this made sense. A lot was going through my mind when the Lord first illuminated John Mark’s story to me, and I wanted to get it all out before I forgot. I may come back and add to this blog so come back here in a week to check lol. Nonetheless, I think this disciple’s story reflects so many of us and those we know who aren’t ready to walk in their calling, especially if it connected with our own, but God’s grace is sufficient, so we must be mindful and not discourage those who decide to take time to do work through their things, because when God burden’s their heart enough and that fire is finally lit inside of them, the demons in Hell will tremble.

People are interesting and relationships are complex when you mix personalities and personal experiences together, and that’s what makes this race we run so beautiful, because each variation of our colors and beauty creates a breathtaking reflection of the glory of God. So, with wisdom and discernment, compassion and patience, be yourself for a purpose.

The Israelites: A Special Kind of Love

Over the last two years, the love of God has perplexed and overwhelmed me. I mean, like really. How can anyone love me that much and invest so much in me, and continually welcome me back when I fail and miss the mark time after time? How can someone love me past my pain and my insecurities, past my faults and disloyalty, past my wicked heart and my selfish ways? For real. A love so deep that vows to restore and heal. It’s interesting that the Spanish word for ‘deep’ is profundo, which looks a lot like the English word ‘profound.’ The idea of profound is something that goes beyond one’s normal thinking and understanding. Therefore, God’s love is so profound that it goes beyond our finite comprehension. His love is so unique and so pure that nothing can separate us from His love; it is unconditional, specifically to those of us who surrender our lives to Him. In the Bible we see words like everlasting, eternal, true, perfect, and never failing used to describe His love for His children. How insane is it that I can always count on God to love me and hold His arms out no matter what. Granted that does not give me the right to take that love for granted or assume the Lord won’t show tough love when necessary, hence the Israelites.

Throughout the various studies and readings, especially in the Old Testament, the depth of God’s love is demonstrated by His commitment to the Israelites, His chosen people. Reading through the prophets, the lives of their kings, and even when they first came out of Egypt, the Israelites were trippin. Just in a book like Hosea, one of the tribes were accused of having a spirit of prostitution. What?! Furthermore, good kings were few and far between, for most of the kings of Judah and Israel were terrible and got progressively worse from one to the next, and the people tended to follow the leadership. God on so many occasions threatened them in many ways and claimed that He would turn away from them, and He often made good on His word, and as I read His words in Scripture, I imagine His fed up, rolling His eyes and smh face, so much that I wouldn’t be surprised if He cussed them out on multiple occasions (no He didn’t, let me be clear), because the Israelites put their God through so much crap for centuries. My brother wrote a poem some years ago called, “Thank God I’m not God,” or something similar and that poem is ridiculously accurate just looking at the relationship between Yahweh and the Israelites, because I know for a fact that if I was God, I would have walked away and never looked back.

But that’s why I can’t be God.

Even though the Lord disciplined them, sometimes severely – they were wilin’ – they never had to wonder if God loved them, because He was slow to anger and His anger did not last long, and He always reminded them of who they were and of the covenant He made with their fathers. He was quick to restore and to redeem and desired to bestow His awesome favor upon them when they got their lives together. (There were many good years in between the not so good.)

The more I read, the more I study, the less I understand the love of God. It’s so…indescribable. How can a God that big, love little ole’ me that much? I have nothing to offer Him that He needs or could make His living better or more meaningful; He needs to depend on me for absolutely nothing, but I need Him just to write this blog. He has every reason and right to be distant, short-tempered, and arrogant, but in His flawless character, He chooses to be jealous for my love and chose to give His life in order to prove to me how much He desired me and wanted to have a relationship with me. I am on the verge of tears writing this, because I am just considering how great His love really is and how undeserving of it I am, but His love is mercy and grace, just as it was with the Israelites, for as He chose them to be His people, He chose me before time began to be His daughter, just like He chose you to be His child. He loves you and He loves me because He said He would. Be you for a purpose and bask in the big, strong, special kind of love that will carry you through the fires and deep drowning waters of your life, even if you set the fire or jumped in the pool yourself.

This One is for Christmas

This Christmas I decided to look a bit into the different Christmas accounts in the Gospels and rediscover the miracle of the baby Jesus. From what I learned, the family of Jesus tells us so much of who God is. For example, I already did a post some time ago about the women listed in the genealogy of Jesus, but again looking at his less than perfect relatives, we recognize that he came from a godly  lineage, although their actions at times proved otherwise, yet redemption undeniably dripped heavily throughout their stories. Therefore, we shouldn’t get hung up on the skeletons and embarrassment in Jesus’ genealogy, but rather the allowance of God’s work in their lives; they may not have started well and had some rough patched in the middle, but they ended in good standing.

When we consider and apply this for our lives, we must remember that for God to work in our lives, we can’t just do what we want and think He will bless us. To receive the blessings and miracles God wants for us, we must humble ourselves and have a surrendered life to Him; he blesses our obedience and promises to exalt us as we live in humility.

Thus, it only makes sense to consider who God chose to be the earthly parents of His Only Son. Yes, God can make somebodies out of nobodies, but it’s those things that are done when no one else is looking that make the difference. To protect His Son, he had to be able to trust the woman who would be his mother and the man who would be his father. Most of us hear of the purity of Mary, which we can see in her tone and her interaction with the angel when she learned she was pregnant with the Son of God. Though ordinary, Mary was deemed worthy to birth the Christ child. Thus, it raises the question of who was considered worthy to be the head of the home in which Jesus would live, so we must look closer at the character of Joseph, Mary’s husband, Jesus’ earthly father.

See the source image

In none of the Gospels do we find any words spoken by Joseph, and some say that Joseph died before Jesus’ ministry. Nonetheless, the account of Joseph in Luke tells us all we need to know. First of all, God demonstrated his intent for the family structure being that the angel appeared to Joseph, the head of the home, telling him to keep his family together and not divorce his wife, then to leave for Egypt, and then to return home. Subsequently, not once did he ask questions or second guess, but he trusted and revered the Lord enough to do immediately as he was mandated.

Though it applies to both men and women, I think it speaks more to women. People often diminish all of what marriage is and the impact it has on one’s life as a whole, for one reason or another. Therefore, I can’t help but wonder if there were other worthy women to have carried the Christ-child but their husbands could not be trusted. How loudly does that speak to us? We have to be very selective as to who we choose to lead us, cover us, and protect what the Lord is birthing and growing inside of us. If we entertain the wrong man, get impatient, and or marry too fast or defile ourselves with someone who is not our husband, we run the chance of killing the baby inside of us, or at least delaying the miracle he has for us. If Mary’s husband was disobedient or didn’t move immediately after the angel appeared to him the second time, then who knows if they would have made it out of Bethlehem alive. And if Jesus died as a baby…

On the other hand, I can’t help but consider why we were not given more interaction with Joseph, or at least his words. My only and immediate thought is that the Author did not want to overshadow who Jesus’ Father really was, the Living God of the universe. Luke expresses his manhood and Mark tells of his servanthood, but in the same manner, Matthew expresses him as the King and John deems him as God in human form.

During Christmas, we celebrate his arrival as the foretold Messiah, but we mustn’t forget the awesomeness that this tiny baby is the soon coming King, that he is God. It’s truly the miracle of Christmas, all of eternity of heaven and earth came consumed as a tiny baby, brought in by the most ordinary but worthy man and woman of God. As we strive to be ourselves for a purpose, we must ask if the Lord would find even our ordinary, our surrendered life, to be worthy to bring forth his miracles to change history.