grace

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.

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Love Tips

Love is something you see all the time. People have different ideas of what it is or what it should look like, specifically as it pertains to romantic relationships between a man and a woman. And recently there were two quotes, for lack of a better term. that really grabbed my attention and I think will help those who are willing to listen.

“The characteristic of love is spontaneity.”

When I read that in a devotional actually, the premise was not so much on romantic, though somewhat inferred, but it was referring to the dynamic of the Holy Spirit’s movement in us. To further my point, how many times has God surprised you, or left you guessing, or made you wait, or told you to do something crazy, or led you way outside of your comfort zone? He does it all that time. Even in the New Testament it speaks a lot about the mysteries of Christ and how mysterious God can be at times, and for me that is much of what keeps me in wonder about God and who He is because, there is so much to Him, I’m on the edge of my seat wondering what He will do next. And the more He reveals Himself to me, the more our relationship deepens and the more I learn about who I am. God is not boring and the lie of Satan is anything otherwise. He never ceases to amaze me.

The same applies for our relationships.

The beauty of growing with another person, the person God allowed you to be with, is that you learn more and more about them, the good and the bad. It’s about the journey that you take together, but it’s those unexpected moments that define the truth of a relationship. So often I hear of marriages failing because it became mundane, someone (or both) got board, or someone (or both) fell out of love, or the other person wasn’t willing to do something different. Am I condoning those reasons? Absolutely not, but I think it speaks volumes as to how God intended us to love out significant others. It should be spontaneous and exciting, even in intimate settings, because it keeps you guessing and excited. That element of surprise does wonders, especially as a female. Spontaneity is where life happens; it’s where you see the depths of another person and allows you to be free to be yourself, and not be afraid to be imperfect. It does require a lot of patience though. All in all, it keeps the attention and focus at home, because time and time again we see that the moment someone else offers something more than the mundane, problems occur. Follow the example of the Holy Spirit and switch it up a bit, and if one thing doesn’t work, well, try something else. The journey is all about the story and the memories created and those times you realized why you fell in love.

However, not all surprises are honky dory.

“Love, a rare commitment to care for another regardless of the response.”

The cross is the perfect example of this. Despite of how we treat him, no matter how unfaithful we are, despite how much we fall, despite the times we reject him, Jesus still chose and chooses to love us, leaving his arms wide open for us to come to him. The truth is that we can try in any form or any way to love God as much as He loves us, but no human mind could ever fathom just how deep, wide, high, and long his love is for us. We could never repay Him for what He has done for us. His type of love is so rare, even in the church. It’s hard to find that unconditional love in any type of relationship, that sincere “I don’t care” kind of love. Granted, that does require wisdom and discernment. Nevertheless, Christ’s love for us will never run out, no matter the type of response we give Him, of course that doesn’t mean act any way you feel or think you won’t be judged, but that is another blog for another time.

As many can attest, those who have been in long relationships, there are those times you were caught way off guard by your significant other. Now, another disclaimer, this is not speaking of the extreme circumstances, but rather those imperfections that sometimes make us question the relationship. But love is all about those growing pains, because real love is not perfect. There are plenty of low points and valleys, but through the grace of God, assuming we are in fact living in His will, we must continue to love. Relationships begin on that eros and phileo type of love, but it lasts only on that agape love, because there will be plenty times you really don’t like each other. However, the commitment you make is to be a light even when the other is being all but pleasant for whatever reason. All in all, it comes down to loving that person, with fervent and intentional prayer, being patient and caring the way God continues to be with you, because that moment we do get back in line, no matter what it takes to get there, the solidarity of the relationship grows and that love reaches such a deep place that will be a testament for the generations to come.

Be you for a purpose and love hard, love deep, and be spontaneous as only you can, and get ready to be amazed by what happens in your relationships and in your life.

Beautiful

This world searches and longs for beauty. For both men and women, there are hair care, skin care, body care, make-up, etc., notbeauty2 to mention clothes, shoes, and accessories all designed to create beauty. The problem is that we have become so dependent on these things that we tend to cover up our authenticity and block our true light from shining through, conforming to how the world thinks we should be, suppressing and denying our weaknesses and faults, and or putting blame on others. We try so hard to cover up our blemishes and scars, but we forget that diamonds have flaws and scars are our beauty marks. It’s those imperfections that make us perfect and genuine, yet still, we try so hard to cover them up. These emotional, mental, and even physical scars and or flaws prove not only our existence, but our very strength and livelihood.

Solomon says that beauty3everything has been made beautiful in its time. This means that those things you call anything but beautiful, if you let the great Artist work, in its time it will reflect His beauty and majesty. Peel away all those layers; remove your veil; take off the mask; wipe off the make-up, and see yourself as God sees you, beautiful, because God don’t make no junk. God called everything He made good and David explains how the Creator actually took time and thought into forming us, and did so wonderfully. Though we have our “unattractive” things about us in whatever aspect, God knew what He was doing when He formed us; He didn’t make a mistake, though we make them constantly, because of our flaws, often times resulting in scars.

He made it beautiful in its time, which proves He already has a plan of how He willingly desires, with His grace and mercy, to transform those “ugly” things into a gorgeous masterpiece. If you are bold enough, I dare you to trust Him and lay it all at His feet and watch Him work. He is beauty. Don’t believe me? Read about the accounts of Heaven and the new Earth, or just look at the vast variety of nature in its richest and rarest forms or within humanity alone. If He can initiate all that within a matter of six days using only His words, if you allow, I think He has every ability to in His time, take all of your mistakes, imperfections, scars, flaws and all, emotional, mental, and physical, and turn them into something majestic and marvelous, full of life, color, and dimension.

Be beautiful. Be you for a purpose and let your beauty radiate.

Ignorance is Bitterness, Not Bliss

The one thing about a good story, a story that is passed down from one generation to another, is that every single character has a purpose. Whether they had one line of one word or no line at all, their presence no matter how short, creates the story and adds new depths for the reader or hearer to explore. The story of the Prodigal Son is no different.

The writer Luke tells us this story in the Bible, and in most cases you are directed to the two main character, the father and the younger son, but there is someone else in the story that you don’t often hear about, or at least as much as the other two; the older son and that is who I want to focus on for the sake of this piece.

You don’t really see much of the older brother until the end of the story, though his being is so significant and gives us so much to learn. If you aren’t familiar with the story, the man’s younger son leaves the family to go and squander his inheritance, and ends up coming back home broke and broken, and his father lovingly ushers him back home and celebrates his return. Although, his older brother is far from happy. He feels that younger brother is unworthy of such a glorious welcome and complains to his father, because he had been faithful and not stupid like his brother; he was the good son.

At first glance, his argument makes plenty of sense and has good reasoning. On the other hand you can see his pride and jealousy, neither which are God’s favorite character traits of His children, actually his least favorite. Reading this, it reminded me of how often we judge and feel that someone else sin is worse than our own and God shouldn’t save them or welcome them back. How wrong is that?! How wrong are we?! As Paul said, it’s only by God’s grace we aren’t where someone else is.

Still, the main thing I want to point out how his response to his brother shows that he was so busy, so faithful, as he vigorously explains, that he completely lost the intimacy with his father and life itself passed him by. He just seems so uptight to me and was so focused on being perfect that he squandered his own life away, for his father told him “my son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” Along the way, I think the older brother became ignorant of who he was and who he belonged to and became bitter because he had been so faithful but seemingly got no return on his investment. He didn’t know who he was or what he had even after so many years and because he didn’t know, he wasted his life trying to earn what he already had by birth.

Don’t be like this son, this older brother. As God writes your story, every element is significant, every situation or event, good, bad, or just plain ugly is for a purpose. Your story is your story, and it’s God who knows how it will end so don’t criticize another person’s story just because it isn’t written like yours. Furthermore, the more you try to write your own story, rather than letting God write it, you will become bitter and upset because you will begin to search for what you already had and miss out on what God had in store for you. Get to know who it is you belong to and bask in it as much as you can; understand the riches and blessing you already have because of who your Father is. Don’t work so hard trying to earn what you don’t need to, because truth be told, we can never truly earn anything God has for us, we are so unworthy, but His grace, His grace…

Living a life of purpose, and being you for a purpose – a child of your Heavenly Father – don’t be ignorant to what is available to you and at your fingertips. It’s not about being perfect, because we fall short, but living our lives in such a way that proves we love our Daddy and are secure in our identity and look as if God dumped all His riches in glory on us. Wherever you are weak, He is strong, and wherever you are strong, He is stronger. Whatever you think you have, He has much more, and whatever you don’t have, He has promised to meet each and everyone of your needs and to give you an abundant life. Now is that to say do whatever you want or be lazy and not do anything and wait for God to drop it in your lap? Absolutely not. It is okay to work and live a good positive life free from all the craziness and drama of what the Prodigal Son experienced. If you don’t have to don’t, just don’t think you are more worthy than someone who didn’t live a polished life. Either way enjoy the life you have and make the most of it. As the father said to his son, God is saying to you to me. He is ALWAYS with us and ALL He has is ours. We don’t have to walk around bitter and jealous because of how God decides when and how to bless someone, celebrate that person, because it could’ve been you, and you may not know the story behind that glory. You know why you should celebrate? If for no other reason, he excited that a person has [finally] decided to live the abundant life of purpose in Christ and tap into God’s awesomeness, a life that you should already be living. If you aren’t, you are just as lost as the Prodigal Son, because you are living in bitterness, pride, and jealousy, that it’s blocking all that God wants to do in, by, through, and for you. This life someone else is about to embark on is so close to you, it may as well be a million miles away. Don’t live a life like that if you don’t have to.

God wants you and loves you, and wants you to enjoy Him and live a life of purpose believing and walking in His promises for you. He wants to give you all He has for you, but you have to want to receive it and know what you have. It has already been paid for. Ignorance is not bliss, but knowledge is power. Learn and Know. Know the force behind you. Know the power that goes before you. Know the purpose and plan God has for you. Know who you are. Know who you belong to. Know the riches of all kinds that are at your feet. Know what belongs to you. Know that God has tailored-made your story. Know that you are no better than anyone else. Know that God has always and will always be there. Know that Heaven will celebrate you when you get Home. Know that you are not forgotten. Know God will honor you and lift you up, in due time. Know that if you don’t know or learn these things your life will be bitter.