Holy Spirit

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.

Advertisements

Listen Again: Did God Really Say That?

One of the biggest challenges in my walk is knowing when God is speaking. Being a big thinker, I tend to find myself creating scenarios and writing scripts in my head of what could and or should happen concerning situations I go through, good and bad. I have heard enough times people who have so clearly heard the voice of God, many times that were in fact audible, and so I tend to pretend hear the voice of God or rather say to myself what I think He would say, or just imagine what it would be like to hear His voice commanding me to run into a fire and save a little girl, or reach into the casket and touch someone and raise them from the dead, or to evacuate everyone out of a building to save them from an impending explosion or gunman…yeah that’s only a small portion of what is happening in my head on a regular basis.

You see, for me I think that having something like that happen is proof to the outside world that God’s power is dwelling within me and that we have that close of a relationship. It’s like a stamp of approval. But even as I am writing this now, I remind myself that my relationship with Him is secure and that my gifts are irrevocable, and that He speaks to me in ways that He knows I will hear, listen, receive, and respond to His word best, but more importantly that what He has allowed me to experience in our communion is perfect for what He has called me to and the story it is creating.

I mean, if you don’t know by now, this Christian walk is a journey, full of ups and downs, and anyone would be foolish to think they could walk this walk and get it right every single time, and crazy to think that they will never misunderstand God, or read signs that don’t exist even though we are so certain that it was the Lord speaking to us. Now don’t get me wrong, in His own way He does give us signs, but we have to nurture our spirit to recognize what is truly a divine message. And in the same breath, there are a few times I know for a fact that the Lord did speak to me, a gentle voice, usually when I least expected it and wasn’t making things up in my head.

One of the last times I heard something that was so vivid and caught me off guard was, “I said where, but not when.” And in my last devotion reading through Chronicles, chapter 17 verse 6, I found this phrase “did I ever say.” And it struck me and just confirmed how often I have made up in my mind God had said this or that about whatever the situation and have just been flat out wrong. Like God never said He would be your husband (on more than two occasions). He never said you would get that job. He never said…

The problem is we get wrapped up in our own desires, which may not actually be bad, but they just aren’t what God had in mind. What I am learning is that what we think is best, God has something or someone else far better in mind for what He wants for our lives that He may receive the ultimate glory. If you are like me you like control, knowing what is going on with your life, and you don’t have to be in fellowship with God long to know that He often likes to take the plans we have and rip them up. We get worked up and bent out of shape, questioning God when things don’t work out the way we wanted and the whole time God is saying “if you only knew,” and there are times God will show you why it didn’t happen like you thought it would, like He has done with me. I am a thousand percent positive that God is constantly shaking His head at me fussing at the angels, “I wish this chic would just trust me and know I own the stars and unlike so many others that have, I keep my promises.”

This post is a little more personal, but I just want to challenge you as I challenge myself to listen again. There are times we really just don’t hear it right, or we misinterpret what was said, and that is okay. Learn from it and keep it moving. Understand His word and His will are perfect and won’t steer us in the wrong direction unless we grab hold of the wheel while He is trying to drive. Know how God speaks to you specifically and realize that what He didn’t say is just as important as what He has said to you. It’s a growing process and the closer we get and the more mature we become in our faith, the clearer the voice of God is and the more we are able to discern messages meant for us. These precious words of God will lead us on the awesome path to becoming all of who He has called us to be for His amazing purpose.

Lessons from Eden: Part III

So recently in a weekly group I attend we’ve discussed the first three chapters of Genesis, creation and the fall of man, and oh my, there is so much more to the story. I have written in the past about lessons from the Garden, but there are some more that I want to share that my eyes were just opened to see.

tree of the kgeFirst off, one of the lingering questions in the story is where Adam was during the whole conversation between Eve and the Serpent. Well in reading, the Bible does assume he was there, but how close is up for discussion. Nevertheless, lets assume that he in fact was there beside Eve as she was talking to the snake. The first lesson here is that silence is not always golden. Especially considering that he was the leader of that home, he should have spoken up when the Serpent began to misquote God’s word, but he didn’t because maybe he was just shocked that the snake was speaking or intrigued by what it was saying. Still, as we often do today, he didn’t speak up because he possibly didn’t see the threat in the lie that Serpent was speaking or in the Serpent himself who was said to be subtle and cunning. This very act of silence that we see here has shown it’s effects on our society. These subtle lies and doubts that the Enemy has whispered in our ears to make us question or reinvent the Word of God has desensitized us and confused even Christians as to what is right and wrong, and our society has greatly fallen because of it. It emphasizes our need to have continuous fellowship with God, as they did in the Garden, because for that brief time they were apart from God for one reason or the other, Satan slipped in and well, here we are today. God’s word is the truth and we must speak up for Christians have been silent for far too long and sin has prevailed in this society because of it, but yet we want to be popular and accepted and don’t want people to look at us weird or call us names, yet that is what was promised when we signed up to be followers of Christ. Now more than ever we need to not only speak up with the Word of God no matter how small or trivial the matter seems, but live a corresponding life showing that right is right and wrong is wrong.

As just said, for that brief moment Adam and Eve were not walking with God as they had done pretty much every day, so what happened? I don’t know, but what I do know is that we all miss the mark at times and for one reason or another we get out of touch with God. That doesn’t mean we just become heathens overnight, but perhaps we get too busy or life gets so chill that we forget our need for God, yet it’s that time we are out of fellowship that the Enemy likes to attack us and makes us question who God is, who we are and what we are supposed to do as he did with Eve. Our priorities get mixed up, we become anxious and worrisome, questioning the power and provision of God, pride sets in, and or we become apathetic, and before we even realize it, our thinking begins to change and that space between us and God thickens, our language changes, and sooner or later we fall into sin, whether worry, cussing, fornication, getting drunk, pride, bitterness, anger, jealousy, or whatever your vice may be.

So we mess up to some degree or another and feel so icky that we do the worse thing and pull away from God completely out of guilt, like Adam and Eve. We try to hide ourselves and our sin as if God doesn’t already know. We are afraid to pray, stop listening to devotionals, block out people from our lives, stop going to church because we feel so ashamed of what we did or how far off track we’ve gotten, because we don’t want people’s perceptions to change about us or let down those that looked up to us. So like Adam and Eve, we go under a rock or hide in a bush and put on a mask so no one can really see us. But God in His awesome love, grace, and mercy went out looking for them even though he was well aware of what they had done. He does the same with us, we just have to be willing to respond like Adam. God didn’t jump on their case or write them off from history because of their sin, but instead he covered them, though there were still consequences. As a body of believers, we should have the same mindset of God and should someone go missing from church or you notice a different pattern of behavior or attitude, reach out to them and show them the way home without automatically condemning or judging them, but show them the same grace, mercy, and love God showed to you. Yet, we neglect to do that far too often for a long time now and so many have slipped through the cracks and have been forgotten. So as much as you are able, check up on each other.

The last thing I want to point out that was pointed out to me is that God said not to eat of the tree originally, yet Eve told the Serpent that they were not to touch it nor eat it. Credit to her. Why? From Eve, this simple recall shows a great sense of maturity that we can apply today by not touching sin. Far too often we tease sin and put ourselves in compromising situations because we want the experience or we want to see how far we can get without actually sinning, but how much does that go as planned. More times than not we go further then we desired and do what we said we wouldn’t do and things get messy. We just wanted to touch it. This lesson from Eve urges us to just completely abstain from sin as much as we can, whatever is in our control, the choices we make every day. Though we can only control so much and get tempted, through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God we are able to not touch, preventing us from tasting the fruit.

This is one of the more lengthy posts I’m sorry, but I’m glad I was able to share and I hope and pray it blessed and encouraged you. Take these lessons from Eden and use them every day to more and more be you for a purpose.

If you want to check out other lessons from Eden, check them out on the links below:

Lessons from Eden

Lessons from Eden: Part II

Jewel of the Garden