patience

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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Enemies

You can’t live a life of any type of significance without making enemies, or haters, if I may use that word. Now using these terms, I am not talking about people that legitimately just don’t like you or people that just don’t care for you as a person, because not everyone meshes well with everybody, you learned that in pre-school. We each are drawn to different types of people, and the people you hang with may not be my cup of tea. These people are not your enemies. Rather, enemies are those who seem to be on an assignment to destroy your life or disrupt your road to fulfilling God’s purpose for your life, and the scary part is that they don’t always show their true colors right away, and some we don’t recognize before it’s too late, because their maneuvers are very subtle. Of course, the Enemy and all of Hell’s demons become your enemies once you surrender your life over to Christ, but I don’t want to talk about them specifically.

So where is all this coming from? Well I have been reading Max Lucado’s book, “Facing Your Giants,” which goes through the life of David, and he pointed out that during the time David was on the run from Saul, there was an incident when he cut off a part of Saul’s garment without him knowing it, and later felt bad about it. The lesson learned is that even though our enemies are our enemies, they still belong to God, no matter what position they are in, whether they are friends, co-workers, parents, ministers, siblings, or even those people you really can’t fathom how or when they became your enemy. For David, Saul’s pursuit was driven by jealousy and envy, which in my opinion is the common determining factor, meaning that people out of their own misery and insecurities do what they can to bring you down with them or try to get over you.

Nevertheless, recognizing who our enemies may be, it’s easy to begin to talk bad about them, build a false sense of pride, and if you let it, you begin to hate them. The problem here is that hating someone the Bible classifies as murder, God vividly says He hates pride, and slander is always condemned in scripture, so obviously, should we get to these points, we need to reevaluate our heart and motives, because if the Lord truly is trying to elevate us and use us in ways that only He can, we must get rid of all these things. If for no other reason, James reminds us not to tear them down, even though these persons are our enemies and may have truly done or said some terrible things, because they, like us, were made in the image of God.

Furthermore, because of that understanding, as Lucado explained, they are still a part of God’s plan especially in your life, which could be to develop patience, mercy, forgiveness, faith, and or love, yet in the same way, He has a plan for them too, for the simple fact that they are alive. This means that even though they are behaving like anything but a child of God, they are not out of reach to be redeemed by God. So with that being said, in dealing with our enemies we should be bearing fruit, honoring God, especially love since we are commanded to love our enemies. Likewise, it got me thinking some more as it relates to how we pray.

If you haven’t discovered this on your own, there are some scary prayers in the Bible, especially by David, that petition the Lord’s judgement and wrath on our enemies. So as a disclaimer, there is a time to pray those types of prayers, but I doubt your life is as insane as David’s so I can’t imagine you having to pray those prayers on a regular basis, just use wisdom with pure motives. On the other hand, because we acknowledge the fact the even our enemies are made in the image of God who still has the ability to change their hearts, our prayers should be more compassionate, because they may be in a spiritual war that they aren’t even aware they are in or deeply struggling in ways we aren’t privy to knowing. Your prayers can truly save their lives, which would make yours less difficult, allowing the possibility of a friend. To put it another way, if how you pray about and over your enemies they pray for you, would your prayers change? This is important to consider because you have been or still may be an enemy to someone.

Bottom line, your response to your enemies can change lives, just let the Spirit of God lead you in dealing with them in whatever your situation may be. It’s definitely something worth mastering, because being you for a purpose will always draw attention and create a response, both positive and negative.

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.

Unwanted

If you ask me, the Bible is full of some of the greatest love stories ever. With that said, I watched a movie recently based on Hosea and Gomer, and I was really intrigued by the dynamics of the story that I had never picked up on before in reading, so I did some further looking into it and was even more captivated by how it so intensely portrayed our relationship with God.

If you aren’t familiar with the story, Hosea was the prophet God had told to marry the adulterous woman Gomer. Now at first, I was always under the assumption that she was a prostitute, but more than likely she was pure before she got married and developed and the heart of a harlot. I find this very interesting. It wasn’t until after she was married that she started to wander and refused to be satisfied by a man that would do anything for her. It was almost like she didn’t want to be loved, didn’t believe she could be loved and cared for so much, and or didn’t feel worthy to receive the love of a such a man. Thus, it’s almost like she did everything to force Hosea to give up on her. Don’t we do that?

GomerThe love of God is so straightforward, yet it goes beyond comprehension, and many times we feel unworthy or less than fearfully and wonderfully made, and we either we act out, becoming afraid and doubtful of its genuineness and test the love of God, or we just don’t want it, because our pride wants us to be able to live the way we want without boundaries, but I think the latter. Like Gomer, even though God pursues us and reminds us daily of His love, as would Hosea, we decide to live a life that takes that precious love for granted and many times we end up in a far worse situation than we should’ve ever been in. Gomer was no different. As a result of her many escapades, she ended up in bondage waiting to be sold to the highest bidder. But no one wanted her. She had damaged herself so bad that she ranked lower than a slave. No one wanted her.

In spite of his heartbreak, pain, frustration, and sadness Gomer caused, Hosea bought her back and promised to always love her. Woah! What kind of love is that?! That’s God’s heart for us, no matter what we do to Him, He will never stop loving us, because His love for is does not depend on us. Even when we stray, His arms are always open, calling us back home. Now does that mean we can go and act like we ain’t got no sense? Of course not, especially when we know better. Hosea even told her she had to stop doing craziness after he bought her back.

When we get to the point where we realize that God will never abandon us or forsake, no matter who we are or what we do, something in us will want to love Him back and want to have that love with us wherever we go in life. As human, by definition, we do not want God’s love, until we meet Jesus, and even then there are kinks in our lives that we strive to straighten out, but he promises to walk with us and be with us through eternity. Matter of fact, the name Gomer means perfect and complete. That is so mind blowing.

When I read that, it clicked that the story of Hosea and Gomer is a reflection of God’s perfect and complete love and salvation (meaning of Hosea). So what’s the point?

Living a life of purpose, you can’t fight God’s love. He is a gentleman so He won’t force you to accept His love or make you love Him in return, but I mean why wouldn’t you? As Gomer did, and as Hosea prophesied to the Israelites, we try everything and everyone else to satisfy us and make us happy, but sooner or later, at some point we come to understand that the Lord was there the whole time and no one else can love you like He can; no one else has your back like He does. He is all that you need to fulfill His awesome purposes in your life. God thinks you are worth every bit of love He has to offer you, and even if every other person has stopped loving you for one reason or another, even if it was your doing, God will never change His mind about you. You can’t make Him stop loving you. So bask in it on purpose, because if you are like me, even when you are being you for a purpose and living in purpose, sometimes His love is all that is holding you together, the only thing stopping you from giving up.

Time & Trouble

time

To write on the Book of Psalms, there isn’t enough years in a lifetime or enough pages to be printed to adequately express the intent of every author and the meaning and significance of each verse written in this beautiful piece of literature. Nevertheless, for the sake of this post, I want to focus on one chapter, 90. As it happens with many passages, I have read it several times before, but it wasn’t until this last time it clicked, and two verses specifically stood out.

It is in verse four that we gain some insight to God’s time table; a thousand years to us, is one day to Him. Hold up. That has to be one of the least rationale or explainable verses in the Bible. I mean seriously. one millennia versus one day? When I read that it reminds me of what the prophet Isaiah told the people, His ways are not our ways. You know what that means? His time is not our time, not even close. There are many Scriptures in the OT and NT that talk about the right time (Ecclesiastes 3:1; Habakkuk 2:3; Galatians 6:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:6).

Living a life of purpose, we have to understand God’s time means that what we want to happen in one year may no manifest itself until five years later. Does that mean you did something wrong? No. God’s timing is just different and it’s not until those five years or some more time after that you begin to really understand why God took that much time; maybe you weren’t ready or as ready as you thought you were and or needed to be, or the situation just wasn’t right, or God was working something else out entirely. I say all that to say something I have said before, waiting is not for the weak; patience is not easy. Nevertheless, the more we grow in Christ, the more we understand that we don’t understand and that He is sovereign and knows best. The quicker we learn that, the less worried, anxious, and frustrated we become. Now does that mean God likes to drag and string us along? Absolutely not. God is not about that life. He has a purpose in His perfect timing and the more intimate we are with Him, the more He begins to reveal those certain mysteries with us. In the same breath, if you are waiting for God, don’t ever rush Him. I did and well, I got myself in a situation I shouldn’t have been in. He can see the future, we can’t. On the flip side, don’t slow God down, which means if you are waiting on God and have been for some time now, make sure it’s not Him that’s waiting on you. I learned that too, not good. Bottom line, don’t get pushy and aggressive and don’t get passive and lazy with God’s timing. Just do what you know He want you to do when He wants you to do it and in due time…

Unfortunately, there is also verse 10 in this chapter. This verse talk more about time, but specifically our time. The average time we have on earth, give or take, is 70-80 years. The sad part, as it goes on further to say, is that life though short, is but trouble and sorrow. Job and Matthew said the same thing (Job 14:1; Matthew 6:34). You know what that says to me, after we have clarity that God is infinite and time is in His hands and understand that we are finite and time slips through our fingers, that gives the push to live a life of purpose even more. Why? Our days though short, we are promised to have trouble and sorrow and pain and disappointment, but we shouldn’t live a sheltered life that seeks to block out all the trouble. It’s impossible. We have no control. Likewise, we shouldn’t get so bent out of shape when troubles come, because we should expect them, or otherwise, ever get to the point we feel invincible as if nothing can touch us, giving the enemy a rather large foot hole, and often times God will have to humble us.

A life of purpose is living as a solution to the problems we face everyday. We can’t run from the trouble, no matter how bad it is, whether its our fault or not. Consequently, purpose-filled living means attempting to not create our own problems as much as we are able, because that only means we are adding more trouble to what was promised to us. That’s why it is imperative to be mindful of what you say, what you do, and what you think. Life is short and there is sorrow and trouble on every side, so don’t waste your time holding grudges, being angry and bitter, and not forgiving. Not only are you adding on to your trouble, wasting more time, but you are also causing trouble for other people as well, wasting their time.

Being you for a purpose, you understand that time is short and you were created to help fix the trouble we were promised. So in whatever ways God has chosen you to be a solution, don’t waste time, because after a short time, we will fly away. So I ask, what solutions have you come up with?? Have you added to the trouble or have you reduced it?? Your time will quickly pass, but there is so much you can do, after all Jesus changed the world forever in a matter of 12 hours. Even if all you have is one day left, your solution to one person’s problem, big or small can change the world forever, whether you write it, speak it, or do it.