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.

High and Low

It’s always funny how I get overly familiar with a Bible story, then for whatever reason I go back and read it, only to find I missed so much and I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did. Prime example, the transfiguration. Previously, I had just thought the story captured in Scripture was Jesus and his special disciples going up a mountain, seeing the glory, then the story closes with a time gap to the next section (depending on translation) and another story begins. Boy was I wrong!! I was encouraged to read this account in Mark 9 after reading a few devotionals from Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest,” and I was intrigued by all I missed.

One of the first things I noticed is the fear of the disciples in the presence of Christ, up and down the mountain. It made me wonder if the fear of the Lord is merely reverence, actual fear, or a mixture of both. When I considered their moments of fear, it was definitely not a matter of reverence, but they were afraid because they didn’t know what to do or say or the response of Jesus to their actions. I think for us, it is necessary that we have a healthy balance of reverence for the Lord along with fear for His immensity. He is far above human understanding and a fear of His judgment and limitless incredible power and what He may do should inspire us to live as close to the cross as we can. Of course, as we learn the character of God that level of fear is balanced out because of His overabundant grace and overwhelming love.

The funny thing about this story is that in their fear, we see how started saying dumb stuff, for God the Father straightened Him out real quick so he couldn’t act his out, as did Jesus when he handled the dispute of the disciples who were totally missing the point of the ministry they had just been apart of and knew that they were wrong, which is why they didn’t respond to Jesus when he asked them. Without exhausting it, in our fear, we shouldn’t react, but we should instead consider Jesus and his glory so that we don’t mistake what God wants to say to us, show us, or do for us.

There really is so much in this account that I could present here, but a blog is not a book so I will refrain or just do a part two. Nevertheless, the major point that I gathered from the transfiguration story is the highs and lows of life; we can’t have one without the other. What struck me about the story is not their incredible experience on the mountain, but their immediate journey back down the mountain and into regular life.

As Chambers reflected, when we experience the high mountain-top experiences, we naturally want to stay there, but the mountain was created to prepare us for the valleys of life; we can’t stay there forever. As soon as they saw Elijah and Moses and were scolded by the Father, the experience was over, and back down the mountain they went; Jesus actually went ahead of them. If we are supposed to follow Christ, we must recognize the purpose and time necessary for the mountain.

Furthermore, there is a misconception that we leave the presence of God on the mountain, but just as Jesus went before them and walked with them down the mountain and back to reality, he will walk with us; His presence will never leave us. Just as we see when Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days fasting, right after his in depth encounter with God it was time to put what he learned to practice. For after his fast, the Devil tempted him, and immediately after their return from the high mountain, Jesus had to face problems in ministry with the other disciples.

There will be more lows in life than highs, and low doesn’t necessarily mean bad, but rather the normal every day things of life. The highs are those intense encounters we have in the presence of God, and I must admit that I couldn’t handle it if it happened every day, which is why those mountain highs last for just a weekend or a short time, as we see in Mark 9, where the majority of this chapter is not concerning the transfiguration, but what happened when they came back down. Likewise, if Jesus had stayed or if they had returned later, then that boy would not have been delivered and the disciples would have missed critical teachings and experience of the work of the Son if they would have lingered on the mountain.

As we live a life a purpose, it has to be guided and influenced by the times we spend with God on the mountain, but we can’t be stingy with what we gain there, rather, we must take those blessings and lessons and share it with others, otherwise it becomes a waste and the beauty of God can’t be share with others, encouraging them to seek the presence of God. We have a responsibility be ourselves for a purpose in lows, prepared in the highs of His presence.

What Else is There?

It’s a safe bet to say that my favorite princess movie ever is “The Swan Princess,” and if you haven’t seen it, your life is not complete. One of the the reasons I love it so much is that Princess Odette is her own person and not flaky nor superficial. How? When the Prince Derek announces his decision to marry her, she proceeded to ask him what else other than her beauty did he like about her, to which he responded “What else is there?” Heartbroken, she leaves and the wedding, as you may guess, was called off.

When I think of those exchanging of questions, it reminds me of a passage I recently read in John chapter six. In the particular conversation, Jesus I believe is a bit frustrated, disappointed, and possibly even hurt, because many of his followers were leaving him because what he was preaching was hard to accept, let alone follow. It happens so often today still, those that started off with Christ, the Enemy comes and chokes out the word because they get discouraged or it seems too overwhelming and people give up on God, and they turn back. Even as those who actually witnessed Jesus and saw him perform miracles and heard God in the flesh, the creator of the universe speak and teach, if so many would turn, why would it be any different now? However, what makes me think Jesus was somewhat hurt is the question that he would then ask his disciples.

“You do not want to leave me too, do you?”

I can very well be wrong, but to me it seems that the emotion of Jesus was so heartfelt and real and it’s a question I think so many, including myself, have asked. Especially when you choose to be yourself for a purpose, people will walk away and you may have to walk away from some people, and truth be told you may lose more than you expected and it gets to the point where you ask “are you going to leave me too?” The problem is that when you give people real, in this case meaning exemplifying the person God has called you to be, not everyone can and will accept it, but you must go on, even if that means you have to walk alone sometimes, believing that in His time and in His way He will put the right people to walk alongside of you on the journey toward your destiny. It’s so real and I love Jesus even more, because he really did have emotions, those that are genuine and very relatable, considering how he still recognized the fact that though not everyone would walk away from him, at least one would betray him and hurt him even more than those who walked away, but yet, he was not deterred from the assignment he had to complete. He knew he couldn’t change who he was nor the calling and purpose given to him, which is a message to me to keep going and being what God has called me to be for a purpose, because my purpose is so much greater than me and I can’t let emotions or other the misunderstanding and unwillingness of other people sway what I know to be true. But, getting back to the story, the crux of why I alluded to the “Swan Princess” is in the response of Peter to Jesus.

“Lord, to whom shall we go?”

“What else is there?” asked Prince Derek. Though the motive and reasoning is different, same idea applies. What other choice do you have? Where else can you go? What else has such significance? What else is important enough to even consider another? What else matters? Not so much for Derek, which he did come to realize, but Peter was exactly right. The truth is that apart from Jesus, nothing else matters. It is he and he alone that we are able to be who we are, because he is the one that created us. It is he and he alone who gives us meaning and purpose in life. Apart from him, there is no hope, there is no future, and there is no life, just emptiness and unwavering void. One thing I tend to say is that without him I can do nothing; without him I am nothing. It all starts and ends with him. It all revolves around him, his will, and his eternal word.

Consequently, “what else is there?” Other than being all that you were called, created, and destined to be, what else is there that will give you such satisfaction, peace of mind, completion, joy, and significance and make you irreplaceable? Settling for something less than God’s absolute best, or choosing to clone another person or a culture or the world will demean and limit the power of God in your life to do all that He so desperately desires to do. I mean seriously, the Jesus, the God who spoke the very world into existence, the same one who created the universes with his very word, the same one who controls the seas and the wind, and the same one who by touching the very hem of his garment a woman was healed, is the same one who took His precious time and thought in designing and crafting you specifically with a purpose in mind. Say what?? That is so mind-blowing to me. I mean, why would anyone not choose to live the life that was awesomely and uniquely tailor made for them by that same God who not only placed the stars in the sky, but knows them all, each by name? Like the song says, I have no other choice.

Truly, there is nothing else than to just be you for the purpose that God intended.

You Know the Look

eyesIf you have learned anything from these blogs, you know that I love a good Bible story, those that seem so simple, yet have those little details that change your perspective on everything. It’s those details that make the story, which you often don’t catch until you have read it or hear it in about a thousand times over. With all that being said, let’s talk about Peter.

If you are unfamiliar with Peter, he is the outspoken disciple who Jesus had to rebuke Satan out of. Yeah, him. Needless, to say there is much that is written about him, not to mention the two books he authored in the New Testament. But there is one story, one scene I want to focus all attention. Using the account Luke gave, one of the most familiar stories surrounding Peter is that of his denial of Jesus. Long story short, Jesus previously tells Peter that he would deny him three times before the rooster crowed, and of course Peter refutes it. However, in the midst of the night, after Jesus had been arrested and facing the fury of the Sadducees and Pharisees, Peter got scared, and to his defense, for good reason, still, Jesus’ prediction came true.

However, it’s not the denial I find captivating, but something in verse 61. It states that Jesus looked straight at Peter, Whoa! Sometimes we forget the human aspect of Jesus and that he did have emotions and expressions. Therefore, can you imagine what that would look was? I remember some images I got once of Jesus smiling, and it was so endearing, because it’s not something generally associated with Christ, but it made me think that for Jesus to be true and perfect, he had to smile and laugh. It’s almost weird; I can only assume he had perfect teeth. Back to the story, you know that look, the one your Mom gives you that says, “you got a good three seconds to get your life right,” or the look from the Dad that says, “I’m disappointed in you,” or from your spouse that lets you know you are in trouble and says “I can’t believe you.” The look that is the complete opposite of smiling or pleasantry. Yeah, that look. Now imagine Jesus giving you that look of heartbreak, pain, and or upset. Can you imagine what Peter must have felt? The shame, the guilt, the sadness.

I can only think of how often I’ve heard and I’ve even said, “what would you do or how would you act if Jesus was here?” In some interpretation of that, it’s a real thought though. If Jesus saw how you were living or not living your life, what kind of look would he give you? Those things you think he doesn’t see or hear, how do you think he is looking at you. So many times, a look can say so much more than words ever could, I should know. I’ve been told I have those types of looks, those that let people know what you are think at any given moment, good or not so favorable.

It really is a mind-boggling concept though; Jesus looking straight at me in my eyes. I already tend not to look people in the eye as much as possible, because it honestly makes me uncomfortable, but I’m learning, Still, it has to be an overwhelming feeling to have Jesus, the name of Who created the universe and can hold it in the palm of his hand, looking you dead in your face after something you did. It makes you think a little bit more and be more mindful of what we do, because he is looking.

So now you  may be asking what this has to do with anything. Well, at some point, you will meet Jesus face-to-face and he will be looking you in your eyes, all his focus will be on you. The question is, what kind of look will it be? Will he be shaking his head at you? Will he look disappointed or hurt because you chose to not walk in your purpose and be all that he created and died for you to be? Or will he have the look of a proud father, speechless because his child finally made it home? Either way, he will look at you. In the mean time, how would Jesus look at you now?

Be you for a purpose so his eyes have a reason to smile when they peer at you.

Focus on Yours

I can’t tell you how many times I didn’t feel like going to church, but when I did, I got something from it, and this past Sunday was no different. Though it was Easter, I did not feel like going to church and I’m not talking about the 11 am service. No, I am talking about the “son”rise 6 am service. And you know the funny thing, people always say, “since Jesus got up, I guess so can I.” Nope, I disagree. He was sleep for three days. I would’ve gotten up early too if I slept that long. (insert laugh here) Anyhow, as you can imagine, it was hard getting up that early, but I did and I am so glad I did. Like I said prior, whenever you go to church, there is always something there that you can take away, whether it’s a song, the message, a conversation, a hug, or a chance to actually pray purposefully. In my case on Sunday, though it was a part of the message, what I took away was not in the message.

The preacher of that lovely early morning hour came spoke on the story of Jesus appearing to his disciples after his resurrection, and had a fish fry with them. The highlight of the sermon was on Jesus confronting and questioning Peter’s love for him, but I decided to read on the rest of the conversation, which wasn’t addressed in the message, and was blown away.

I actually did an article on another site about it, but Jesus was a funny dude. I mean if you really just read the dialogue in the Gospels alone, he will have you lol-ing for real, because he had absolutely no problem keeping it real, which is exactly what he did in this story. After walking along the shore and getting back on good terms, Peter noticed John behind them and asked Jesus what he was going to do with him, and Jesus pretty much told him to mind his business and not to worry about it because it had no consequence to him.

I am pretty sure I had read this passage before, but it had been so long, so it was refreshing to read it again. What Jesus said to Peter is something that he is telling us today, and that is to stop worrying about what God is doing or going to do in someone else life, which is part of the reason Peter sank before, because he lost focus. If you constantly compare yourself to others and get caught up in what they are doing and how the Lord is blessing them, the Lord has little capacity to bless your fruits because you are not focused on the task He has given you. In today’s language, I think Jesus would have said to Peter flat out “mind yours.” It’s so easy to get caught up in other people’s story, especially when they seem to be further along than us or they happen to be doing the same type of ministry or work we are, and we get prideful and jealous. Just considering the story, Jesus was actually reinstating Peter after he had denied him, so I think Peter wanted to get off the hot seat for a minute; same with us.

When the Lord is working on you, don’t start pointing finger or passing blame. There is another lie that is floating around that says “your actions/attitude determine my attitude and my action are up to you.” That is a dangerous philosophy to live by because as just as it sounds, you can’t determine the consequences, and at the end of it all, you are responsible for your own actions; you will be accountable for how you reacted, not how others acted.

Bottom line, focus on yours. Stick to your function and let God do what He wants in that other person’s life. What the Lord has for them is for them and what’s for you is for you – that also goes for God’s time table. Just like the driving analogy, when you drive you can’t keep looking at your past in your rear view mirror, or else you will crash; likewise, you will crash if you keep looking at the person or people in the lane beside you. As Jesus said to Peter, there is no reason for you to question what God is doing in someone’s life, especially if it has no bearing on what He is doing in your life. If by some chance it does, still, focus on being you for the purpose and task set forth for your specific journey, keep it in prayer, and in due time God will work things out and merge you together.