Monthly Archives: March 2013

Right Place, Right Time

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.  Mark 15:21

Ever wonder whether or not you were where you should be or doing what you should be doing or going where you should be going?  I can imagine most everyone has asked these questions of themselves at one time or another.  And sometimes, after our experiences we second guess our purpose there.  Why is this?  Is it a lack of faith or a hole in our trust?

There was a man that the scripture tells us was just “passing through from the country.”  Not much else is said for his purpose in Jerusalem, but it’s likely he was there to bring a sacrifice not realizing that which was going on at the time.  And this man, observing the radical journey Christ was taking through the streets, being led to the Hill, by cracks of the Roman whips and shouts of hurt and pain from those whom He loved.  Simon found himself in the right place at the right time.

Unlike anyone else to have ever lived on this earth, Simon from Cyrene actually carried the cross of Christ!  It doesn’t make him any more holy by any means, but to have carried the cross for Christ must have been the most unbelievably symbolic moment of time.  As I mentioned before, it is most likely Simon was there for his own purposes, but God chose him to escort THE Lamb of God to be sacrificed for the sins of all.

I would dare suggest that Simon would have preferred not to be the one to carry this cross.  I might figure that he was wishing he was not standing where he was standing, or made eye contact with the Roman soldier that called him out.  He may have even felt as though he was the one “helping” Jesus to the cross.  The opportunity for doubt, shame, regret and wishing he had not been there at all was ever-so present.  He might even had thought he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  But God used Simon for the Glory of God and the Salvation of the World!

Lord Jesus, today is the anniversary of the day Simon carried your cross!  We speak of how you carry our burdens and the weight of all sin hung with you on the cross that Simon carried for you!  I’m in awe.  It has shed a whole new light on the events of this day.  May I be reminded often of your journey to the cross — for me — and the many times you demonstrate your love for me!

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid.  Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”   Genesis 50:20



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It’s All In Your Head

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  Colossians 3:1-2

I’m coming to learn, more so now than ever, the frailty and vulnerability of our minds.  It is a dangerous playground of entertainment to the flesh that grows out of a simple thought.  The power given to these thoughts are undeniably underrated and have the potential to bring mass confusion to the simple minded.  There’s a reason God’s Word encourages us to keep our hearts and minds guarded.

Paul encouraged the Colossians to keep their hearts and minds set on things above.  When we read this passage, and others like it, it serves as a great reminder for us . . . for the moment.  The irony is that we soon forget what this verse really says — especially the next time our mind takes flight and sends us on a journey through evil.  In that journey there is but only one destination — sin.

If we expect to live a life free in Christ which is living the resurrection life that only Jesus can provide, then we must seek continually those things that reflect His life.  Seeking is something that requires action, it is not passive in nature.  Passivity allows the evil one to move in . . . or move back into where he was once evicted.  Guard your hearts!  Guard your minds!

He dwells in your heart, is your life . . . but it all starts in your head!

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Ephesians 6:13

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Suspicion is a Weed in the Garden of Trust

Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].   I Corinthians 13:7  (Amplified Bible)

You know, our actions don’t change until our minds change.  In other words, doing (whatever that might be — good or bad) is produced through what we think about, how we think and where our heart dwells.  And when it comes to how we relate to others, it’s critical that our lives reflect the mind of Christ in our obedience to Him in all things.  When we let down the guard of our hearts we allow Satan to gain a stronghold on what we think of others . . . it replaces love, faith and trust with suspicion.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”  The root to the spring of joy in our lives bubbles-up from within our heart.  The lack of faith, the absence of trust and false-love destroy relationships, but truth and faith — the essence of love, brings joy to our lives.

But it begins not in the heart, but instead in the mind.  This is why God calls us to the renewal of our mind.  To do this we must learn more about God’s Word.  Study it, meditate on it!

Love is believing the best in others regardless of the circumstances.  When we choose to no longer believe the best in someone, suspicion grows strong.  It’s Satan’s preferred garden of weeds!  If allowed to grow, they will destroy a garden and choke off the beauty and splendor that it is fully capable of producing.  It may not always feel right because man enjoys being critical of others, but God’s way is to not judge others or become critical and suspicious of their ways.

Our most important relationship is the one we have with God the Father.  It is in Him alone that we need to place our trust — not others.  And with a balanced attitude, a guarded heart and a renewing mind, God’s love in us will flow like a spring.  When this happens, the beauty and splendor of the garden of our hearts and minds will pop with full-color . . . weed-free!

Lord Jesus, this is a lesson for today and everyday!  I only wish I’d learned it sooner.  Regardless, teach me to trust when it doesn’t feel right and give me discernment and wisdom to recognize when you are trying to show me the truth.

A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.  Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the sould and healing to the bone.  Proverbs 16:23-24

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Taking Position

‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.  For the battle is not yours, but God’s.  . . . You will not have to fight this battle.  Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’   II Chronicles 20:15, 17

Busyness and a burdened life will drag on your walk with Christ like an anchor in the shallows.  These things remove our focus from our Savior and creates an atmosphere of worry, anxiety and wonder.  We stand in our daily battle, “not against flesh and blood,” and merely survive.  But in our survival we lose sight of the cross in all things.  Oh, no doubt that we acknowledge the presence and purpose of the cross, the presence and purpose of our Savior in fact, but we tend to discount the call to complete surrender.

There was no question from David that the God of Abraham, which is our God, was present and the essence of life to the shepherd boy.  He was, in fact, so much united with God that when faced with a battle against a giant Philistine, he never questioned the outcome.  Worry over victory, anxiety over opposition, wonder of consequences never crossed his mind.  But the confidence in the One whom he served, trusted and obeyed was the capstone of strength that gave him the ability to worship and praise in reverential fear.

Lord Jesus, my days feel busy, burdened and otherwise overwhelming.  I need to pull up anchor and rest more in your peace and trust more in you than I do with my life.  Speak to me in the areas of needed change.  I am taking my position and standing firm to see the deliverance you have for me.  Thank you Lord for never leaving my side — ever!

‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’   John 14:27

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Rest of God

Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.  Hebrews 4:1

Years ago, when I was a bit more able (and willing) to get up and set out on a great adventure, I remember the weekend I hiked over a 13,000 foot mountain in the Colorado Rockies.  This Florida boy was pretty skilled at running barefoot through sand, but trekking through rocky terrain, over logs and standing on top of the world (so it felt when I reached the top!) was considerably outside my skill set.  It took me and the others over 10 hours to make it up, over and down the other side.

There are many dynamics at play when taking a hike of this kind.  In the Colorado Rockies, weather can change every 15 minutes and even though it may be mid summer, it doesn’t mean that snow couldn’t be in the forecast in an unexpected minute.  The first 3-4 hours through the Aspen forests, creek beds and elk trails were pretty high octane — relatively easy.  But as the terrain turned to more rock, steeper steps and less shelter around hours 5 and 6, my body was begging for rest.  To discard the need to take a break would allow for potentially unsettling consequences.  So, the whole team found their own spots and rested in the glory of God’s great creation to restore ourselves.

The rest of God is a place we choose to enter, but it’s not something that is placed upon us — it’s present within us.  Peace is a fruit of the Spirit and grows as a result of our abiding in Christ.  Jesus said in John 15:4, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”  This is the result of abiding in Him!

But peace is exercised through faith in knowing — through believing that Christ is King and the power of Christ lives in me through obedience.  Peace, while present, comes through choice.  I must choose to think on things that promote peace rather than on things that open the door for mental torment.  Psalm 37:8 says, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil.”

The rest of God comes easy in simple times when there’s nothing to upset us.  But for those who follow Christ, the rest of God is that special and great gift during times of trouble and crisis.  It is met in the midst of abiding in worship of Him.

Lord Jesus, it feels a bit odd realizing how much latitude you’ve given me to choose your rest.  My worry, my fret, my anxiety are all a choice and fanned by the breath of the author of lies to deceive me into trusting more in me rather than you!  You have “prepared a table before me” to join you in worship and praise — to dine — to abide in.  As I face times of difficulty, moments in opposition to your peace in me, remind me of the gift you have given me to rest in you!

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.   Matthew 6:33-34

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Grace Is More Than A Prayer

‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’  As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’   Acts 17:28

It is the most remarkable gift anyone of us can ever receive — the gift of grace.  So often, we excuse ourselves into thinking of grace as a measure of forgiveness or pardon — and for many, grace is only that which takes place before a meal.  Grace is so much more, so far greater than these great things.  Grace is personal, grace is powerful, grace is transforming.

God met me when I was 12 years old and for the first time in my very young life, I met Grace — Salvation Grace.  Grace was heaped upon me in abundance and was there for me in all things.  As I grew in my faith and my needs increased, it became clear that I was not going to be able to meet these needs.  Grace took on, not a new face, but the reality of provision — I met Grace again — Enabling Grace.

And God is able to make all grace abound in you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.   II Corinthians 9:8

Throughout my life I’ve leaned heavily upon the assurance of my salvation.  I’ve also worked hard to “work-out” my salvation.  But through His enabling grace I am able to do much more than I can possibly and humanly imagine.  But for how long?  Surely the “wick” of grace will burn to the end and the flame of grace will be snuffed out.  Right?  It couldn’t be further from the truth!  For now I have met Grace, yet again — Sufficient Grace!  The abundant measure of God’s Grace upon me is overflowing — more than enough — every day!

Yes, I have met Grace!  God is Grace!  Grace is the person of Jesus!  Praise Him and I know Grace!  So as I continue to encounter difficult days, troublesome times, the “hard-knocks” of life — Grace will be there in an abundant supply!

Lord Jesus, Grace — thank you!

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Faith Springs From Hope

. . . the faith and love that springs from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel . . .    Colossians 1:5

On those hot, blistery Florida summer days, I remember as a teenager going with my friends to the local springs to swim.  With it 95 degrees or more in the shade, the year-long 70 degree water was always a bit chilly at first.  The shallow end of the spring was much warmer as the sun was able to make a difference in the shallow.  But the deeper you swam, the closer you came to the spring, the colder that water would get.

I remember swimming near the sandy bottom, chasing the bluegill and becoming fixed on the bubbling of fresh water from somewhere beneath it all.  It made the sand dance.  When the light from the sun cast its light just right, you could see the fury of cold water mixing with the warmer water around the spring.  It was truly amazing to see — and I never grew tired of that sight.

I was sad to learn recently, the spring is no longer open to the public — but is still dancing . . . it just can’t help it!

God has given us an abundance of love and faith and it, too, springs from hope.   It dances . . . it just can’t help it!  The difference is, it has no measure and nothing can contain it.  It stretches as far as the east is from the west.  It is the strength we need in pressing forward, to pursue the desires of our heart, to obtain our God-given dreams.

Lord Jesus, my faith has been tested on many levels.  My hope has been battered by storms in my life.  Restore in my heart, in my mind, the truth about your hope.  The truth that says your love and faith force themselves from your hope — because it just can’t help it!  As you live in me and I in you, may I remember when things feel bleak that your springs are bubbling in my soul with an abundance, uncontainable love to which I find your hope in all things.

But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. . . The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.   Galatians 5:5-6

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Where My Help Comes From

I lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  Psalm 121:1-2

How do you explain peace?  Is it best described as a stillness or calming of a mighty storm?  Or is it more like the gentleness of the beast as it reclines with the lamb?  Maybe it could be described best in the quiet morning hours of a springtime sunrise overlooking the reflection of the mighty mountains on the surface of an outstretched lake.  More difficult is defining it in a person — like the person of Christ.  We like to see peace to know what it’s like.  It becomes something ever so different when we taste it for ourselves.

But while Christ, in His person demonstrated a more scandalous sense of peace, He was and still is, the Prince of Peace!  And this peace, unlike the calm sea or the comfort of beasts or even the stillness of the morning — is actually living within me!  But though my heart toils and wrenches in the anguish of pain and grief, He offers peace and rest in the comfort of His arms in every place, every corner, every moment of my life.

Even the gardener, in the midst of his pain, hurt and grief, in great sorrow still sowed the land with seed.  With peace and joy, not without tears, he continued in his day to bring the first fruits of the season.  I can only imagine the number of seeds that were watered by the tears that drenched the soil under his knees.  But what he brought home were sheaves of songs of joy!

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.  He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.    Psalm 126:5-6

In the peace that only He can give, there is unmeasurable comfort.  When every ounce of myself can no longer carry on, I remember, my strength comes from the Prince of Peace.  This is where my help comes from!

Lord Jesus, I know you are the Maker of heaven and earth!  When I think of that alone I am overwhelmed with your power, your creativity and humbled by your love for me — merely a dot in the vast expanse of your creation.  Yet, though what appears to be so small, you have written a promise to be my Peace, my Joy, my Help, my Rock!  Oh,  how much you must love me!  There are days when I feel I cannot move for the weight of this world upon me is so heavy.  But in you the burdens of my circumstances become light and my wondering is sealed.  You are more than I have ever imagined and your greatness is beyond my human ability to understand.  Thank you for helping me through my pain!

In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.  The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?  The Lord is with me; he is my helper.  I will look in triumph on my enemies.  Psalm 118:5-7

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His Glory Revealed

For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.  II Corinthians 4:11

It’s difficult to describe the depth of our pain to others.  There are times when pain can show it’s character on our face, in our actions — in our voice.  The screams of pain is universal.  It has a different sound, a signature that pierces us all.  From a thumb that finds its way beneath the blow of a hammer, or the pressure from an abscessed tooth — no one can deny how much those hurt.  But the pain that hurts far deeper than any flesh wound, is the pain from brokenness.

Yet, somehow, in the midst of our painful circumstances our brokenness is coupled with the death of Jesus.  Even in my most painful moments, I have cried outloud, “Why must I continue to be a witness of your death through this pain?”  And without pause, He responds . . . “Because, Mark, it is necessary — then I will be revealed!”

Oh man!  Could it be?  Is it possible?  That my brokenness will, or better — does, bring Him glory?  Lord, I don’t know how this is possible, but one thing I do know — that you don’t abandon your people!  As I’m reading your word you are blessing and speaking.  I want to personalize it for me.

But I have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from others.  I am hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  So, then, death is at work in me, but life is at work in me too.  Therefore, I do not lose heart.  Though outwardly I am wasting away, yet inwardly I am being renewed day by day.  For my light and momentary troubles are achieving for me an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So I fix my eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.   II Corinthians 4:7-9,12,16-18

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Mind Of Its Own

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hpe fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.  I Peter 1:13

I ask because I want . . .

I want because I do not have . . .

I wonder on that I do not have . . . that’s doubt.

I reason when I wonder . . . that’s distrust.

I get so confused . . . that’s distraction.

I want to live from faith to faith . . .

But, I doubt when I lose faith . . .

And, I do not believe when I doubt.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything form the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.   James 1:5-7

Lord Jesus, this unsettles my soul.  I am fearful . . . I am that man.  I know the battlefield is not for my heart — it already belongs to you!  The battlefield is for my mind.  I thought about my children this morning in the early hours, about your words from Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  I find great comfort in knowing this, as my children face so many obstacles — none too large for you.  As you know, I thought, too, how our minds are much like children — they need training.  While my soul belongs to you and my spirit lends its ear for hearing you, my mind . . . well, it has a mind of its own.  My mind has been trained to speak loud against my spirit and disbelieve many things.  When I disbelieve, I disobey.  But this is more than just a declaration, it’s a prayer of revelation — one of finally seeing the root of my angst, the nourishment of my doubt and the birth of stillborn hope.  Renew these thoughts into a river of peace, resting in the joy of faith, not by sight, but faith through belief in who you are and what you are doing in me.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2

I ask because you make it possible to come before you to seek you in fulfilling the desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4)  . . .

I seek you with my desires because I want to experience you in all things (Matthew 6:33) . . .

I trust you in all things with all of my heart (Proverbs 3:5-6) . . .

I live from faith to faith, believing you when what I see does not make sense (Luke 1:45).

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