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Written by Timothy Mark

The Wilderness of Testing

This is a difficult season in my life and ministry. For the past few months, my schedule has exhausted me. In July I dealt with the accident with my sailboat and the subsequent repairs. The marina where the boat was stored was two hours and forty-five minutes from home, complicating matters. I worked full-time in construction, remodeling homes, to raise the funds for the rudder repair. I spent my evenings preparing my home for the tourist rental market as I made the move to living aboard the sailboat. I tried to maintain the ministry. I worked six days a week, ten to twelve hours a day, for almost five months. In the middle of all this, I rode out Hurricane Irma at home, and dealt with issues related to the storm for days before and after the storm. The ministry feels like it is on autopilot. Physically, spiritually, and emotionally, I am spent.

I struggled to maintain my relationship with God. I spent time in the Word, but it felt dry and uninspired. I talked with God about it, but even those conversations felt empty.

During this time, I also experienced lustful thoughts far beyond normal temptations. I’m used to the usual thoughts we all have as guys, but this was different. I mentioned to several friends how shocking these thoughts were. In my whole life, I don’t think I’ve ever before entertained such thoughts. The temptation was so strong that for a moment I even considered walking away from the ministry to fulfill it. The next moment I had clarity and shuddered to think I would even consider such things. It frightened me that I could even think that way.

In all, the past months felt different from anything I’ve ever experienced in my relationship with God. Something was going on, but I was not sure what it was. I plodded on in my relationship with God, still spending time in the Word, still finding time to talk with him, but struggling throughout.

Last week, in the midst of all this, I heard the still small voice of God. “Tim,” he said, “you need to be very careful. This is not just a ‘Valley of Wait’ that you are in. I have led you to a Wilderness of Testing.” It was a quiet word to my spirit, but it felt as if it were shouted to me. This changed everything. For a moment, I saw the context of what has transpired over the past months. Oddly, I was greatly encouraged.

I looked in Scripture at others whom God led into the Wilderness of Testing. Jesus is the most obvious example. I started there. Matthew’s account resonated with me. This is what it says:

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

 

But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

 

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

 

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

 

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”

 

Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

 

Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. (Matthew 4:1-11, ESV)

I find this passage intriguing. The first thing I noticed is how Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to the Wilderness of Testing. This is important. It was not accidental that he was in this place. He followed the leading of the Holy Spirit into the wilderness. It was purposeful. This gives a sense of purpose to all I experienced over the past six months. There is a reason, even if I do not yet know what it is. It is not merely a season of waiting.

The next thought that stood out to me was how the enemy came at the moment when Jesus was physically spent. Jesus had fasted for forty days prior to this trial. Surely he was physically exhausted. In this place of need the enemy approached. He began by questioning Jesus’ identity. He said, “If you are the son of God….” This is often the core question Satan asks of you and me. He tries to question our identity. “Are you actually a follower of Christ?” he asks. “Are you actually a son of God? If you are, then why do you feel the way you do?”

But the enemy also struck where he suspected Jesus had the greatest need. “Go ahead. Turn these stones into bread. You’re hungry. You deserve it.” This may explain the lustful thoughts I experienced. It is the one area of my life I struggle with the most. On a regular day I want to experience the fulfillment of the normal physical desires God created within me. But when I am tired and “hungry,” the temptation is more difficult to resist. It is likely the enemy will strike in the area where our felt needs are greatest.

Gratefully, Jesus responded with clarity as an example for us to follow. He said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4, ESV).

It is significant that he refuted the enemy with Scripture. Jesus quoted from a passage in Deuteronomy 8. Let’s take a moment to look at the passage. Moses addresses the nation of Israel as they look forward to the fulfillment of the promise of God to give them the land. Here is the full context:

And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:2-3, ESV)

Moses’ words give greater understanding to the purposes of the Wilderness of Testing. It is a place of humbling. It reveals what is in our hearts, and expands our understanding of our relationship with God.

This season certainly humbled me. There can be a subtle pride in saying I am full-time in ministry. It sounds successful. To work full-time outside of the ministry humbled me. I was confident God orchestrated the work for me as a way of providing for the repair of the boat, but it was humbling at the same time. This time also revealed what is in my heart. As a result, I have grown deeply in my understanding of my relationship with God. I mentioned in a previous blog the powerful truth that it is better to love God than to try to understand him. For me, this is a deepening of my faith in God and in his faithfulness and love to me.

It is also significant to realize the Israelites were looking forward to the Promised Land. They had not yet taken possession of it. The path to the Promised Land for the Israelites led through the wilderness. Often, in our lives, the path to a promise leads through a Wilderness of Testing. Perhaps you can relate. I continue to believe my best days of ministry are still to come. There is no logical reason to believe this. My ministry schedule is lighter than at any other time in thirty years of ministry. But I believe I have yet to see all God intends to do through my life and ministry. I look forward to the Promised Land. I focus on what is to come, not on what has passed.

There is much more to discuss. We have only tapped the first section of the wilderness experience of Jesus. I will expand on this in future blogs. For now, allow me to pause here and reiterate the lessons God is teaching me to this point.

  1. You are where you are by God’s design. As we follow Jesus, sometimes this means he will lead us by the Holy Spirit into a Wilderness of Testing. It is difficult, but it is by design. Take comfort in knowing you are where you are for a purpose, even if you do not yet know what that purpose is.
  2. The enemy will likely strike when you are exhausted emotionally, physically, or spiritually. Be extremely careful in those dangerous moments when you are spent.
  3. Guard your identity. You are a child of the most-high God. Never forget this. Commit to spending time in your relationship with God even when you don’t feel like it. Your relationship with God is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. It is not based on your emotions. How you feel has nothing to do with your identity. When you are spent, crawl onto God’s lap and let him hold you close.
  4. Embrace humility. The Wilderness of Testing is designed to humble you. Identify areas where pride has crept in. Confess it to God. Welcome humility.
  5. Look forward as you endure today. The path to a promise often leads through a Wilderness of Testing. Let hope reign as you wait for relief.

I am greatly encouraged as I continue to walk through this season. Recently there is a freshness to my relationship with God as I contemplate what it means to navigate a Wilderness of Testing. I have raised my guard. I am on high alert. I am also filled with hope. At this time, I have no construction projects on my schedule. I am slowly able to focus on ministry again. The sailboat is now repaired and safely in its new home here in Southwest Florida. I moved out of my home and onto the sailboat. The house is now in the rental market. And Hurricane season ended November 30! Hope reigns.

I wonder where you are in your relationship with God. Do you love him? Apart from my relationship with God, I do not know how I would have navigated these days. Are you in a Wilderness of Testing? Are you spent from the trials that have come into your life? God longs to meet you in the midst of your situation to remind you that you are his child. Let him pull you up unto his lap. His love for you is greater than any sin you have done. He offers forgiveness when we confess our failures to him. He rushes into our brokenness with healing and comfort. Find hope in him alone.

For me, it is a Wilderness of Testing. I look forward to sharing more from the Wilderness in the days to come.

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The Presence of God in the Midst of the Storm

Terror gripped the men. The storm was upon them. Wave upon wave crested over the bulwarks of the boat. The men bailed as quickly as they could. But just when they thought they were gaining on the deluge, the bow pitched steeply into the sea, and another wave swept across the sides. Their backs ached. Their arms cramped in dissent. But there was no time to protest. The wind screeched and howled as it slammed upon the vessel. And with each lurch of the boat, the contents sloshed from one end to the other, thudding against the hull. The storm was gradually winning.

Oddly, one man lay asleep in the stern. The teacher. The Rabi. Oblivious in the midst of the gale. No one wanted to wake him, but the situation was dire. Finally one of the men shook him by the shoulder, and Jesus awoke to see all the men staring at him.

“Teacher,” the man pleaded, “do you not care that we are perishing? Save us, Lord!”

Jesus propped himself up on one arm. He looked up from his seat and surveyed the faces of the men. Anxious, terrified, frightened eyes stared back. Finally he spoke. “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Slowly Jesus rose, his robe whipping in the wind. He turned his back to the men and faced the sea, the wind blowing directly into his face. “Peace! Be Still!” he shouted.

The wind died instantly. The waves took a moment to settle upon one another until at last the sea was glassy smooth. He smiled. Peace rested upon the water. The only sound was the trembling breath of the men as they stared at Jesus. A new fear gripped them. In the back of the group, one of the men whispered, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” The realization was complete. They hardly knew him.

(Adapted from Matthew 8:23-27 and Mark 4:35-41, ESV.)

Storms have a unique way of revealing truth about God, while at the same time revealing how little we know about him. They leave us shaken and exhausted and weary. We turn to him in our chaos. We cry out for him to intercede. His response comforts and confuses at the same time. He calms the storm. In the light of his glory, we get a brief glimpse of who he is. At the same time we close our eyes and turn away, for we are blinded by it. We are stunned by the realization of how little we know and trust him.

When we find ourselves in a storm, the primary question we have is the same as the disciple asked of Jesus: “Do you not care?”  It is the question at the heart of our concern. Does God care?

I appreciate that Jesus does not mock the disciple for questioning his love for them. God knows our humanity. He knows the times we question him. Instead of chiding, he calms the storm. God does care. In fact, the presence of the storm may show just how much he loves us. He longs to reveal more of himself to us and often uses a trial to bring us closer to himself. He is with us in the midst of the storm. His response to the storm is an example for all of us. He rests. He sleeps. He is not concerned. He is the God of the wind and the waves. Everything is in his control.

Once we understand God cares and is in control, we can join him in the stern of the boat. We can rest with him as the winds howl and the waves crash upon the hull.

The disciples were in shock when Jesus calmed the wind and the waves. They realized they knew little about Jesus. “Who then is this?” was their reply. In the midst of the storm we discover he is with us, and in the process we discover how little we know about him.

Last month, as Hurricane Irma was bearing down, I sent out a prayer request. As of 7:00 that morning, the projected path of the hurricane was directly over my home. At the time, it was a monster category 4 storm. My prayer was for a clear awareness of the presence of God with me, no matter what happened. I knew if I had a clear awareness of his presence, nothing else would matter.

After sending the request, there was nothing to do but wait for the storm to hit. I was unsettled at home alone, so I drove across town to have breakfast with friends. While we ate, one in the group received a text from a friend. It read, “Psalm 91.” I smiled when she shared it with the group because it is one of my favorite Psalms. Years ago I memorized it. It is loaded with promises. My favorite part of the Psalm is the ending. This is what it says:

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation” (Psalm 91:14-16, ESV).

When my friend read the text, God was reminding me of his protection and his presence. I was greatly encouraged.

I returned home as the winds continued to swell. Tropical storm force winds barreled down now-deserted streets. I checked email. Remember, I had sent out the prayer request a few hours earlier. Several folks had replied with words of encouragement. But oddly, the majority of the emails referenced a single passage of Scripture – Psalm 91! It was highly unusual for multiple people to reference the same passage. I love the way God orchestrates his word to us in such a way that we cannot miss what he is saying to us.

I sat at my laptop and smiled. I knew the presence of God was with me. If I were to lose everything in the storm, it would not matter because God was with me.

Twelve hours later, the eye of the storm passed to the east of my home and slowed to a category 2 storm by the time it churned past. There was still extensive damage in my area, but my home was not damaged. Trees fell. Some trees snapped in half. Power lines were torn from their poles. Some in my area were without power for more than a week. Debris littered the streets, but I was safe, and my home was not damaged.

I was exhausted. The storm had taken a toll on me, but God had carried me through. His response comforted me. At the same time, like our friends on the Sea of Galilee, it reminded me how little I understand him and trust him.

My friend, you may be in a storm as well. An unexpected trial has blown into your life. An infidelity is exposed. A porn addiction is revealed. A child runs away. A job is lost. An addiction is discovered. A relationship crumbles. There is no escape, only endurance fortified with hope.

Remember, God does care. Find him in the midst of the storm sleeping at the stern of the boat. Come to him. Rest in him. Recognize his presence with you. As he moves and calms the storm, press in to learn more about who he is. He longs to reveal more of himself to you. He cares for you. He is completely in control.

Find his presence with you in the midst of the storm, and find his presence is enough.

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Sunday Update – Please Pray

We are currently experiencing the first outer bands of tropical storm force winds and rain. I have decided to shelter in place for the remainder of the storm. I consulted with several friends here who are also sheltering in place and made the decision this morning. We expect the main storm to arrive this afternoon. Once it arrives, we expect hurricane force winds for about eight hours. It may be a long night!

Unfortunately, it looks like the eye of the storm may pass directly over me. This can change. I will carefully watch the 11:00 update for any movement in the projected path.

Please pray for me today for a clear awareness of the presence of God with me. As long as I keep my focus on him, and not the wind and waves, all is well! I am reminded of Jesus sleeping in the bottom of the boat as the storm raged. He is in control. As a side note, would you pray for my parents as well? They are in Michigan. If you have children, you can imagine how it would feel to know your child is possibly in harm’s way. It would be a blessing to me if you would pray for them as well.

I have many friends in this area. I am praying for them. We are keeping in touch and taking care of one another.

I just sent an email to our email subscription list asking them to pray.

I will likely lose power. If that happens, I will probably not be able to send updates. I will send an update as I am able.

In all of this, remember – God is completely in control!

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Saturday Update for Hurricane Irma

The forecast does not look good for Southwest Florida. The most recent prediction has the eye of the hurricane moving directly over my area. This can change. It is still too early to tell.

At this time, I am planning to ride out the storm. So far mandatory evacuations have not been issued for my zone. I am in zone C. I am ready to evacuate if the officials call for an evacuation of my zone. I have everything set out on the dining table and could be out the door in under five minutes with everything I need. There is a county storm shelter near where I live.

You will hear a lot on the news about storm surge. At this time, my area is expecting a storm surge around three to five feet. The further south you go, the higher the surge is expected to be. Areas south of Fort Myers may experience a fifteen foot storm surge! Even though my property is only one mile inland, it is on high ground for this area. Current surge prediction levels would not affect my property. This is important to remember. Again, if officials call for an evacuation of my zone, I will leave.

This morning I finished up the last few details of securing the house. I moved all the patio furniture and potted plants into the garage. The pool deck is completely bare. I reinforced the garage door with some leftover 2x6s. I took the screen doors off the pool cage. Usually they get wrenched off the frame by the high winds, so I figured I would remove them. If it looks like we are going to take a direct hit, I will cut out the screen panels to try and save the aluminum pool cage structure. Most likely I would lose the pool cage either way, but it can’t hurt to try!

The area is a ghost town. Everything is shut down as we wait for the arrival of Irma. The big box stores closed yesterday at noon.

We are expecting tropical storm force winds this afternoon and evening. It will slowly build through the day tomorrow. We expect the hurricane to hit sometime last Sunday afternoon. For now, we just wait to see if the track will change.

The beautiful thing in all of this is how my heart is peaceful. I am grateful for the lessons God has taught me through the years regarding stewardship vrs ownership. Being a steward, and letting God own the house, frees me from any concern. I’ve done all I can as a steward to prepare his property for the storm. The rest is up to him.

I stay in touch with friends from church who are also riding out the storm. These are dear friends of mine, and I am grateful I can be here to help if they need it. This is the perfect time for the body of Christ to band together and weather the storm.

I have a reputation of being an adrenaline junkie. This does not mean I take unnecessary risks. I hope these blogs have convinced you I am being extremely careful and taking great precautions. I continue to carefully monitor the track of this storm. I will try to update as possible. I appreciate your prayers and concern.

If you are interested in our local broadcast, check out http://www.nbc-2.com/.

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Friday Update for Storm Preparations

First, the good news. I have all the windows and doors of my home covered with ¾” plywood. I am grateful I was able to buy plywood Tuesday. The heat index is 104 degrees, so I split up the project over yesterday and today. I finished hanging the last panel a few moments ago. I believe I am ready. The house is pitch black inside. I took off the panels to the glass door that goes out to my patio to let a little light in. I will screw those panels on tomorrow evening before I head to bed.

Now for the bad news. If you are following the track of the storm, you know the track has shifted to the west. This means the projected path of the storm will now come closer to us. We will likely have winds around 100 mph on Sunday. We are expecting the first bands of wind and rain Saturday afternoon. There is also a possibility of a storm surge. We will monitor all of this as the storm progresses.

The house should withstand the projected winds. The new roof was put on in 2010 to withstand winds up to 160 mph. The house is a concrete block structure, and now all the windows and glass door openings are fitted with ¾” plywood. I do have a pool screen enclosure. Here in Florida we call them pool cages. This is the only question mark to me. Most likely I will lose the screen panels. Hopefully we will not lose the structure itself.

At this point, I am planning to ride it out here. I have a friend who will be staying here as well. There are several families on my street who are staying. We will all look after one another.

My home is in evacuation Zone C. At this time evacuations have been issued for folks living in Zone A. These are homes on the barrier islands and in low lying areas. My home is only one mile to salt water as a crow flies. But my property is on one of the highest points in this area. That is good news!

We continue to carefully monitor the track of this storm. I will try to update as possible. I appreciate your prayers and concern.

If you are interested in our local broadcast, check out http://www.nbc-2.com/.

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Storm Preparation Update

I know many of you wonder what are my plans for the approaching hurricane. Here is the update for you.

As of this morning, the models take the eye of the storm further east. This can change. It is still possible the storm could move back in my direction. I will continue to carefully monitor the track. My home is in Southwest Florida.  At this time, we will likely have tropical storm force winds in our area, but not hurricane force winds.

For now, I am planning to stay home. Thankfully, I made preparations early in the week and avoided the chaos we are currently experiencing with gas stations running out of fuel and stores shelves cleared out of hurricane supplies.

I have already made plans to evacuate if needed. I have 2 different options ready, one in Orlando, and one in Atlanta. I have a full tank of gas.

If I stay home, I have a complete hurricane kit ready. The kit has everything I need if a hurricane hits my area and all public utilities are knocked out. I have about a week’s worth of canned food and water, LED lighting, batteries, medical supplies, etc. ready.

I have ¾” plywood ready to cover the windows if needed. Yesterday I cut all the coconuts out of the Coconut Palms in my yard. So no coconut missiles!

The sailboat is stored at Indiantown Marina in dry storage with hurricane straps bolting it to the ground. The marina is far enough inland so it should still be safe even if the storm moves up the east coast.

For now it is a wait and see event. Thank you for thinking of me and for keeping me covered with your prayers. I appreciate it.

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God Is Completely In Control

In July, I wrote we are freed from anxiety when we understand God owns everything, and we are merely the stewards of what he gives us to manage. As you know, the day after posting the article, my sailboat went aground in Lake Okeechobee. The rudder was severely damaged, and the vessel currently sits in long-term storage at a marina waiting for the repair. I am excited to see how God is at work in the situation. A few weeks ago I was asked to do a kitchen remodel for friends of mine. Another friend asked if I would help with their guest house remodel. Yet another friend asked if I would remodel their guest bathroom. Suddenly I had weeks of work lined up! God moved quickly to provide the work. This is the type of work I have done in the past to supplement my ministry income. Through the years, I’ve gutted two different personal properties and rebuilt them, so I have a lot of experience from which to draw. I am grateful God seems to be providing for the rudder by providing this work for me.

Understanding God’s ownership is the first step to overcoming anxiety. The next step is to understand God is fully in control. Not only does he own everything, he also controls everything. Nothing takes him by surprise. He is always in control of our circumstances. In theological terms, we call this the sovereignty of God. This one thought has saturated my mind in the past two months. God is sovereign. He is in control. I am not. And this is fine with me.

Let’s let God speak for himself in regards to this important truth. This is what he says through the prophet Isaiah:

Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,” calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. (Isaiah 46:8-11, ESV)

Pause for a moment, and let those words saturate your soul. God declares of himself, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.” He is above all and over all. There is no one like him. He is supreme above all.

When we understand his sovereignty, we get a better picture of ourselves. We are not God. Our ways are not like his. We are created in the image of God, but we are not at all like him. We do not think like God, but we like to think we can understand him and his ways. Herein is where we struggle. We want to understand why trials fall upon us. We want to understand God’s purposes. We want to understand God. But is this even possible? I think not.

It is better to love God than to try to understand him. Perhaps this is where we fall short. We spend our days trying to understand him instead of just crawling up on his lap and enjoying him, loving him, pressing into him. Far better to enjoy his presence than to weary ourselves trying to understand what cannot be understood. In the end, he is God and there is no other. His ways are higher than ours.

God also declares his ways and purposes cannot be thwarted. He will do what he has set out to do. Nothing and no one can change this. He proclaims, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose… I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it” (Isaiah 46:10-11, ESV).

Ultimately, God’s purpose for my life is for me to love him with all my heart. This is his greatest desire for me. How God brings this about in my life may vary from one moment to the next. Sometimes there are seasons of favor when all is well. We celebrate these moments of the excess of God’s kindness in our lives. In the blessings, we are drawn closer to him. Other times he brings great trials, and in our brokenness we turn to him for comfort. God can use both seasons to draw us closer to himself. Whether he chooses to bless or to burden is not for us to know. It is only for us to know he waits with open arms to draw us to himself in either circumstance.

When God provided the sailboat for me, many remarked that it was the favor of God. What happened to God’s favor when the sailboat went aground? Was not this a moment of his favor as well? We recognize God’s favor when times are good, but when trials come, we are quick to forget he is always in control. What if God shows us the highest favor by allowing great trials into our lives, knowing they may draw us closer to himself?

Our trials bring great pause, because they contain the greatest choice we have to make. Will we choose to let the trial push us away from God and our relationship with him, or will we choose to crawl unto his lap instead?

I choose his lap. I am a child of the sovereign God. When I’ve skinned my knees, I just want to be held by him. And so I run to him. He pulls me up onto his lap, and holds me close to himself. This is enough for me. In that moment, I am loved, and I love him for it. I don’t even care if he tells me the greater purpose he is working out. I rest in the knowledge that he is sovereign. He is fully in control. I do not have to understand him and his ways in order to love him and feel loved by him.

My friend, are you in a season of favor, and all is well? Draw closer to God. Are you in a season of trial, and struggling to get through the day? Draw closer to God. Stop trying to understand what cannot be understood. Just love him. Let this be enough. God is sovereign, and he is also good. His purposes will not be thwarted, and neither will his love for you.

God is completely in control.

As I sit at my desk and write this, I am aware there is a hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean grinding its way toward my home. It will be interesting to see where God directs it. After all, he is sovereign.

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The Ripple Effect

Did you know that when you give to support this ministry, you actually support many ministries across the United States and Canada? It’s true.

We serve many small organizations. Because we do not charge travel expenses and only ask for a love offering, even a small organization can afford a ministry event. Many times the love offering is insufficient to cover the travel expenses. In those situations, the ministry covers everything. How do we do this? How can we provide ministry to churches or conferences and lose money? We are able to do this because people like you give to support the ministry. When you give to support Timothy Mark Ministries, you actually give to support another church or organization through this ministry. You invest in a rural church with a bi-vocational pastor. He is burdened for the flock God has called him to lead. He is able to tap into the resources of this ministry because you give. You make a difference in a Christian Conference Center as they reach hurting families. You support a Men’s Ministry as they raise up Godly fathers and leaders. You have a part in each of these ministries when you give to support Timothy Mark Ministries.

I remember one time when I flew to another state to do an event at a small rural church. The love offering was small, and I knew what I had already spent on the flight and rental car. Technically, the ministry lost money that weekend. But at the invitation in the service, a man in the back of the room raised his hand for salvation. That is the moment I remember from that night. That ministry event made an eternal difference for him. I would gladly lose money every weekend if that’s what it took to see folks like him transformed by the Holy Spirit.

Paul wrote in his second letter to the church in Corinth, “You will be enriched in every way for all your generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God” (2 Corinthians 9:11-12, ESV).

When we have this ministry heart and focus, it pleases God. Lives are changed, and hearts are moved in thankfulness to God. My prayer is for lives transformed by the Holy Spirit. So thank you. Thank you for the part you have in this. I am humbled by the way God provides as I trust him alone for the needs of the ministry and my needs personally. He is faithful. He is a good, good father. Thank you for your part in each of the ministries we serve. May it result in many thanksgivings to God.

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That Sinking Feeling

A few weeks ago I shared my experience when I grounded my sailboat while navigating Lake Okeechobee. It is currently in long-term storage at a marina while I wait for God to provide the resources needed to repair the rudder. It excites me to see God at work in my life and relationship with him through this experience. I shared on social media the work God has done in my life in my understanding of stewardship versus ownership. It is truly a place of rest when I keep my focus where it should stay.

If you read only those blogs, you might think I always respond the way I should. Nothing is further from the truth. In the following days I found myself struggling to keep my focus on God and not on my circumstances. Most of the time I kept my focus on him. But there were quiet moments when I was alone, far from the spotlight of ministry, and I wrestled with my lack of faith.

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 103:14, “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” This deeply ministers to me in the moments when I feel all too human. God created me from dust, and to dust someday I will return. In the moments between, I am dusty. I am of this world. I am human. My heart does not always respond the way my head knows it should. It is okay. God knows how he made me. He remembers I am dust.

Throughout Scripture we meet many interesting characters who carried the dust of the world on their journey. Peter is one of my favorites. He is bold, outspoken, quick to action, and undeniably human.

Following the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, Jesus sent the disciples on ahead of him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus stayed behind to dismiss the crowds, and when all had departed, he found a place where he could pray in solitude. In the coolness of the evening he was alone. By this time the disciples were far from shore. A storm had risen, and they labored against the wind and the waves.

After many hours, the disciples had only managed to traverse two-thirds of the way across the lake. Darkness consumed the vessel. The tempest beat upon them. They were weary. Their arms ached from rowing. In the waning darkness, the disciples saw the figure of a man walking on the sea. Terror gripped their hearts. “It is a ghost!” they cried.

But it was Jesus! He came to them in the midst of their trial, walking on the water. “Take heart,” he shouted above the wind, “it is I. Do not be afraid.”

Here is where my brash friend Peter makes me smile. He blurted out, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Be careful what you ask!  For Jesus says to him, “Come.” And, in one of the most understated moments in Scripture, it says, “So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus” (Matthew 14:28, ESV).

Now we could stop our story right here, and Peter’s actions would impress all of us. Just as you might think more highly of me than you ought after reading the blog of my response to the grounding of the vessel. But let us continue our tale, for this is where it gets interesting.

Peter leapt from the vessel and strutted across the water. He was almost to Jesus. For a second, a flash of lighting illuminated the boiling sea. He glanced to his left and saw the frothy waves kicked up by the fierce wind. In a terrifying moment, he realized he was in the middle of the lake, and the boat was far behind. Fear pierced his heart. He was no longer walking on water. His feet sank beneath the surface, and he felt the cold water engulfing his legs. In a panic he cried, “Lord, save me!”

Jesus reached for him, lifting him above the waves, and with compassion said, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Peter and Jesus walked back to the boat and joined the other disciples. The wind and waves ceased their roiling. The trial was ended. (Read Matthew 14:22-33 for the full account of this story.)

I relate to Peter. I want to step out of the boat in the midst of the storm to walk closer to Jesus. I want to focus on him so deeply that logic dissolves, and I find the water firm beneath my feet as I step toward him. But I also know what it means to take my eyes off of Jesus and to focus instead on the wind and the waves. I know that sinking feeling. I know the sensation of cold water engulfing my feet. I know the moments of fear in the midst of trying to trust him fully. I know how the hands of Jesus feel when he reaches down to lift me up. I know his voice when he says to me, “Tim, oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Yet his voice is not condemning. In my mind, I see his eyes looking down at my dusty clothes. Then he looks back to my eyes, smiles and with a wink says, “Yep, you’re dusty. You’re still human. And I’m still God.”

My friend, we are all human. We are dusty. We do not always respond the way we know we should. Sometimes the wind and waves overwhelm us. In those moments, even though we fail to trust him fully, God understands. He still rescues. He still leads us to a place of rest. He still loves.

When Peter and Jesus return to the other disciples in the boat, the seas stopped churning. The wind died down. Rest settled upon the weary. And everyone in the boat, including Peter, worshiped Jesus saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Their focus returned to Jesus. They worshiped. They understood a little more who he was. Our trials illuminate our need of Jesus. In the process we find he truly is the Son of God.

Our God is a God of grace. May we use each trial to trust him more fully. May God increase our faith. May we grow in our relationship with him. May the moments of doubt and confusion decrease, and our moments of trust increase.

Sometimes we walk on water. Sometimes we sink beneath it. May each moment draw us closer to him.

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The Anxiety Cure – Part 2

Towed off the rocks by Boat US.

On July 4 I posted the blog “The Anxiety Cure.” At the time of posting, I was on a Catalina 30 sailboat in the Okeechobee Waterway, transporting the vessel from St. Augustine, Florida to my home in Southwest Florida. In the blog I wrote about the importance of understanding that God owns all things, and we are merely the managers of the things he gives us. When we live this way, it frees us from anxiety.

The trip was one of the most exciting adventures I have ever undertaken. I was on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway for three and a half days. I was currently on the Okeechobee Waterway working my way across the state. The end of the journey was near. In three short days I would reach home. The following morning I made my way through the Port Mayaka lock and into Lake Okeechobee. Taking the rim route along the south border of the lake, I carefully navigated with GPS using a digital chart, following the marked channel on the map. Without warning I felt the keel strike a rock and then another. With a sickening grind, the boat lurched to a stop. I was stuck. I had grounded the vessel. I was greatly confused. I had followed the chart. How could I be grounded? I tried unsuccessfully to free the vessel, but it would not move.

I later found out from a local captain that the digital chart I was following had mismarked the channel. I had done everything I could to navigate the water safely. He said many other sailboats had gone aground in the same area. Without the channel marked correctly, it was just a matter of time before I grounded.

I called a tow boat to pull me off. In the process of pulling the boat off the rocks, the rudder post bent. As soon as I was free of the rocks, I tried the steering wheel, but it bound when I tried to turn it. I decided to have the boat towed back to a marina on the eastern branch of the waterway, about twelve miles back in Indiantown. At the marina, we pulled the boat out of the water to inspect the damage. It was bad. The rudder was severely damaged. The trip home came to a grinding halt.

They moved the boat to the work yard to see what was needed for the repair. I called a friend to come pick me up and take me home. It was a welcome sight to see his face. As we drove home we talked about the peace God had given me in spite of the chaos.

Now remember, the day before I had posted the blog about God’s owning everything. The entire trip, I felt a clear awareness of the presence of God. I saw his hand at work on a daily basis. Even when the boat grounded, I had a peace in knowing he was near. He had been with me through the entire trip, and he was still with me when I grounded.

At home, I took a day to get some much needed rest. Finally, with a cup of coffee, I enjoyed a long conversation with God. I am pleasantly surprised at my response to the entire situation. It is, in fact, God’s boat, not mine. We sat and talked about his boat and what he wanted to do with it. If he wants to provide the funds to repair it, it will cost this much. If he wants to put it in storage at the marina and repair it at some point in the future, it will cost this much. “You tell me what you want to do with your boat, and I will do what you want to do.” And I left it at that. I honestly do not care what he wants to do. What I care about is my relationship with him. The rest of my conversation with him was in regards to how much I love him and relish his love for me. He’s a good, good, father.

I am pleased with my response to this. I believe it is a test to see what I have learned. Do I really believe that God owns everything? Do I really believe that stewardship is the cure for anxiety? Yes, yes I do. And I am thrilled with the utter confidence that God is in complete control.

How exciting this has been. Not just the journey of the boat, but the journey my own relationship with God is taking. I am excited, content, full of joy and peace knowing he is fully in control. He is God, I am Tim. When he is ready for me to bring his boat to this side of the state, he will let me know. In the meantime, I have lots to do, and far more important things to pray about – influence, changed lives, relationship with God – the things that matter.

I enjoy reading your responses. Feel free to write your comments below.

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