Archives

Written by Timothy Mark

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.

For more information on supporting the ministry, see our secure donation page here.

Share this on your favorite social media platform:

FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

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.

I enjoy reading your thoughts. Please write your comments below.

Share this on your favorite social media platform:

FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

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.

Share this on your favorite social media platform:

FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

The Anxiety Cure

If you have not heard, God recently gave me a sailboat, and by fall I hope to live aboard the vessel. I wrote about it in a recent blog post. As you read this, I am aboard the vessel, working my way home from St. Augustine, Florida, down the Intracoastal Waterway, across the Okeechobee Waterway, and north from Fort Myers to home. It will likely take a week to motor it home.

A strange thing happened the night I took ownership of the boat. In the process, I was reminded of a simple truth I’ll share with you today.

I purchased the vessel in an online auction through a charity. The boat was donated to the Christian ministry, and the ministry auctioned the boat. I was thrilled when I won the auction. As a bonus, all the funds I spent for the boat went to a Christian ministry. I made arrangements to drive to St. Augustine, Florida, to meet the donor and to inspect the vessel. Everything was better than it looked in the auction pictures, and soon I was driving home with the title and keys in hand.

I had dreamed of this day for many years, but honestly, I was a bit overwhelmed. The reality of owning a thirty-foot vessel settled in. Though I have some experience as a first mate aboard a charter sailboat, this was the first time I was responsible for everything.

At home, as I lay in bed trying to sleep, anxiety rose within me. The boat was four and a half hours away in a marina on the other side of the state. I couldn’t check on it. What if I didn’t close it up properly? What if I left a seacock open, and the boat was filling with water? What if it sank at the dock? What if the bilge pump failed? What if…?

I felt my blood pressure rising. Anxiety spread like a burning grass-fire within. But as the angst grew, God reminded me of an important truth. As he did, peace flooded the space where anxiety had swept in. A smile spread across my face. A restful sleep followed.

What made the difference? What was the truth God brought to mind? It was this: Anxiety comes when I take ownership of things that don’t belong to me. Let me explain.

I live with a stewardship mentality. I don’t own anything. The money in the bank is not mine. The house I live in is not mine. The car in my driveway is not mine. It all belongs to God. I take care of his things for him to the best of my ability. I try to steward his resources for him in a God-honoring way. It is all about God, not about me. Sometimes this means I give away large portions of the resources I manage, whenever God directs me to do so. What fun! It also frees me from the trap of loving things of this world.

Jesus spoke about this in his first major address to the throng of people who followed him.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…. No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:19-21, 24, ESV)

At this point in his speech, most translations insert a new paragraph before the following words. But I want you to consider with me a fresh way of looking at the words Jesus says next.

He continues by saying, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25, ESV).

Jesus seems to connect anxiety with a misplaced heart. Whenever I see the phrase, “therefore,” I look to see what it’s there for. I look to see what it is connected with. In this case, it seems it is connected with the passage immediately prior to it. He teaches us to carefully keep our love in heaven and not on things of this world. He reminds us we cannot serve God and money. Then he says, “therefore I tell you, do not be anxious…”

It seems to me the vast majority of anxiety we face is related to a failure to observe this truth. We love things of this world. Something physical, like a house, car, or, in my case, a boat, can draw our hearts away from God. Even something we cannot hold in our hands, such as a relationship or physical health, can consume our thoughts as we struggle to maintain it. A sense of security, because of the money we have saved, can pull our hearts away from God. Fill in the blank. When we love things of this world, we fear losing them. Anxiety rears its ugly head and steals into our hearts. Instead of our hearts’ dwelling in heaven, they are here on this earth. When our hearts are misplaced, anxiety is sure to follow.

Consider also the words of David: “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1, ESV).

According to Scripture, God owns all things. I may think I own something, but in the end, God can and will do whatever he pleases with the things he gives me to manage. I can choose ownership, or I can choose stewardship. The choice is mine. The consequence of taking ownership is that I bear the weight of responsibility for those things I think I own. If I am only the steward of God’s things, then my only responsibility is to manage his resources to the best of my abilities. I manage his resources as he directs me. How freeing this is! This attitude protects me from greed. It makes a significant difference in my attitude toward the things of this world. It protects me from misplacing my love for God on lesser things. My affection stays with God where it belongs.

As I lay there in bed with anxiety sweeping through my heart, I realized I had taken ownership where I should have had stewardship. Stewardship is the cure for anxiety. My heart stays solely on God. I love God with abandon. I steward what he gives me to steward. But at the end of the day, the “things” are not mine. I am just the First Mate, God is the Captain. It is his vessel. This way of thinking is so much easier.

I take care of God’s things to the best of my abilities. Knowing he is fully in control gives me rest. I am not in control. My wisdom is limited. His is unlimited. He is a far better owner than I am. I’m content to steward what he gives to me.

My friend, are you anxious today? Is something weighing heavily on your mind? Is it possible you have taken ownership where you shouldn’t? Try stewardship instead. Is your heart focused on things of this world, or the things of heaven?

Whenever we feel anxious, we should look to see if the cause is a misplaced affection. In a moment, anxiety ceases when we understand the difference between ownership and stewardship and place our hearts where they were always meant to dwell.

It is the cure for anxiety. Will you embrace it today? I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Please share your comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share this on your favorite social media platform:

FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Reflecting On The Kindness Of God

I’m excited to show you the new-to-me home that God has provided. It is a thirty foot 1988 Catalina sailboat! Think of it as a tiny house on the water. For about as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamed of living aboard a sailboat. A few weeks ago God orchestrated the purchase of the vessel for pennies on the dollar for what it is worth. The vessel is currently at a marina in St. Augustine, FL. Lord willing, I will bring the boat home the first two weeks of July. The plan is to motor the boat down the Intracoastal Waterway south to Port St. Lucie, then cut across the state on the Okeechobee Waterway, and finally head north from Fort Myers to home. Once home, I’ve arranged to keep the boat on a friend’s dock on the Intracoastal Waterway.

If you are interested in joining me on the boat for the trip home, let me know. I may need a first mate to help.

My plan is to keep my current home and put it into the short-term tourist rental market. This income will help supplement my ministry income. Sometimes God’s plans are different from mine, so these are just my thoughts at this time.

I am humbled by God’s kindness to me. I don’t understand his favor. Again and again he has provided for me beyond what I could ever think or imagine. I love him dearly, and I am excited about this new adventure. Will you celebrate with me God’s kindness?

Here are some pictures for you. Feel free to post your comments below.

Share this on your favorite social media platform:

FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

When We Hinder Jesus

The workers were installing tires on my car when it happened. My car was up on four hydraulic lifts outside the tire store. It was a hot day. I retreated to the office and the welcome relief of air conditioning. I sat in a chair next to the desk and played on my phone as a female clerk sat across the desk, also engrossed in her phone.

I wish I could tell you how the conversation began, but I don’t remember. I found out her name was Maria*. As we talked, she got up from her chair and walked over to the door, looking away and out a window to the parking lot. I do remember when she made a comment about something to do with Catholics and Protestants. Whenever someone makes a comment that is spiritual in nature, my radar goes on high alert. Most people don’t want to talk about spiritual things, so when she made the remark, I nudged the conversation in that direction to see if God were at work in her life or not. At some point, I thought maybe I was pushing things too far, and so I tried to change the subject. She immediately brought it back to the discussion about having a relationship with God. I leaned in.

She moved to my side of the desk and sat down on the top. She spoke of her mother’s illness and how she cared for her needs. What she said next haunts me still.

“My sister,” she said, “claims to be a Christian. She attends church regularly. She says she has a relationship with God. She says she talks to God like you are describing. But she won’t help me with our mother.” Tears welled up in her eyes and spilled down her cheeks. She didn’t bother to brush them off. “How can you claim you are a Christian but you won’t even take care of your own family?”

Inside I cringed.

“Maria,” I replied, “there are many people in this world who claim to be Christian. They attend church, they follow all the rules, they may even pray, but actually they are far from God. Please, I beg you, do not let those people keep you from experiencing all that God desires for you. It is not an accident I am here today. The reason I’m here probably has nothing to do with getting tires on my car. I believe God sent me to you today to tell you that he wants a relationship with you. Please do not let those who are not living right keep you from having an amazing relationship with God.”

I hurt for her. She had a legitimate complaint. I thought back to a passage in Matthew’s telling of the gospel. I was struck by the dialog between Jesus and Peter. Here is what Matthew wrote:

“From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”  Matthew 16:21-23, ESV

If you are like me, the moment Jesus calls Peter “Satan,” my eyes get wide, and I get stuck on the thought, “Oh my word, he just called Peter ‘Satan’.” But if we are not careful, we miss the important truth that follows.

Jesus continues, “You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Jesus taught his disciples he would be killed and three days later rise from the dead. Although they did not understand it at the time, he was explaining the gospel to them. His purpose was to die on the cross to pay the penalty for man’s sin. Rising from the dead three days later he claimed dominion over death. It was a one-two punch. All so that God could be restored in relationship with the creation he loves. Clearly, Peter was confused. Peter’s mind was on setting up an earthly kingdom with Jesus as King. But Jesus’ mind was on his father’s heavenly kingdom.

The problem is we tend to think like Peter instead of like Jesus. By nature, my focus settles on the here and now. It’s human. It takes effort to keep my mind on the things of God, and not on the things of man. What I have never considered is the consequence of this failing to keep my mind on the things of God. According to this passage, when I am thinking about the things of this world instead of the things of God, I actually hinder Jesus.

Pause right here and think about this truth for a moment. We hinder Jesus. We actually hinder Jesus from having a relationship with the Marias of this world. Doesn’t that bother you? It greatly concerns me.

How do we hinder Jesus? When our thoughts are consumed with things of this world and not on God, we block Jesus from having a relationship with Maria.

Jesus came to reconcile us to God. Because we have sinned, we are separated from God. But God wanted a relationship with us so much, he sent Jesus, his son, to pay the penalty for our sins so he could have fellowship with us again. Jesus is the bridge between earth and heaven. When we live our lives as followers of Jesus, we show others the path to the bridge. In this way, God is reunited with the creation he loves.

We hinder Jesus from doing what he came to do when we set our minds on the things of earth instead of the things of God. We effectively block others from getting to the bridge. How do we do this? We hinder Jesus from reaching our neighbors when we do not love them the way we love ourselves. We hinder Jesus from reaching our co-workers when we love status and image more than we love our co-workers. We hinder Jesus from loving the poor when we stockpile our resources for future wants instead of using them to spread Jesus’ love to the poor and the downcast. We hinder Jesus when we invest our time into lesser things of this earth instead of investing in eternity.

Now you understand why Jesus calls Peter “Satan.” This is serious stuff.

How do we set our minds on the things of God and not on the things of man? How on earth do we do this? It sounds simple, but it is not easy.

Jesus said the greatest commandment was this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37, ESV). Note the end of the command. See the phrase, “with all your mind.” The way we change is by changing our heart toward God. We confess we do not love him with all our mind. We ask God to forgive us for this. We apologize for hindering the work Jesus came to do. We ask God to help us to love him with all our heart, soul, and mind. Our minds become consumed with loving him with abandon. All we think about at work or at play is how we can love God more. As a result, the world clearly sees Jesus, and he is released through our lives to do what he came to do.

After our conversation, Maria and I exchanged email addresses. I told her I would pray for her regularly. I told her I was confident God was drawing her into a personal relationship with him. I encouraged her to pursue a real relationship with God, even if others are not. I will keep in touch to encourage her in her relationship with God.

As a side note, to show you how unusual this conversation was, I was three and a half hours from my home. Earlier that morning, I saw an ad on Craigslist for a set of used tires. Later I was traveling through the area, but the town was still a half an hour off the freeway. I decided to drive a little bit out of my way to buy the tires. I had never been to this town, and I will likely never return. Maria did not even speak English well, and my Spanish is limited. But clearly God was at work.

I also believe God orchestrated the conversation because he also wants a relationship with you and me. He is calling us to account through Maria. Will we listen? Will we turn our minds to the things of God, and away from the things of man? I hope we will.

For the sake of all the Marias in our world whom Jesus wants to know personally, I pray we would live in such a way that we would not hinder Jesus from doing what he came to do.

(*Not her real name. Her name was changed to protect her identity.)

Share this on your favorite social media platform:

FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Be The Boy

I want to share with you my testimony of what God has done in my life over the past few weeks. My heart is full of joy over all I see God doing. But it was a difficult journey getting to this place. The route through which God brought me was completely unexpected, and is somewhat uncomfortable to share. But I feel it is important to share anyway. Allow me to explain.

In early April, I attended the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in California. I was excited to meet with industry professionals and to learn more about the craft of writing. I brought with me a couple of book proposals and an expectation of an opportunity to take my writing to the next level. God has blessed me with a growing audience for ministry, and I see God blessing the writing aspect as the ministry grows. I figured my chances were good.

Arriving at the conference, I got the sinking feeling I was wrong. It was a bit overwhelming. I found I had a lot to learn about the writing and publishing process. I met other writers more gifted and farther along the journey than I, who were themselves still looking for a publisher, still waiting for the opportunity to see their work in print.

Quietly in my spirit God spoke to me. He used the speaker on Sunday morning during the Palm Sunday service to do this. In the message he shared the story of the miraculous feeding of the five thousand. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the story, allow me to share John’s version of it. This is what he wrote:

After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.

Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.
Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”

One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.”

Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” (John 6:1-12, ESV)

This story is repeated in all four of the gospels, but only John includes the detail about the boy. Somehow the boy has five loaves of barley bread and two fish. This was far more than a mere sack lunch, but far less than what was needed to feed everyone. He had a generous supply, but it still required a miracle of God to satisfy the hunger of the massive crowd. Jesus takes the bread and fish and miraculously multiplies it to feed thousands until they are full! Herein lies the message the Holy Spirit spoke to me.

No matter what I do for God, it still requires a move of God to meet the needs of others. I bring him what I have, but it requires a miracle from God to multiply it. It was as if God said to me, “Tim, just be the boy and let me be God.” Be the boy. Be the one who gives to Jesus what little you have. Don’t try to scheme and figure out how to broaden your platform. Just give what you have to God. Expect God to multiply it in ways you cannot even imagine.

No one sitting in the grass that day anticipated the miracle Jesus was about to perform. But God knew! Don’t try to understand God’s ways. Just be the boy. Seek humility. Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Don’t give room for spiritual pride. Miracles don’t happen through lives comingled with pride.

I sat in the conference center hall and pondered this word from God to me. Sunday night a different speaker referenced the same story. In fact, over the next few weeks, the story of the feeding of the five thousand was repeated by countless speakers. It was almost laughable. Each time it was as if the Holy Spirit nudged me with his elbow and with a wink said, “Be the boy!” Each time it was a confirmation to me as God reinforced this truth in my life.

Now this all reads well, and I am tempted to stop writing here. But as the Holy Spirit confirmed this idea of giving what I have to Jesus and allowing him to do with it as he pleases, he was also peeling away layer upon layer of spiritual pride from my heart. It was a difficult, humbling time.

Each layer of pride was so subtle that at first it was tough to notice it had wrapped its tendrils around my heart. Layer after layer of pride had built up, but not so much that it was easy to see. Pride sneaks in slowly making it difficult to detect. It is a cancer, and it takes a spiritual CAT scan to reveal the cavities where it lies hidden. Somewhere in my journey with Christ I had crossed a line from being amazed by all God is doing, to thinking I was going to do something amazing for God. But God doesn’t share his glory. He is quite capable of doing amazing things all by himself. He just wants me to be the boy.

I was saddened when I realized pride had taken root within me. Broken is a good way to describe it. Solemn. Still. Listening. For weeks this lingered.

At the end of the month, I attended the Exponential Conference in Orlando. Several speakers referenced the feeding of the five thousand, and each time I nodded in agreement with the Holy Spirit. By this point, I had already done business with God. With a new awareness of the work of God in my life, I returned home with a desire to go deeper in my relationship with God. I thought back to a time twenty years ago when God radically moved in my life.

It was January of 1997. The previous December I had finished the Bible Study “Experiencing God” by Henry Blackaby. The Holy Spirit initiated a profound work in my life, and I was consumed with a desire to know him more. I read through the entire Bible three times in the next year. I couldn’t put it down. It was the most astounding book I had ever read. If he could do a miracle in the Old Testament, then he could do the same for me. I didn’t care about watching TV. I didn’t care about anything but reading the Word. It was a profound season in my life.

My prayer now is for God to take me back to that place in my relationship with him, back to where I hungered to know him more. I have become complacent. I have become comfortable. Yes, I love him dearly. But what if the Holy Spirit stirred up a fresh, new hunger inside me? What would God do in and through my life if I had a growing passion burning within me? It is a question I expect God to answer in the coming days.

I’ve taken steps toward that place by turning off the TV. I’m not anti-TV. I’m just taking a break for a time to spend focused time in prayer and in the Word. It is a season of fasting and prayer for me. Already I am encouraged by a renewed sense of his presence and purpose. Where there was sorrow over my pride, I found joy in his presence. Thankfully, when we confess our sins, “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, ESV).

I share this and hope it will encourage you. I also covet your prayers during this season. For all of us, remember: Just be the boy. Guard against pride. Pray for God to take you to a new place in your relationship with him.

But by all means, just be the boy.

Share this on your favorite social media platform:

FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

A Wake-Up Call To Pray

This morning I woke up at 5:30. I had gotten about seven hours of sleep, and my body was ready to plow into the day. A stack of work in the office was gently calling my name. I planned an early morning bike ride, shower, and then a full day in the office.

But an odd thing happened that completely redirected my day. As I lay in bed enjoying the warmth of the covers, I thought about a church I attended when I lived in Tennessee. Frequently, during the midst of a service the pastor would call us to pray. If you were physically able, you would kneel in front of your chair in the auditorium and silently pray for a few minutes. A stillness would settle over the room. Finally my pastor would close in prayer. I remember those moments. There was no agenda. It wasn’t prayer for a specific item. It was merely a time to humble ourselves and pray.

I crawled out of bed and made a cup of coffee. The memory of those moments in Tennessee was still heavy on my mind. It occurred to me that I have drifted away from prioritizing this vital focus on prayer. The Holy Spirit was quietly calling me back to conversation with him. I realized that at some point I had become comfortable with the ministry I am guiding. I was comfortable in my life in general. I was comfortable. As a result, I was careless in prioritizing prayer.

It was still dark in the house. A single lamp cast a glow near my favorite chair. I sat with my cup of coffee and talked with the maker of the universe. I prayed for our country. I prayed about the direction we are heading. I prayed for my home church and for our leadership team. I prayed for my own life and ministry. I just sat and talked with God. As I talked with him, I thought about the time Jesus was coming down from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem.

It was his moment of exaltation. The crowds surged forward. Many threw their cloaks on the road, creating a carpet for the donkey he was riding. His disciples were overjoyed. They shouted “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” It was a celebration like the coronation of a king.

Suddenly, Jesus halted the donkey, and for a moment the procession came to a standstill. An uncomfortable stillness settled over the crowd. Jesus gazed toward the city of Jerusalem as if lost in another place and time. The disciples looked at one another, confused. Slowly Jesus closed his eyes, and a cry rose from somewhere deep within. Finally he could hold it no longer, and like a torrent breaching a dam, the tears overflowed and streamed down his cheeks. His body trembled as he wept.

Because he was seated on the donkey, he was head and shoulders above the crowd. Everyone saw the emotion. No one moved. No one shouted, “Hosanna in the highest!” No one said a word. Most looked away. The sight of a man weeping in public made them extremely uncomfortable. Finally through the tears, Jesus spoke.

“Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” Jesus paused, gaining his composure, and brushed his tear-streaked face with his hand. “For the days will come upon you,” he continued, “when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

At last the silent procession moved on into the city. But the celebration was crippled by the tears of the king.

(Adapted from Luke 19:36-44, ESV).

It is a haunting image: Jesus is weeping while others are celebrating. But Jesus saw something they didn’t. He was broken by the knowledge that the people did not understand the perilous state they were in. He predicts great devastation in the days to come. And he closes his statement with an unusual phrase. He says these trials are coming, “because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Now when he says, “the time of your visitation,” he is not referring to a time when they will have a visitor. The word used for visitation has the idea of a time of inspection. It is a time of investigation. It is as if he is saying that because they did not understand that God was searching out and inspecting their lives, calamity was coming as a result. The time for repentance had passed. Mercy was giving way to judgment. All these trials were coming because they did not understand that God was watching.

Which brings me to you and me. I wonder if we truly understand the days in which we live. We are comfortable. In North America we enjoy a standard of living that is exceptional in all the world. Within our church culture, we enjoy a sense of peace. But is reality hidden from our eyes?

Our country doesn’t seem to understand how desperate we are for God. Our churches in North America do not seem to understand how desperate they are for God. But what about me personally? Do I understand how desperate I am for God? If I did, wouldn’t that lead me to pray? If my eyes were opened to my condition, and I fully understood the consequences of that, wouldn’t that lead me to pray? Would it lead you to pray?

If we understood that God is watching us and testing us to see where our hearts really are, then we would also understand the importance of prayer. But because we do not understand our desperate condition, we also do not understand the value of prayer. Are the things that make for peace hidden from our eyes? Do we not know the time of our visitation?

Our churches are closing at an alarming rate, and still we do not pray. Our marriages are being decimated in record numbers, and still we do not pray. Our children are being lured away by the culture, and still we do not pray. Rightly did Jesus say, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”

My friends, our comfort has blinded us to our need. I include myself as well. But something happened to me this morning. I saw more clearly the days in which I live. I saw more clearly my own life. And it led me to pray.

My wake-up call came at 5:30 in the morning. When will yours come?

This article was originally published in the April 2017 Newsletter.

Share this on your favorite social media platform:

FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

When Hope Seems Lost

The huge crowd pressed forward, surrounding Jesus and his disciples. Jarius pushed through the throng. He jostled his way to the front of the pack. As the leader of the synagogue, he knew better than to barge through, but the need was urgent. Death had come to the door of his home. At any moment, his daughter might breathe her last. In a final desperate act, he threw himself at the feet of Jesus.

With arms upraised, he pleaded with Jesus. “My little daughter is at the point of death,” he cried. “I beg you, come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.”

Time stood still as Jarius waited for a reply. But Jesus barely looked down at the man. Without breaking stride, Jesus and the disciples continued on. In a moment, the wave of people swept past him as he knelt on the ground.

Jarius jumped to his feet and pushed forward in the throng, trying to make his way back to Jesus. If his request were denied, he would have no hope. He had just humbled himself before the Rabbi, and it seemed his request had been completely discounted. He reeled from the knowledge his cry was unanswered.

He had almost caught up when Jesus stopped and asked the crowd, “Who touched me?” Jarius was frustrated and confused. Seriously? I just begged you to save my dying daughter, and you ignored me? Yet in a crowd this size, someone touches you and you stop to find out who it was? It was inconceivable.

Jesus looked around to see who had touched him. For a moment Jarius thought Jesus might see him and respond to his request. But his hopes were crushed again. Jesus looked right through Jarius, and his gaze stopped on a woman who cowered behind him. Jarius watched in astonishment as the realization spread that his plea was unheeded.

Time stopped. Jarius could hardly breathe. His opportunity had come and gone. It was obvious Jesus had moved on. Now Jesus spoke with a woman. To think, a rabbi speaking with a woman! How could Jesus ignore the request of the leader of the synagogue, but give his full attention to an insignificant woman? There was a commotion in the crowd. The woman had needed to be healed. Somehow power had gone out of him when she touched the hem of his garment.

Jesus looked at her and said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

In an instant, she was healed! The crowd received what they came for. The rabbi had miraculously healed again! The news spread through the throng. They looked at one another as excitement leapt from face to face. While everyone else celebrated, Jarius stood motionless. His request had been denied, and yet the Rabbi had taken the time to heal someone else. A woman, no less. It made no sense.

He felt a tug on his sleeve, and he turned to see one of his household servants. The servant looked him in the eye, and for a moment neither said a word. Even before he spoke, Jarius knew. He could see it in his eyes. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Why trouble the Teacher any further?”

Jarius fought to maintain his composure. Finally, he could hold it no longer. Tears streamed down his dusty cheeks. His body shook. He struggled to silence his sobs.

An odd quiet settled on the crowd. Jarius looked up to find everyone looking at him. Jesus had turned to him as well. He looked down to avoid the stares. He was embarrassed. He smeared the tears from his face with the back of his hands. He tried to compose himself, but his daughter was dead. His efforts had failed. The only one who could help had entirely disregarded his pleas. He could not look Jesus in the face.

But Jesus looked directly at him. He had overheard the servant. He knew. He understood. He had seen Jarius humble himself before him. And though it appeared he had snubbed him, Jesus had another plan in process.

Jesus moved closer to speak to Jarius face to face. “Do not be afraid,” he said. “Only believe.”

What happened next would be retold for generations. For in the moments that followed, Jesus went to Jarius’ home and raised his daughter from the dead.

Adapted from Mark 5:22-43, ESV.

Jarius’ experience is an example for all of us. We pray. We ask God to intercede. We believe he will make a difference. We fall at his feet in our desperate moments and cry out to him. But it seems as if nothing happens. To make it worse, we see God at work around us, meeting needs in other people’s lives, while our needs go unmet. In these moments, what do you do? What will you do when your request goes unanswered?

I share Jarius’ story with you because it illustrates an important truth. In our moments when we feel our prayers are overlooked, Jesus comes to us with two simple commands: Do not be afraid. Only believe.

It speaks to the heart of one of the most difficult aspects of waiting on God: unanswered prayer. Volumes are written on this topic, but the bottom line is this: We don’t know why God chooses to answer some prayers while other requests seem to be disregarded. We do know the words Jesus spoke to Jarius thousands of years ago apply to us today. When hope seems lost, he comes to us in our frailty. He speaks to us in our moment of devastation. His words echo across generations. “Do not be afraid. Only believe.”

I take comfort knowing Jesus understands my humanity. He knows my fears, so he reminds me not to be afraid. He knows my faith falters, so he reminds me to believe in him. His understanding and kindness are a treasured gift. It is a gift he gives to you as well.

My friend, perhaps you have cried out to God only to feel your request has gone unnoticed. You see God at work around you, while your need lingers. Have hope. The end of our story has yet to be written. We do not know what the outcome will be. While we have no guarantee, we will see the resolution we long for, we do know God is in control. He is kind. He is good. As we wait on him, we choose faith over fear. We choose to believe, even when it seems hope is lost.

While we wait, remember: Sometimes God heals. Sometimes God raises from the dead.

Do not be afraid. Only believe.

This article was originally published in the March 2017 Newsletter.

Share this on your favorite social media platform:

FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Waiting For A Change

What do you do when you are waiting for God to do a work in someone else’s life? Perhaps someone you love is making poor decisions. Maybe they have turned away from God, and the consequences are piling up. Possibly it is a wayward child or a wandering spouse. It may be a friend for whom you care deeply. You’ve offered counsel, but it was thrown back in your face. Even with the offense, you are still clinging to hope that they will change. But hope is fading. It is daunting to wait while you watch them struggle.

Wait anyway.

Tucked away in the Old Testament is a short little book called Lamentations. It is only four chapters long. You can read it in one setting. Most scholars believe the prophet Jeremiah is the writer of this text. He writes of Jerusalem, his beloved home. His brokenness over the state of the city bleeds throughout the book. The imagery is haunting. The city is in utter ruins. Piles of stone mark the spot where proud buildings once stood. There is no food. The people are starving. Children beg for crumbs. The children that perish are eaten by their own mothers. It doesn’t get much worse than that.

It is in this context that Jeremiah walks us through his beloved home, street by street, alley by alley. He describes in brutal detail the rubble that once was a beautiful, thriving city. Think of it as his version of Aleppo, the city currently destroyed in the civil war in Syria. Verse by verse he describes the devastation. Then, in the midst of his lament, a strange thing happens. He pauses, and we wait to hear what he will say. He gathers himself as if looking back to a familiar truth. A small glimmer of hope appears. A single shaft of light pierces the gloom. This is what he says:

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him” (Lamentations 3:21-25, ESV).

Jeremiah loved Jerusalem. Surely he had cried out in prayer to God. Surely he had interceded for the people he loved. He had pleaded for them to repent, to turn back to God. But in their stubbornness, they had refused to change.

How Jeremiah must have hurt to stand by and watch, knowing that if there were no change judgment would be swift and thorough. Can you imagine how deeply he must have felt this? I can, and I think many of you reading this know this feeling as well. We cry out to God on behalf of those we love. We beg God to intercede. We speak loving truth to the wayward. We know that if there is no change, judgement will follow.

In my own life there are times when a situation I am facing seems to drag on and on with little change. I pray, “God, what do you want me to do?” He replies, “Wait.” To which I answer, “Really, God? Anything but that.” I imagine God chuckles. Frankly, I laugh at myself as well. For in that moment I see God at work in my life. And if the only work I see God doing is the work he is doing in me, then I am okay with that. I will wait on God. I will put my hope in him. Because he is good, and he is kind.

In the midst of the waiting, God is loving. God is merciful. Day after day he refreshes me with mercy equal to my need. I continue to hope in him. He is enough for me. He is good to those who wait for him to move, to those who seek him with abandon. I am reminded that I am not God. I am not, nor will I ever be, in control. I cannot fix others. Fixing others is the sole domain of the Holy Spirit. I cannot transform anyone. Unfortunately, I am action oriented. I want to get in there and fix it. I’m a guy. That’s what guys do. We fix things. It is part of who I am, and it can frustrate me when I am faced with the fact that I am helpless to change the ones I love.

What I can do is to bring that person to God. I remind myself that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end. Morning by morning I bring that one to the feet of Jesus and cry out for him to do a work in their life. Even after Jerusalem had experienced the judgment of God, Jeremiah still held onto hope that there would be change. The same should be said for you and me.

As I wait on God, continuing to pray, I put my hope in him. That makes all the difference. I put my confidence in knowing that the words Jeremiah wrote still ring true today. Jeremiah’s hope came from reminding himself of the character of God. He washes himself with thoughts of God’s love. God’s love is steadfast and never ceases. He is always merciful. Every morning God gives me enough mercy and love for the day ahead. He is faithful. He is my portion. He is good to all who wait for him. Therefore I will hope in him.

My friend, what is the situation in your life that is weighing you down? Who is the one for whom you are praying? You’re exhausted from carrying this burden. You’ve come to the place where you realize there is nothing else you can do except to wait. Wait anyway. Don’t give up or give in. Pray. Have hope in God.

When someone you love is struggling, and there’s nothing left to do, try waiting for a change.

This article was originally published in the February 2017 Newsletter.

Share this on your favorite social media platform:

FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail