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Written by Timothy Mark

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.

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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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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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