What a Friend We Have in Jesus

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Jesus, Matthew 11:28-30

It’s been so wearisome, with all the challenges living in such a crazy and challenging time. Then you add ministry and all the daily responsibilities that do not cease, just because of all that is going on. Or just because I would like it to. And you have the definition of wearisome. I have often contemplated on these word Jesus spoke. I think about how gentle and kind He is and how I long for rest, real rest.

Then there’s the pressure to mask any weariness or any sign of weakness. Sounds so silly but…

I read an article about this pressure to hide how we are really feeling by David Zahl, “Penn Faces and Campus Tragedies: More Notes on the Suicide Epidemic”

At Penn State University they call it “Penn Face.”It refers to students who act “happy and self-assured even when sad or stressed.” At Stanford they call it the “Duck Syndrome,” referring to students who live like ducks appearing to glide calmly on water while frantically paddling under the surface. As one Penn student said, “Nobody wants to be the one who is struggling while everyone else is doing great. Despite whatever’s going on—if you’re stressed, a bit depressed, if you’re overwhelmed—you want to put up this positive front.”

As The New York Times reports, “In the era of social media, such comparisons take place on a screen with carefully curated depictions that don’t provide the full picture. Mobile devices escalate the comparisons from occasional to nearly constant.”

When students remark to Gregory T. Eells, director of counseling at Cornell University that everyone else on campus looks happy, he tells them: “I walk around and think, ‘That one’s gone to the hospital. That person has an eating disorder. That student just went on antidepressants.’ As a therapist, I know that nobody is as happy or as grown-up as they seem on the outside.”

Jesus calls, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

How wonderful and kind He is. He knows right where we are. He knows our hearts. He knows our soul that lies behind any mask we try to put on. What a friend we have in Jesus.

What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
And what a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer

Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
Take it to the Lord in prayer

Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness
Take it to the Lord in prayer

Thank you, Jesus. I come to you right now, wearied. Teach me to rest in you. Thank you.

another step…

A Branch… But Also a Precious Child

It has always been a challenge for me to just receive love, always an underlying feeling that I must somehow work and earn that love. John and Paula Sanford call it, “performance orientation.”

The constant propensity of the born anew is to fall back to striving by human effort. Our minds and spirits know the free gift of salvation, but our hearts retain their habit to earn love by performing… Performance orientation is a term which refers not to the service we perform but to the false motives which impel us.

John and Paul Sandford, The Transformation of the Inner Man

That propensity makes Jesus’ words in John 15 both frustrating, because I want to do something to earn the privilege of being a part of the Vine, and also reassuring, knowing that He loves me and I have a personal connection with Him. And as always, into this conundrum enters the Holy Spirit, who leads us into all truth.

Opening the chapter of the day for me in Andrew Murray’s True Vine, I read the words of Jesus in John 15:9.

Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.

Jesus, John 15:9

As I read, I hear my Father whispering these word to my soul. No longer just words on a page but words on my heart, reminding me of this awesome truth. And with this, I read Murray’s words, again words directed to my soul.

Here Christ leaves the language of parable, and speaks plainly out of the Father. Much as the parable could teach, it could not teach the lesson of love. All that the vine does for the branch, it does under the compulsion of a law of nature: there is no personal living love to the branch. We are in danger of looking to Christ as a Savior and a supplier of ever need, appointed by God, accepted and trusted by us, without any sense of the intensity of personal affection in which Christ embraces us, and our life alone can find its true happiness. Christ seeks to point us to this… Just as he knew and rejoiced ever hour-the Father loveth Me-we too may live in that unceasing consciousness-as the Father loved Him, so He loves me.

Andrew Murray, The True Vine

Thank you, Father. Your Word and Your Spirit reminds me that as precious and important it is for me to understand that I am a branch, I am also a precious child. Thank you for my friend, Andy, who comes alongside to help and encourage me.

another step…

The Longing of the Heart

A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul…

Proverbs 13:19

Spending time with my Father this morning stirred a longing in my heart. I asked Him to turn my heart fully to Him, that my heart would beat in sync with His. As I prayed, I felt a stirring and a longing deep in my heart.

Turning once again to my friend, Andrew Murray, in his book, “The True Vine,” God uses “Andy” to speak right where I am.

“With many Christian the thought of personal safety, which at their first awakening was a legitimate one, remains to the end the one aim of their religion. The idea of service and fruit is always a secondary and very subordinate one. The honesty longing for much fruit does not trouble them. Souls that have heard the call to live wholly for their Lord, to give their lives for Him as he gave His for them, can never be satisfied with this. Their cry is to bear as much fruit as they possibly can, as much as their Lord ever can desire or give them. Bear much fruit: so shall ye be My disciples-Let me beg every ready to consider these words most seriously.

Andrew Murray, The Vine p. 63

How wonderful it is that our loving Father sees and hears us and is there to commune and answer our prayer. I look ahead today with an excitement and a sense of longing fulfilled.

“Dad (Father), help me to walk as a new creation in Christ, a branch vitally connected to the Vine, longing to bear much fruit, fruit and a life that makes you smile. Thank you!”

another step…

That Son… is Me

It’s 3:35 am. I get up feeling a tightness in my gut. Unfortunately, an all too familiar feeling of anxiety begins to envelope me like a fog. I try to shake it off but to no avail. I try to go back to sleep… yet I know that is not going to happen. Eyes wide open now, staring into the darkness, I whisper, “Dad, I need a breakthrough.” I begin to recall songs of praise and worship hoping for that breakthrough. My heart and mind hear those familiar verses from songs declaring the love of God, His amazing grace, the heart of the Father. Yet, I think, I feel, those words are not meant for me.

Why? The problem isn’t God. My God and Father is everything every song declares about Him, and more. He’s beyond good and faithful and merciful and understanding and patient. And His grace… amazing! But I feel so unworthy. For you see, I have turned my back on Him. I so often walked away. I take His love and grace for granted and go off to do I what I want.

I realize I’m that son.

My mind goes to that painting.

I am that son. I took it all, turned my back and walked away. And here I am, in a fog of anxiety. I want to go back. But how can I? I blew it. I walked away. I took it all and spent it all, all that was not mine. It was all grace—undeserved, unearned, just given. I took it all for granted. I just took it… and I wasted it all.

How can I return? Yet… I’m drawn back. Drawn back by the love of My Father. I begin to take steps back, rehearsing what I want to say, what I’m going to say to a Person, I have no right to call Dad. I try and try but there’s really no words that can earn my way back. That son’s words come to mind, “Father, I have sinned again heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.” I take more steps back. 

And then, there you are. I see you, and my heart pounds as feelings flood my soul. Hope, yet the dread, regret, humility, shame… and then, surprisingly, only hope. Hope that somehow, I will be accepted back. I know I shouldn’t be. I shouldn’t even be here where I am. But the love of the father draws me back. 

But, but, I look at all I have done I remember how I turned my back, left, and went on my own, only caring about me. And now I want back? I know all about God’s goodness, I experienced it all, but… And now, I am here and there’s Dad, it’s hard even saying or thinking that word, “Dad.” I threw that away. But now, here I am, wanting to return. I can’t as a son, I gave that up. I threw that away.


He’s there. Dad is there. He has been looking for me, waiting for me, yearning for me. He has run to me, embraced and kissed me. Unbelievable. I start speaking the words I rehearsed, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son, mak…” but no more words are necessary, as he calls out to prepare a party. No more words needed. He doesn’t need to hear more. To him, having his son back is all that matters. 

I stand there stunned. Then, because of the great love of my Father, I receive His love once again. Dad, receive your son… forgive me… restore me… I don’t deserve all this… But He has. He receive me and the party has begun. “This son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.”

That’s grace. That’s the love of my Father, my Dad. I take a deep breath and humbly receive. I hear my soul saying, “That’s grace, Mark. That’s the grace of your God. That’s the love of your Father.” I slowly nod, feeling peace break through the fog. Now the words of those songs can once again be my words. By His grace. Only by His grace.

Thank you, Dad!

Another step…


The Heartfelt Counsel of a Friend

The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.

Proverbs 27:9

I am so thankful for the friends the Lord has blessed me with. Over the past years, He has given me friends I have never met before, some who are now in heaven. One of the things I would always say to our children was, “Books are our friends.” God has blessed me with authors whose written words touched me so deeply, that I now consider them my friends. Their Spirit-inspired counsel has truly been sweet.

One of my best friends is Andrew Murray.

Here is an article from CT about my friend “Andy”

As a young man, Andrew Murray wanted to be a minister, but it was a career choice rather than an act of faith. Not until he had finished his general studies and begun his theological training, in the Netherlands, did he experience a conversion of heart. In a letter to his parents, Murray wrote, “Your son has been born again. … I have cast myself on Christ.”

This “casting of the self” became Murray’s life theme… that Murray experienced by continually casting himself on Christ.

“May not a single moment of my life be spent outside the light, love, and joy of God’s presence,” was his prayer. “And not a moment without the entire surrender of myself as a vessel for him to fill full of his Spirit and his love.”

… Murray wrote to interpret the Scriptures in such a way that Christians were free to believe and experience the grace of God. He believed that God had done everything necessary for people to live rich, productive, meaningful lives that participated in the life of God. The obstacles to such lives included half-hearted surrender to God, a lack of confidence in the anointing of the Spirit, and a deep-rooted skepticism about the power of prayer.

One of his most popular books, With Christ in the School of Prayer, takes New Testament teachings about prayer and illumines them in 31 “lessons” designed to help the reader move past shallow, ineffectual prayer into a fuller understanding of the work God has called them to do. According to Murray, the church does not realize that “God rules the world by the prayers of his saints, that prayer is the power by which Satan is conquered, that by prayer the church on earth has disposal of the powers of the heavenly world.

In my journey to abide in Christ, God has used “Andy” to speak to me in very profound ways. I am slowly reading, because that’s how I need to read Murray’s books, “The True Vine.”

Here’s something God is using Andrew Murray’s heartfelt counsel to draw me closer to Him:

The branch has but one object for which it exists, one purpose to which it is entirely given up. That is, to bear the fruit the vine wishes to bring forth. And so the believer has but one reason for his being a branch-but one reason for his existence on earth-that the heavenly Vine may through him bring froth His fruit. Happy is the soul that knows this, that has consented to it, and that says, I have been redeemed and l live for one thing-as exclusively as the natural branch exists only to bring forth fruit, I too; as exclusively as the heavenly Vine exists to bring forth fruit, I too.

Andrew Murray, The True Vine, pp. 17-18

There is nothing I want more right now than just that. I seek to be like my friend, Andy, who said, “May not a single moment of my life be spent outside the light, love, and joy of God’s presence.” That’s the continuing journey I am on. Thanks, Andy!

Another step…

Motivation from Jimmy Chitwood

Out of Ink: After the Credits -- Hoosiers

I love the movie, “Hoosier.” It’s a great story about a small town Indiana high school that goes on to win the state championship. The school gets a new coach, who the townsfolk didn’t appreciate and wanted fired. They hold a town meeting to vote whether to keep or oust the coach. Well, they vote to get rid of the coach.

Then in walks Jimmy Chitwood, the star player from the year before who decided not to be on the team. All eyes are on Jimmy as he makes his way to the front and turns around nervously to address the gathered townspeople. Then he says,

“I don’t know if it’ll make any change, but I figure it’s about time for me to start playing ball.”

The crowd erupts in applause, with one of the men yelling, “I told ya! Once we got rid of him (pointing to the coach)!” Jimmy continues, “One other thing. I play, coach stays. He goes, I go.” The town votes again and the coach is retained. And the rest is Indiana basketball history.

Now, I write all that to say, one day last week while praying, I heard, out of the blue, Jimmy Chitwood saying those words, “I figure it’s about time for me to start playing ball.” What immediately came to mind was this blog. I felt God’s strong leading to start writing again. To start writing my thoughts I am learning in my journey to abide in Christ.

After taking a long hiatus, I realized writing my thoughts really help me to focus on abiding. It’s too easy to just mosey along, hoping I am taking steps in the right direction.

Recently, a quote from Hudson Taylor, kick started my soul.

“Abiding in Jesus isn’t fixing our attention on Christ, but it is being one with Him … A man is abiding just as much when he is sleeping for Jesus, as when he is awake and working for Jesus. Oh, it is a very sweet thing to have one’s mind just resting there.” — Hudson Taylor

So, it’s time for me to start playing ball. I pray along with Andrew Murray

Holy Lord Jesus, the heavenly Vine of God’s own planting, I beseech Thee, reveal Thyself to my soul. Let the Holy Spirit, not only in thought, but in experience, give me to know all that Thou, the Son of God, art to me as the true Vine.





It’s been quite thrilling, actually, reading Mme. Guyon’s book, “Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ.” Thrilling and challenging because it just speaks directly to my soul who thirsts for more of Jesus and seems to enjoy challenges.

She writes, “…God has a magnetic attracting quality! Your God is like a magnet! The Lord naturally draws you more and more toward Himself…As you move toward the center, the Lord also purifies you of all the things that are not of Him.”

I began to meditate on those words and the illustration she used in the following paragraph. Observe the ocean and the water that begins to evaporate. Think of how the vapor begins moving toward the sun. As the vapor ascends, it becomes more refined and purified. Mme. Guyon writes, “The purifying took place as the vapor was drawn up into the heavens!” As I do a lot reading her book, I thought, “Okay…I can picture that, I guess. Sounds reasonable. Now what?” And as often happens as I read her book, the Holy Spirit takes over. I suddenly recalled an encouraging word I read earlier in the day and Ezekiel 36:25-27.

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”

The Holy Spirit and my new BFF, Jeanne Guyon, are an awesome combination! I got it! God was getting through to not only my heart of stone, but my head of stone. I began to picture myself being drawn to my loving God, who loves me enough to draw me to Himself like a magnet. Then I could see something that absolutely thrilled me, I could picture that as was drawn close to my God, He was purifying me! Filthiness being vaporized. Idolatry left behind. A hard heart (and God willing, a hard head) replaced with a soft heart (and head. Soft head? Hmmm, that doesn’t sound right. But you know what I mean.). Filthiness replaced by His Spirit, giving me the strength to walk in obedience to God and His ways. Amazing!

How different that is from the magnet of sin that keeps pulling me toward things and thoughts and actions and words and behavior and the filth that keeps me separated from the God who like a magnet, yearns to draw me to Himself.

Father, thank you for your amazing love that keeps drawing me to You like a magnet, Your love that purifies my filth and softens my heart, and my head. Thank you!

Thank you, Father!

and thanks again, Jeanne!

another step!



Two or Three

silhouette of dancing people inside club

Photo by Wendy Wei on Pexels.com
“Bigger is better.”
“Size matters.” (I’m referring to church size, okay?
“The bigger the better!”

When I think about those sayings, I immediately try to dismiss them with quaint sayings that seem more humble and inspiring.

Like Mark Twain-“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” I love that one!

From Mom Teresa-“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”

The truth is, as much as I want to believe those inspiring sayings, there’s a part of me that believes bigger is better. Or bigger means being more successful. That as a pastor, my success is measured by how the attendance at our worship services. I know, I know, that’s so wrong but that’s something that still gnaws at me! And this has been a real tension in my spirit. It’s so easy to feel unsuccessful or discouraged. Honestly, it’s been a battle for me as a pastor. But, God is amazing! As I sat in His presence this morning, I just rested in Him. As a son. With my Dad. I wasn’t even thinking about this at all. Until…

A couple of passages from the Bible snuck into my mind:

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Matthew 18:18-20

I opened my Bible and began to just allow the words from these verses sink into my heart. As time went on, it was as though the Holy Spirit was saying, “Mark, two or three. Just two or three.” The amazing thing is that it did begin to sink into my heart! I began to see the real truth in these passages. There is much strength in just two or three. If just two people agree about anything they ask for, God will get it done for them. When just two or three are gathered, God is there. I was beginning to see, I mean really see,  that just two or three can make a huge impact!

I began thinking about a very profound and prophetic book by Ed Silvoso, entitled, “Ekklesia.” Ed has written a very a biblical and paradigm shifting book. He writes about something very new to me, the Conventus, “According to Sir William Ramsay, when a group of Roman citizens as small as two or three gathered anywhere in the world, it constituted the convents as a local expression of Rome.” Ed then masterfully relates this to Matthew 18. Something clicked in my spirit. Then my heart stirred when I read these words, “Jesus’ Ekklesia was not meant to be a sterile, sanitized holding tank into which His disciples were to store in isolation converts fished out of a turbulent and doomed sea, to await the arrival of a refrigerator ship for transfer to a heavenly port for final processing. Instead, His Ekklesia, whether in the embryonic expression of the conventus or in a more expansive version, was designed as the vehicle to inject the leaven of the Kingdom of God into the dough of society so that first people, and then cities and eventually nations, would be discipled.” Click!

Then, the other day, my very good friend and brother, Cal, stopped by my office, excited to share events and things he was working on. It really was exciting. But something he said still rings in my ears. “Mark, the Ekklesia is unstoppable!” He had shared a couple of stories about how two or three Christ followers took the Bible at its word and the inspiration of Ed Silvoso and his book, “Ekklesia,” and were making a huge impact in the world around them. Regular people, like me, making a major impact! Yes, size does matter! Two or three and God with them is unstoppable. Click!

God began to work His truth into my heart, gently blowing away the lies and false beliefs I was holding on to. “Mark, don’t worry about bigger is better. Don’t worry about the bigger you are, the more successful you are. Focus in on twos and threes. When you do, when you are leading, teaching, equipping and encouraging people that two or three is all you need, like Cal said, the church becomes unstoppable!” 

Two or three. We all can do that. I can do that. A married couple. A couple of siblings. A family. Two or three friends. Two or three co-workers. Two or three classmates. Two or three teammates. Two or three anybody. God can use, God does use two or three. I pray that would be my passion and my focus. Holy Spirit, I need your help. I need you to lead me, correct me, and empower me. Two or three. Click!

Thanks, Cal!

Thanks, Ed!

Most of all, thanks Father!

another important step!





sun forest rays sunbeam
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The start of a new year always comes with a sense of excitement and anticipation for me. It’s like I get to have a fresh start in some ways. My mind wonders what God will bring in the coming year. There’s always a sense of wonder with a new year.

This year, I have begun to read a book that is unlike most books I tend to read. One day while meeting with someone, this book came to mind and I decided to read it. Madame Guyon, who some would describe as a French mystic, lived from 1648-1717, wrote a book entitled, “Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ.” The title page says that it was formerly entitled, “Short and Very Easy Method of Prayer; which all can practice with the greatest facility, and arrive in a short time, by its means, at a high degree of perfection.”

Now with a title like that, who wouldn’t want to dive right in. And I dive right in I did! So far, it has been a wonderful adventure of drawing closer to God. Short and very easy? Not so much, at least for me. One of the ways she suggests coming to the Lord is “praying the Scripture.” Here’s what Madame Guyon suggests: “Turn to the Scripture; choose some passage that is simple and fairly practical. Next, come to the Lord. Come quietly and humbly. There, before Him, read a small portion of the passage of Scripture you have opened to. Be careful as you read. Take in fully, gently and carefully what you are reading. Taste it and digest it as you read.”

“Turn to the Scripture; choose some passage that is simple and fairly practical. Next, come to the Lord. Come quietly and humbly. There, before Him, read a small portion of the passage of Scripture you have opened to. Be careful as you read. Take in fully, gently and carefully what you are reading. Taste it and digest it as you read.”  Madame Guyon

I felt God’s leading to read Ps. 19. I started to read and landed on verse 4-5. This is what I took in fully, gently, and carefully, tasting and digesting as I read: God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding.” And here’s what my first sense was: “What the heck?” I was wondering what God could possibly want to tell me in these verses. But I quieted my heart, rested in God’s presence, and waited. And waited. And waited. As impatient as I usually am, I began to sense a real peace, just being in the presence of God. It was nice. And then it happened.

God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding

As I rested in the Lord’s presence, this thought came to mind. “Were you a radiant bridegroom? Do you remember how joyful were you that day you got married? Do you remember how thrilled you were becoming one with My gift to you in Jo?” I began to remember! Remembering how happy I was. How thankful to God I was. I remembered not being hungry at all at the reception because I was so excited. I remembered the first dance with my bride, which is a miracle because I don’t like to dance. I remembered how happy I was on that day. It was wonderful remembering, over 36 years later, that amazing and special day.

Then I sensed God’s voice. “Remember. Appreciate. Think of that day. Think of Jo. Think of Me. And whenever you see or feel the warmth of the sun, let it be a reminder to you of that wonderful day and how radiant you felt.” I stopped to think of how kind God is. How He loved me enough to give such a wonderful bride, wife, and partner to go through all the ups and downs of life with. How good God is! And to have the sun as a constant reminder of how good God is and how much He loves me is so amazing.

I remember thanking God and getting up from my desk thinking, Jeanne (Madame Guyon’s first name. We are on first name basis now!), you are on to something! Thank you. I look forward every day now, to experience more of the depths of Jesus Christ. I look forward to looking outside my window every morning, seeing and feeling the warmth of the sun, reminding me of that special day when I was a radiant bridegroom. And that God is there. He’s always been there.

Thanks, Jeanne! Another step!