“Come to Me”

I must say it has been a good start of this journey, these past few months, of learning to abide in Christ. Am I consistently abiding in Christ now? Not yet, but better than I was before this journey began. More than anything, I am more  aware when I’m wrapped up in the busyness and stresses of life. I’m more aware when I am drifting away from my Savior. Unfortunately that still happens far too often. I am more passionate about meeting Him intimately in His Word. I am more sensitive to the Holy Spirit in my life.   So, it’s a process. A good one, I might add.

Something continues to be a quite a challenge for me. Often,  when I head off to bed after a really great day, where God showed up in amazing ways, or a really tough day where it was quite the grind,  truly resting in Christ is tough. Yesterday, I saw God show up at a very important meeting. There is so much I could write about that meeting. (I probably will.) After the meeting, I was so excited about the possibilities as a result of that meeting. I love possibilities! Thoughts and ideas flooded my mind. Good thoughts. Good ideas. I would even dare say, God thoughts and ideas. And therein lies the challenge for me. It’s hard for me to turn all that stuff off and go to sleep. After tossing and turning for awhile, I fell asleep only to wake up about 3 hours later. One reason is the natural consequence of being an older male. But that’s a tale for another day. I got up and immediately began to think of the possibilities following that meeting! I looked at the clock and tried to go back to sleep. But after lying in bed for almost an hour, I gave up and got up.

My question is how do you turn off the thoughts and ideas after a great day? Or how do you turn off all the worst case scenarios, the “what ifs” and those “shoulda, woulda, couldas” after a tough day? It’s something that I can’t seem to do thus far in my life. I still need to learn and grow in that key area of giving everything to the Lord at the end of the day. I feel is a huge learning point for me. I think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30.

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Jesus’ words to me are simple: “Come to me.” When I am weary and burdened by the day or when all those thoughts and ideas fill my mind, Jesus calls to me, “Mark, come to Me.” And if I open my ears to hear Jesus, He promises to give me rest. He replaces the heaviness I feel on me and replaces with an easy and light one. Then Jesus says something remarkable to me. Jesus asks, “Let me teach you.” Imagine that, Jesus, the Son of God, asking to teach me. Not, “Come here you knucklehead, you still haven’t learned!” King Jesus says, “I’ll teach you how to rest. Just come to me and  ask. You can trust Me, I’ll be patient and gentle with you. And you will find the rest you are looking for.” That is amazing!

So here is what I realize: It’s not for me to figure it out. It’s not for me to learn how to rest. What is up to me? Going to Jesus and allowing Him to teach me.  It’s funny how you think you know things but then you realize that you really don’t anything at all. I’ve read and declared and even taught those words of Jesus. But now it’s time to truly go to Jesus and learn from Him. “Jesus, I come asking with a single word prayer, HELP!” 

another step…

a pretty good day

Very interesting day today. It was one of those great/tough days. It was tough because of an eczema flare up. So irritating! And a bit disheartening as well. But it was great because God blessed me with some encouragement for my journey.

As I got up, an old song filled my awakening mind and heart. It was an old Twila Paris song entitled, “Do I trust You, Lord?” A part of me tried to go back to sleep because it was really early in the morning. But that song kept playing in my mind and heart. So I got up and decided to listen to it with my headphones, since it was really early.

Eyes closed, heart open, I could feel my spirit beginning to worship. Then one line just planted in my heart. It was one of those moments. “I will trust You, Lord, when I’m blind with pain. You were God before and You’ll never change.” It was like my heart was speaking to my mind, “Isn’t that true? Isn’t it true that God will never change? That He is the same, yesterday, today and forever? Isn’t it true that God has always shown Himself to be faithful? So doesn’t it make sense to trust Him?” To which my mind acknowledged, “Yes, I guess that’s true. Yes it’s true that God never changes. Yes it’s true that He has always been faithful.” “So doesn’t it make sense to make those words your words and worship the God who has always been there?” replied my heart.

So for the rest of my day, the music and lyrics of that old song filled the heart and mouth of this old guy. I found myself singing and humming those words in worship to God throughout the day. And tonight, a thought came to mind… Isn’t that what abiding in Christ is about? Isn’t that what a mind stayed on Christ is about? It’s not about willing myself to abide. It’s about a heart filled with worship. It’s about a mind stayed on the truth and the joy of knowing that God never changes. That even when I’m blind with pain, I can trust God because He was God before and He’ll never change.

What a difference intentionally limiting the “noise” in my life and intentionally focusing on God and what pleases Him makes. For the first time in a long time, I experienced a bit of an attitude of worship throughout my day.

All in all, a good day. Thank you, Father!

Sometimes my little heart can’t understand
What’s in Your will, what’s in Your plan
So many times I’m tempted to ask You why

But I can never forget it for long
Lord, what You do could not be wrong
So I believe You even when I must cry

Do I trust You, Lord? Does the river flow?
Do I trust You, Lord? Does the north wind blow?
You can see my heart, You can read my mind
And You’ve got to know, I would rather die
Than to lose my faith in the One I love
Do I trust You, Lord? Do I trust You?

I know the answers, I’ve given them all
But suddenly now, I feel so small
Shaken down to the cavity in my soul

I know the doctrine and theology
But right now they don’t mean much to me
This time there’s only one thing I’ve got to know

Do I trust You, Lord? Does the robin sing?
Do I trust You, Lord? Does it rain in spring?
You can see my heart, You can read my mind
And You got to know I would rather die
Than to lose my faith in the One I love
Do I trust You, Lord? Do I trust You?

I will trust You, Lord, when I don’t know why
I will trust You, Lord, till the day I die
I will trust You, Lord, when I’m blind with pain
You were God before and You’ll never change

I will trust You, I will trust You
I will trust You, Lord
I will trust You, I will trust You
I will trust You, Lord

I will trust You, I will trust You
I will trust You, Lord

another step…

perfect love

I am grateful that God is there on the journey. I think of that old saying, “I don’t know what the future holds but I do know who holds the future.” Lead on, God!!!

another step…

abiding is investing

A professor once said, “You will invest your life in something, or you will throw it away on nothing.” Funny how that makes so much more sense to me today than it did, now over 30 years ago! Crazy how time flies.

I think about that often these days. What am I truly investing my life in? It’s not what I say I am investing my life in. No, no, no. That’s too easy and so often not true. If I want to know what I am investing my life in, I must look at what I spend my time in. What I spend my resources on. What I think about throughout the day. If I am to be painfully honest with myself, that is where I will find my investment of my life. And being painfully honest with myself, I sure throw a lot of it away on nothing.

As I journey to draw closer to God and learn how to truly abide in Him, I must honestly look within. Jesus said something in John 5:37-40 that causes me to again pause, think, and assess where I am. Am I investing my life in a pursuit to love God and love others? Am I taking steps in abiding in Him?

Jesus said, And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sentYou search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” 

I love how Jesus gets to the heart of things. As I read this over and over,  I hear Him saying to me, “Mark, do you see how fear really hinders you from truly abiding in Me? And fear is really a lack of faith and trust. You can search the Bible from cover to cover but understand that the Bible points you to me. Isn’t it time to come to Me? Isn’t it time to come to your Father in heaven? Isn’t that what you felt when you felt you were home? Come and experience life. That’s at the heart of abiding.” 

Yes it it. Yes it is. Father, help me to come to you. To come to you, even in the midst of my fears. To come to you, in the midst of times of great joy and happiness. Draw me to you, that I might abide in You. Yes, that’s my prayer. Abiding in investing my life in You.

Another step…

the challenge of abiding is remaining

I am realizing more and more that I am a very impatient person. I sometimes joke about it but it has caused some serious challenges in my life. And as I take steps on this journey, I see how impatience has hindered me because the challenge of abiding is remaining. Abiding in Christ means to remain, stay or endure. Abiding in Christ is remaining in Him. It’s staying in His presence long enough to experience and enjoy His company. It’s enduring and staying in Christ, no matter what is going on around me, good or bad.

So why allow my impatience to pull me away from the best place I could possibly be? From the person who loves me like no other? Why? I remember being at Elijah House, receiving life changing prayer ministry and experienced a major first in my life. As I prayed, I saw in my mind’s eye, Jesus with His hand outstretched to me. I could see myself as a young boy, wondering and hoping that Jesus would really love me in spite of my sinfulness and my ethnicity. I realized that I naively thought that Jesus only loved white boys and girls because those were the children I saw in the books about Jesus I read as a young boy. Crazy, right! But that’s what I thought and being of a different ethnicity, Jesus didn’t come for me. Again, I was young, okay. Well when I saw Jesus extend His hand to me and invite me to go with Him, I grabbed on tight and walked with Him. I remember being in a beautiful forest and walking along until we sat on a bench.

It was there, in the vision in my mind’s eye that I said words that bubbled up from the depths of my heart, “I’m home.” For the first time in the almost fifty years of life, I felt at home. I felt accepted and loved just for who I was and not what I did or didn’t do, not because I got good grades or not, not because of anything I had ever done. I was loved just for me. And I experienced an overwhelming sense of peace and belonging. It was so powerful!

Question. So why would I ever want to leave that place of being with Jesus? Why would I ever want to move from that sense of belonging and love? Why couldn’t I abide and remain in Him?

I don’t know the reason fully yet. I sense the Holy Spirit’s leading that I have dichotomized being with Jesus and being in the “real” world. Being with Jesus is for those special times when I go to Elijah House or in a special meeting or a special time that I have with God. I spend time with Jesus and then go back to the real world. And I forget that Jesus is there and is my source and help for everything I do in life. Every action. Every decision. Everything. Instead of remaining in Him, I leave and attempt to do life on my own. Even my ministry and what He has called me to do as a pastor. Instead of remaining in Him, I leave to go on my own and hope that He is pleased and proud of what I do…for Him. Instead of doing with Him.

I wonder if that is what Jesus was getting at in John 5:38-40.“You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” Maybe I don’t remain in Him and have His word remain in me because I don’t think that He really came for me. Maybe a part of me still has doubts that Jesus loves me just for me. And I search the Scriptures looking for the acceptance and belonging that only comes from Him. The Bible testifies and leads me to Jesus. In the end, it’s not what I do for Jesus or what I don’t do, it’s all about coming to Him, abiding in Him, remaining in Him, staying in Him, even enduring to remain, because that’s where life is. Abiding is more about a Person, not a bunch of doing.

Now the challenge for me is to take a step in and ask Jesus to help me to abide in Him. Because the challenge of abiding for a person who struggles with impatience, is remaining.

the journey continues…



God always encourages obedience

This morning as I was spending time with God, I began asking Him questions about this journey. “Is it really you, Father, calling me to take these steps to a deeper relationship with You?” “Did I just imagine or conjure this up in my overactive imagination?” And I confessed, “If it’s You, I admit I’m scared because I don’t know where this will lead. It’s exciting but also scary.” Not the faith and confidence of someone who have been following God as long as I have. But if I am going to learn to abide in Christ, I need to be honest and real with myself, and God, and you.

Well, after this time of praying and questioning God, I turned to “Streams In The Desert,” a devotional my dear friend, Don Cousins, shared while he was enduring his cancer treatment. Now I don’t read the daily entries in this book on a very consistent basis, but today I did. Now in light of where my mind and heart was, the words in today’s reading, here’s how it started.

May 16

“… Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days…” 

Can you believe that! It was my loving Father speaking words of love and encouragement to me! “Do not be afraid, Mark. Since you the first day that you sought to step out in obedience to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God,  your words were heard! And I have come in response to them.”  How is that! One minute, questions and fear clouding my mind and heart. Then in a moment, hope and encouragement fill and overwhelm the questions and fear in my heart.

Note to self: Seek to abide and obey, and when you are discouraged or afraid, God will remind you that He is there! Yahweh Shammah, the God who is there, is His Name. Thank you, Father!

the journey continues…

the journey begins

I have been feeling like God is calling me to a deeper relationship with Him. Calling me to greater freedom in Him.

John 8:36 “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

2 Cor. 3:17 “For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

Are these familiar verses? Yes. Do I know this verses? Yes. Am I truly experiencing the reality of these verses? Not yet.

And that’s the journey I am on. A journey with steps I must take. The choice is mine. Te decision to take a step is mine. Where will it leads? Only God knows. It’s a journey and it begins.

learning to abide

Today as I spent time with God, I had a strong sense in my spirit that I need to learn to abide in Him.

From Merriam-Webster: Abide-to stay; to wait for; to endure without yielding; to withstand.

In the N.T.-meno (abide) to stay or remain, endure.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. Jn. 15:1-11

How often during my day do I think about my vital connection to God like a branch and a tree? How often do I think I can bear fruit by myself? How often do I seek to abide in His Word? No wonder God is leading me to abide in Him. How God must yearn for me to abide in Him. To be continually connected to Him. How God must yearn for me to bear much fruit. How He must yearn for me to come to Him with desires in sync with Him. How He must yearn for me to abide in His love. And all that I would experience His joy and that my joy would be full. When was the last time I was full of God’s joy in my life?

That’s the next step for me on the journey….:

cropped-bamboo.jpgI love this pic. It represents the journey to truly knowing God in an intimate and personal way. There are steps I must take. And where it leads? Only God knows.