The Darkness Of True Liberty

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness,.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”  Romans 8:26-27

My experiences have proven the realization that life exists in the midst of straightaways and sharp curves, smooth surfaces and potholes, along with periods of light and darkness.  It’s within those moments in tight turns, jolted with blindness that life truly begins to define itself.  It’s when life enters the Refiner’s fire that the true S[s]elf emerges.  It’s a phase, a stage, within a life-altering experience that while the music stops and the lights suddenly go out, opportunity for something miraculous occurs — transformation into true liberty.

But letting go is a crazy thing to do, it’s not easy with something precious.  Stepping into the dark requires significant abandonment.  In the dark the senses are heightened because nothing is seen.  Nothing is as it appears and nothing seems trustworthy, yet it is here that God tells me to “let go.”  Let go?  What?  Are you kidding me?  Sound familiar?

And with that I light a candle, flip the switch and bring light onto my circumstances.  Why?  Well, it’s safe there!  I am most comfortable in that place I recognize, understand and relate.  Even if it means hurting the same way, staying in conflict or being in trouble, I am most familiar in those moments because experiencing these things would bring far more comfort in the light of familiarity than in the darkness of uncertainty.  But God tells me [us] to “let go.”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

So, just maybe, in the midst of my own crisis, while in the chrysalis seems dark, it is a period of time to learn the lessons of letting go.  My flesh wants to cling on to those things I am most comfortable in knowing.  But true crisis: separation from something, warrants a response to change.  The options are simple . . . Run!  Walk! or Wait!  Each response determines the success and direction of the rest of my life.  And the process of waiting is the choice of transformation and wholeness.  My choice!

John Sanford writes in his book, The Kingdom Within:

At first the approach of the kingdom may seem like a violent attack from something dark and dreadful . . . . Entrance into the kingdom means the destruction of the old personality with its constricted and uncreative attitudes . . . . The fortress behind which the ego had been hiding must be torn down, and as these defenses are battered down forcibly by the movements from within, it may seem at first like a violent assault.

Lord Jesus, I’m feeling battered within.  My circumstances rear themselves to my heart and soul much like a violent assault.  I know and step toward you in confidence, that though this is how I feel, that true liberty in Christ is happening!  When my thoughts turn negative, whisper your promises back into my heart — remind me of your staff that comforts me and your spring from which I drink!

Life Is Liquid

“But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.”  Hosea 12:6

They say patience is a virtue, but at times it feels more like torture than anything virtuous.  Waiting is not something we are just wired to do — or at least do easily.  In fact, we are forced into moments where waiting is necessary and since we are aware of our own discomfort with waiting, environments are created around us to distract us or deceive our senses into thinking we aren’t really waiting at all.  Amusement parks are good at this where long lines form to ride a spectacular ride, they will snake everyone in line back and forth in order to give the appearance of a shorter line and to create the effect of a line that is always moving.  A line that seems to be moving is the line I’ll jump in at the grocery store!

Life is very similar to this — it is fluid — always moving.  This reminds me of the crazy waters dumped on New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.  For the first time since they were engineered by the Army Corp of Engineers the levees were challenged that protected the city from rising waters.  It was said they would never break, but the water became too great a challenge for the banks of the levee.   Slowly they weakened against the subtle force of rising waters and the water spilled into the city bringing unimaginable destruction.

Water flows to the path of least resistance.  My life has always somehow found it’s way following paths of least resistance. It feels easier that way doesn’t it?  But, before long it’s flooded.  God said (I didn’t listen), “Mark, the water is going to get deep, be patient I’m building the levee!”  But life seemed to pour it on and pour it on in volumes I was unable to manage and I wasn’t going to allow anyone else to take control.  So, I constructed my own walls to hold back the turbulent liquid of life — I did it my way. [Big mistake!]

Hindsight is always 20/20 — we look back and see the mistakes, usually coupled with more knowledge today than then.  It’s a measure of growth and includes an experience where life has been sharpened and more thoroughly engaged.  But there is something that comes with a spiritual hindsight that sharpens the focus of our vision and pierces the soul.  It allows and readies us  to wait.

The scripture is filled with patience!  I think of Simeon in the courtyard waiting on the coming Christ child.  I think of Noah waiting for the waters to subside.  I think of Elijah waiting on the ravens.  I think of Joseph left in a pit to die then sold to slavery.  I think of the blind man.  I think of the father of the prodigal son.  I think of Nicodemus.  I think of Jonah in the belly of a great fish. I think of Moses, then Jacob for Rebecca.  I think of the people of Israel and their journey to the Promised Land.  I think of Paul in prison. I think of Mary and Joseph.  I think of Daniel in the den.  I think of Sarah to bear children.  I think of our Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives, on the shore, in a boat with stormy seas, with Mary and Martha, and I think of Him around the table with twelve He had chosen knowing their faith would be challenged.

It’s a time of waiting He calls us to.  This is because our time of waiting on Him is a picture — a reflection — of Him imprinted upon our spirit.  Nothing exemplifies this better than the story of the father waiting upon his prodigal son.  It is a story of waiting, a story of redemption and unconditional love.  It’s the best picture we have of our own Heavenly Father awaiting His children — you and me – to return to Him.  But He waits.  So also, I wait on Him.  It is a period of time, while the world flows by, for me to embrace, to fellowship, to awaken to life flowing not the path of least resistance, but flowing straight up!  Sue Monk Kidd says it best in her book, When The Heart Waits, “Crisis, change, all the myriad upheavals that blister the spirit and leave us groping–they aren’t voices simply of pain but also of creativity.  And if we would only listen, we might hear such times becoming us to a season of waiting, to the place of fertile emptiness.”

“But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”  Romans 8:25

Glory Carrier

“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  Colossians 1:27

Immanuel, God is with us — with me!

Those same words, spoken of the prophet Isaiah of the virgin Mary declared the glory of the Lord on . . . and in . . . Mary!  She would become the chosen, the favored one from most High, to carry our Lord, her Lord and bring Him, the glory of God in the Highest to earth.  God Himself, through Christ would place His feet upon the ground and walk as we walk, talk as we talk, eat as we eat, hurt as we hurt, grieve as we grieve, thirst as we thirst, become hungry as we are hungry, grow tired as we tire, pray as we pray, plead with the Father as we plead with the Father and surrender His will to the will of the Father as the Father desires us to surrender to Him.

The glory of God Himself was growing, cell by cell, the same as is written in Psalm 139 — Mary had become a Glory Carrier!  Special?  YES!  Unique?  YES!  Exclusive? NO!

I too, am a Glory Carrier!  You, too can be a Glory Carrier!  It is the most unique, most special, non-exclusive gift EVER — FOREVER!

Glory to God!

“‘Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.  See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you!”‘  Isaiah 60:1-2

When The Bottom Falls Out

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  Hebrews 13:8

Last night I received some horrible news . . . it’s related to the crisis for which I write this blog.

Ever had one of those moments when it seemed like the world was caving in around you and the bottom was falling out beneath you?  Ever been in a place where everything you know with vibrant colors suddenly turns black and white.  Ever reflected on the things that used to make you laugh and smile and instead feel sadness?  And in the middle of those moments we plead and all but beg for God to comfort, to hold, to carry the immense burden.  But the mere act of asking for those things reveals the lack of trust in my own heart I have in believing in His promises.

Yesterday He was here, right by my side — better, He was living inside me!  Today is no different!  He is right beside me, comforting me and living inside me!  Oh sure, the circumstances have changed, the scenery is a little scorched, but He’s the same today as He was yesterday.  So, while my crisis continues, my relationship with Christ is strengthened.

One thing I’m learning in the midst of crisis is the difficulty that comes in seeing the hope there is in a future.  But remember, yesterday . . . same — today . . . same — tomorrow and forever . . . SAME!  He cares for us — He cares for me!

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”  Ephesians 1:4

Do You Do What I Do?

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.”  James 1:22-25

I remember listening to a pastor years ago that openly admitted he did not counsel people.  He said he always gets calls from people wanting to meet to talk about their “issues” and “struggles” in hopes that by doing so they would feel better about themselves.  This particular pastor was tired of listening to the excuses and explanations, perhaps even rationalizations, to the sin that had so easily entangled them.  He said from the pulpit, “If you think you may want to come speak with me about such matters, let me save you a trip by saying now what I would tell you then.  STOP IT!”

This is exactly what James is telling those of us who have heard, studied and know the word.  We know what the answer is before we even state the problem.  James says it plain and clear . . . “Do what it says!”  If you’re anything like me, you’re probably saying to yourself . . . “yeah, easier said than done!”  It would have been nice for James to have added a verse or two to follow that statement that addressed that very thing wouldn’t it?

It wasn’t so much that James was wanting to give us the tools — he knew that Christ was the answer plain and simple.  Nothing more and definitely nothing less.  Christ is more than enough!  James was merely stating the ardent truth about the difference in knowing and doing.

Doing takes faith and faith is hoping in that which we can’t see.  This is why doing what we know doesn’t always match our feelings or our will.

Knowing + Faith + Doing = Blessed   (John 13:17)

Peter picks up where James never went.  Before becoming blessed is doing, through faith from knowing.  Therefore, Peter instructs for us to prepare our minds for action.  In other words, we’ve got to invest into our minds the essence and knowledge of God through His word so that we can be doers of the word.  He outlines in I Peter 1:13-16 to be self-controlled, to set my hope on His grace, to be obedient, to not conform . . . to be holy!

My God, might I keep my eyes fixed upon you!  Thank you for the richness of your written word — may my faith grow, through obedience to you!

“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written:  ‘Be holy, because I am holy.'”  I Peter 1:15-16

The Crux Of Captivity


“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
”  II Corinthians 10:4-5

It is commonly suggested that a person has between 12,000 and 50,000 thoughts each and every day.  Sometimes this seems a bit low — for the thoughtful, while at other times it seems a bit high — for the “worker bees.”  Either way, it is apparent that our minds are running a mile a minute . . . contemplating, refreshing, renewing, deciding, calculating, analyzing, predicting and dwelling.  But to what end is it captivating?

Some of my fondest memories include my days on the slopes as a casual skier.  I was the guy on the slopes everyone despised.  Just enough ability to get to the bottom of the hill, but lacking the grace and finesse to make it there without taking someone out on the way.  If you know anything about snow skiing, they rate the slopes according to the degree of difficulty.  Green slopes are generally easier and more groomed for the beginner.  This was me all the way.  But, occasionally there would be a Blue slope (intended for the slightly more experienced skiier) that I was tempted to try when my confidence had grown.  This false sense of security led me to picking up my skis, poles, hat, gloves and anything else that came disconnected from me on my way down the Blue hill.  My loud squeals and expressive doubts were merely attempts to warn anyone in my path.  It was for their safety . . . and my dignity.  Starting at the top, it was easy to maintain control, but the further into the slope, the faster the skis would go.  It wasn’t sudden, more gradual, until all of a sudden, my mind agreed with my will — I was out of control — and my body paid the price!

Thoughts, left unattended, will lead the will and the body down a slippery slope!  To avoid disaster, Paul teaches us how to live in the freedom of obedience to Christ by taking each thought captive.  But how in the world is one to do this when a single day brings tens of thousands of thoughts.  That sounds like effort!

It is!!  Satan’s plan is to seek and destroy — and he’ll just as well get in my head to do it!  Discerning the Truth, studying the Truth, praying the Truth, living the Truth all lead to a safe journey!  It’s taking the thoughts captive in order to MAKE them obedient to Christ.  It doesn’t say I will have good thoughts, or that I should only have good thoughts.  It means that WHEN my thoughts are good — take them captive and give Him the glory!  It also means that WHEN my thoughts are less than good — take them captive so that I may be obedient and give Him the glory.

Pointing the tips of my skis straight down hill was never a good idea — it always led to disaster.  In order to arrive disaster-free, I had to work at it, concentrate, think!

“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way:  bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  Colossians 1:10-14

Broad Shoulders

As a part of my study yesterday I read a post from one of the blogs I follow from Scotty Smith out of Nashville, TN.  It was though this prayer was written for me.  I wanted to share it with all who read my blog in that you may learn too of the broad shoulders and loving heart of Lord Jesus.

I am posting it below, but if you would like to learn more about the original author, I have placed a link to his blog here.

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A Prayer about Jesus’ Broad Shoulders and Loving Heart

     For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. Isa. 9:6-7

Dear Lord Jesus, knowing the government of the whole world already rests on your shoulders profoundly humbles me and gladdens me. It fills me with a joy second only to knowing your shoulders fully bore the sin of the world, including mine. As this day begins, I raise my shoulders and face to bask in the radiance of your glory and the wonder of your grace.

Lord Jesus, in you are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. You are Wonderful Counselor. I look to you for knowledge of great mysteries and insight into things eternal; but you’re also the one to whom I look for counsel on handling fresh disappointments, dealing with old hurts, and stewarding unfulfilled longings. You care about everything.

Lord Jesus, you uphold all things by the power of your Word. You are Mighty God—the one who created and sustains the entire universe by the power of your word; the one in whom all things are being summed up. You’re also the one who gives me power to humble myself when I’d rather stay proud, and strength to boast in my weaknesses when I’d rather be self-sufficient. You are Lord of all things.

Lord Jesus, to see you is to see the Father. To know you is to know the Father. In this sense you are Everlasting Father. You care so tenderly for the needs of the world—even the flowers of every field and the birds in every sky; but you also care about me. You didn’t leave me as an orphan. Through your work, I’m not only declared to be righteous in God’s sight, I’m able to declare God as my Abba, Father. You bear all my burdens.

Lord Jesus, no one else can pretend to be the Prince of Peace, for you alone paid the price of peace on the cross. Even as you are presently “shaloming”—bringing the increase of your government and peace to all things, so you are advancing the reign of your grace in my life. Forgive me when I look for wholeness, contentment, and healing somewhere else, for it cannot be found except in you. You don’t just give me peace, you are my Peace.

For your broad shoulders, big heart, and coming kingdom, be glorified, O blessed Messiah and Redeemer. So very Amen I pray, Lord Jesus, in your matchless and merciful name.

The Secret Life of Content

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:11-13

It’s all a matter of recognizing the difference between need and want.  But so often, this line becomes blurry when we allow other faces of sin to crowd around.  Faces of sin?  Yes!  Grandpapi Pride comes to mind, it’s cousin Envy and nephew Covet.  Let’s not neglect the in-laws . . . Want and Need!  Oh, and their little offspring Take!  And the matriarch of the family — Mother Me!

This side of the “family” breeds nothing but discontent and the need to feed the hunger of self preservation.  It truly boils down to being all about yourself.   While the Bible is notorious for it’s diverse line of unrighteous characters, leading that charge would be King Herod.  A man who was not only King of a nation, but king of himself.  The world, both near and far, revolved around nothing else but Herod.  After 10 wives, of which he murdered one, and after many children, of which he murdered two, Herod received word of the birth of another king in his land.  To a man who lived a life of cruelty, self-centered indulgence, plagued by paranoia, the news of another king would be considered a last straw.  So, true to his character, he orders the mass execution of all the boys ages 0-2.  This act of assurance, power and terror was used by God to bring glory to His Kingdom!  Herod was not living a secret life of content.

The apostle Paul found this secret!  It’s a life in and through Christ.  When you welcome Content to the table, you invite the whole family too!  Through Christ our hearts meet Satisfied, Peace and sitting at the end of the table opposite Content you’ll find Joy!

Lord Jesus, may I be content in all things!  With or without!  Regardless of my circumstances!

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’  So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?'”  Hebrews 13:5-6

In The Subtleties of Life

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  Romans 12:12

Last night I was reminded, again, of God’s promise to me in hearing my prayers.   So much can happen throughout the day, month or year without a lick of time spent in reflection.  I am just as guilty of this as the next guy, but this time God made it rather clear.  I can only imagine what you’re thinking . . . “Clear is what I pray for!”  Hearing a clear word from God is strongly coveted in the hearts of most people — whether He write on the wall, put an answer in lights, pen words with the clouds or frankly just speak outloud, a little bit of clear communication would be a nice touch sometimes.  But all too often, God speaks in the subtleties of life.

Prayer is passion.  Passion for the joy in fellowship with my Creator, my God, my Abba.  But remaining faithful in prayer can stretch beyond my emotional will.  It reaches past what “feels” like reality and enters into a sanctuary of hope that is only experienced in the warmth embrace given at the foot of the cross.  It’s a very special place.  And when, just when, my faithfulness in prayer is exercised, God shows up every time.

God shows up from the pages of His word, from the stranger on the street or in the grocery store, from my wife or sibling and especially from His little children.  There’s nothing sweeter than to hear the voice of God through the mouth of your own child.  Last night it rung in my ears the sounds of joy unspeakable and full of His glory!  My faithful prayers answered in the subtlety of life!

I’m so glad I was listening!!!

Live It Up

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  Hebrews 11:1

Hebrews 11 is without doubt, THE chapter in the Bible on faith.  And it speaks of the confidence and sustainability of the strength each of the characters of the Old Testament we have come to admire.  It is quite the list — a “Hall of Faith.”

Something each of these men and women demonstrated in their lives was an assurance of the mighty God who has promised to deliver, to provide, to comfort, to protect, to heal, to save and to strengthen.  All of them remained focused not on their circumstances, but instead on things above.

Living by faith means living it up.  Living by faith means living in response to who God is and not what I want.  Sure, I ask for God to perform miracles both big and small, but my faith in response to who God is can be seen when I don’t get what I want.  God has nothing but great things planned for me and despite my circumstances, I trust, through faith, that whatever it is, it’s better than anything I could ever dream.  So I live it up . . . lift it up . . . trust in that which I cannot see and press on in the hope of the promise made that you will deliver, provide, comfort, protect, heal, save and strengthen me.

The men and women of Hebrews 11 never received what they were promised.  They were, however, commended for their faith.  “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:40)

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given me.”  Romans 5:1-5