Mark's View


 Find the Good—and Praise It!

"I thank my God every time I remember you" (Philippians 1:3).

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire" (I Thessalonians 5:18-19).

When we give thanks God is pleased.  But when we are not thankful we "put out the Spirit's fire."  We grieve Him when neglect to thank Him and thank others.  We take God for granted and demonstrate a lack of love for Him and for others when we are unthankful.

May I challenge you today to find the good in people and praise it?  It is counter cultural, but it is God’s will.  You will sense God’s love, joy, and peace wherever you are, and you will carry God’s "attitude of gratitude" wherever you go.  You will feel the Spirit's fire as you give thanks in all things!


 Peace With God 

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).

This morning as I prayed, I sensed the Lord sharing, "Give me your burdens." As I pondered that, I thought about all the troubling things we may be encountering: relationships, money, and health. 

I thought how these things rob us of peace. So if you are experiencing life storms or you see the storm clouds on the horizon, may I encourage you to hand them over to Jesus? Trust His goodness and love for you. We may experience turbulence, but He will rise and say, "Peace be still!"  

Mark 4:35-41

Jesus Calms the Storm

"That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’

41 They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’"

Today let us exercise our faith in Him. He is able to calm every storm. Let us cast our burdens upon Him, trust Him even more, and experience His peace that passes all understanding. He cares!


 Fear Of The Lord

Last Sunday I told a story about fasting and praying while seeking God for a business decision. In the morning, as I was reading through the book of Job, I stopped and pondered Job 28:28: "And he said to man, ‘The fear of the Lord–that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.’"

I thought, "That’s it!" The "fear of the Lord" is the key to success. So I prayed, "God give me wisdom; teach me to fear you." Soon after praying, my doorbell rang and I answered the door. A mailman stood on my porch with a special delivery. His eyes were very bright and clear, and he was smiling from ear to ear. I thanked him, closed the door and opened the envelope he had handed me. In the envelope was a check for $7200. I had received an early payoff of a loan.

I ran into my kitchen, opened the refrigerator door and guzzled milk straight from the carton, celebrating the end of my fast with newfound wisdom and money to go forward on the business idea. (By the way, I believe the mailman was actually an angel because the mail for our neighborhood doesn’t come until the afternoon and the mailman’s eyes and smile were otherworldly.)

What is the "fear of the Lord?" It is a child-like, reverential faith in God, knowing that He loves you and knowing that you have to obey Him.  

Let’s pray to live in the fear of the Lord today. Let’s live an abundant life—a life of wisdom and blessing that emanates from fearing the Lord.

Proverbs 9:10: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. 11 For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life."

Psalm 25: 12: "Who, then, is the man that fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.

13 He will spend his days in prosperity, and his descendants will inherit the land.

14 The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.

15 My eyes are ever on the Lord,

for only he will release my feet from the snare."


 Overcoming Worry - Part 4

Freedom To Live Life Abundantly

Luke 12:24

Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!

A worry-free life is key to living life to the full. Jesus says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). By worrying we open a door for the thief to rob our peace. Jesus came to change that—to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).

We should make every effort by God’s grace to maintain our freedom from worry. Nelson Mandela said, "There is no such thing as part freedom." Consider the following:

Galatians 5:1

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

2 Corinthians 3:17

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."

When Kathy and I followed God’s clear and abundant leading to plant New Life NoMa in DC, worry’s voice was heard. It said, "You’re too old, too white, and you don’t have enough support money.  What if nobody comes? What if this is just a big mistake?"

I prayed, "God, I’m worried about this. Please forgive me for not trusting you and loving you. Please forgive me for leaning on my own understanding. Now God, help me to follow you and to trust in your love, your direction, and your forgiveness. Amen."

As you know, God is blessing and by His Spirit He has planted New Life NoMa. Although we’re an imperfect, wonderfully eclectic group, we are seeking to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbor as we would want to be loved.  I believe God is pleased.

I also believe God has anointed us to proclaim His Good News. Luke 4:18-19 says, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor."  By God’s grace we will share the love of Christ as a church and we will bring His freedom to others. We will not worry, but we will trust Him, love Him, love others, and live life to the full.


 Overcoming Worry - Part 3

Worry Poisons Your Well

If you have a worry problem, do these three things:

1. Ask yourself: "What is the worst that can possibly happen?"

2. Prepare to accept the worst if you have to. 

3. Then calmly proceed to improve on the worst.

Worry wears us out! Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment.

Do you remember the things you were worrying about a year ago? How did they work out? Didn’t you waste a lot of fruitless energy on account of most of them? Didn’t most of them turn out all right after all?

About ninety percent of the things in our lives are right and about ten percent are wrong. If we want to be happy, all we have to do is to concentrate on the ninety percent that are right and ignore the ten percent that are wrong. If we want to be worried and bitter and have stomach ulcers, all we have to do is to concentrate on the ten percent that are wrong and ignore the ninety percent that are glorious.

In Luke 12:22-34 Jesus addresses worry:

22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

27 "Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Remember the Holy Spirit wants you to overcome worry. First, agree with God that you worry. Next, ask Him to forgive you for not trusting Him. Then, ask Him to help you love and trust Him more each day. Finally, do the three things mentioned at the beginning of this article.  

God is good all the time. He loves you and has provided the pure and living water of Himself to drink, untainted by any poison we may put in our well through worry. He has provided the remedy.

I pray you have a blessed and worry-free day! 


 Overcoming Worry—Part 2

Poisoning Your Blessings

I have long enjoyed the story of Elisha and the poisonous stew found in 2 Kings 4:38-41. In the early days of my lay ministry to inner city "bus kids" I called this passage "Stinky Stew," but it is a wonderful picture of how our blessings can be poisoned by worry or blessed by trusting Him.

2 Kings 4:38-41 says, "Elisha returned to Gilgal and there was a famine in that region. While the company of the prophets was meeting with him, he said to his servant, ‘Put on the large pot and cook some stew for these men.’ 

One of them went out into the fields to gather herbs and found a wild vine. He gathered some of its gourds and filled the fold of his cloak. When he returned, he cut them up into the pot of stew, though no one knew what they were. The stew was poured out for the men, but as they began to eat it, they cried out, ‘O man of God, there is death in the pot!’ And they could not eat it.

Elisha said, ‘Get some flour.’ He put it into the pot and said, ‘Serve it to the people to eat.’ And there was nothing harmful in the pot."

The poisonous stew can be likened to a pot of worry. It stinks! We take our eyes off of the Lord and onto our problems. But the Lord has solutions, like the flour in the story of Elisha and the poisonous stew.

First, we must agree with God that we worry. We must realize that worry ultimately is a lack of love for Him and trust in Him.  Ask God to increase your love and faith (trust) in Him. It is His will and He will do it! (See 1 John 5:14.)

If you have hydrangeas in your yard, you may have heard of this. Some people swear that if you plant rusty nails with a pink-blooming hydrangea, the flowers will change to blue over time. Supposedly it has something to do with adding metal to the soil, but gardeners know that the hydrangea is the litmus test of the flower world--its color is affected by the pH level and the amount of aluminum in the soil. Like all plants, the hydrangea absorbs nutrients through its roots that, for these showy blooms, benefit the final outcome. 

Don’t let worry affect the roots (or foundation) of your life. Let’s pray that our lives are rooted in knowing God loves us and His ways are prefect. We will not worry but we will trust. We will grow in faith and be abundantly blessed by our loving Heavenly Father.

"You will keep in perfect peace

him whose mind is steadfast,

because he trusts in you" (Isaiah 26:3).


 Overcoming Worry (Part 1)

Develop Childlike Trust in God

85 Percent of What We Worry About Never Happens. Five hundred years ago, the philosopher Michel de Montaigne said: "My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened." 

Once our church was challenged to ask God for a sacrificial amount to give to missions. I had just started a residential building and development company and I heard the Lord speak to my heart to give $10,000, which represented my safety net for unexpected expenses. I worried a lot about whether I should give that amount. Eventually my wife and I decided to trust God—concluding that He loves us. Soon thereafter, I was presented a land deal that I sold about a year later for more than 100 times what we gave to missions.  

We are exhorted to trust God. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."

Trusting God for everything is living abundantly. This doesn't mean you don't work or strive for excellence, but you know God is in control of your life and He is loving and good all the time.

Jesus explained Matthew 18:2-3 that we can’t live life abundantly or in His Kingdom unless we develop childlike trust: "He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’"

Childlike trust allows us not to fear anyone or anything. It allows us not to worry about money, illness, or death. We are never alone because God is with us and for us.

Develop a trust with God by asking for His help to love Him and others more today than yesterday. Day by day, our hearts will be transformed into His likeness; our hearts will know God is love and that He is good and trustworthy. God keeps His promises!


All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter

I read a lot of Christmas writings at this time.  Here’s an a really good one by Gary Barnes.

"Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked. "Come and see," said Philip. 

(John 1:46, NIV)

Many years ago, I was particularly impacted by a Christmas sermon by Tim Keller that continues to have significance for me today. Twenty-seven years ago I began a PhD program in Counseling Psychology at Columbia University in New York City and also began attending Keller’s church. He challenged me with a key question from the Christmas story.

As we celebrate the miracle of the Incarnation, we read that the Son of God/Son of Man comes from Nazareth. A common theme of biblical accounts is that Jesus was born into insignificance. Nazareth was the backwoods of Galilee which was the backwoods of Israel which was the backwoods of the Roman Empire. In that backwoods of the backwoods of the backwoods was the King of the universe. In that weakness was the all-powerful God. In that obscurity was the greatest event in history.

True greatness is naturally invisible to worldly eyes. God loves to use things that turn the values and expectations of the world upside down. Human culture flows from the top down and from the center out. God’s spiritual renewals and awakenings tend to come from the margins to the center; from the outside in. We can see this looking at Jesus and His disciples and at spiritual revivals throughout history.

The Christmas story confronts us with this question: "Can we live in a place of brilliance without being blinded by it?" It is commonly said that "All that glitters is not gold." I was immersed in a glittery graduate program in a glittery city and it was easy to mistake it all as "gold" according to the world’s measuring stick. The Christmas story, however, tells us that "All that is gold does not glitter." Real greatness is naturally invisible to the worldly eye.

Can anything good come from Nazareth? The Son of God/Son of Man emptied Himself in the obscure backwoods of Nazareth that we may celebrate the greatest story ever told.

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