God Moments In My Life

Tommy Burleson crying at the celebration event in Reynolds Colisuem as the 1974 NCAA Championship team is honored.

Tommy Burleson crying at the celebration event in Reynolds Colisuem as the 1974 NCAA Championship team is honored.

1974 – State wins ACC and NCAA Championships (Odd I would begin with God working on my behalf in order that State would become champions, but God loves me best : He also loves you best.)

1978 – Met my wife at a stoplight in West Palm Beach Florida

1997 – “God loves Eddie so much he created the Internet so Eddie could have a job.” – Dale Dexter. With my job at Dillard Paper in jeopardy, out of the blue a headhunter calls to ask if I want to work for IBM building web pages.

2009 – God asks (through the voice of Ann Tatlock), “So, when are you going to quit your job and do this full time?” (Meaning work for Christian Devotions Ministries and write for a living.)

2012 – Jeff and Rebecca fly us out to Washington State for a week-long vacation over the Forth of July. On the last day before we are to fly out, my business partner at cruisersnet.net emails to say he is buying me out. We have provision for another year.

2019 – Iron Stream Media buys LPC

Prayer proceeded all these God moments. What is your God moment?

Please Forgive Me for Turning Back — The Tales and Adventures of John Mark

John 11:33-44

It was well into the evening when I finally arrived at the water front in Antalya. Among the great masts outlined against the darkening sky I searched for a vessel that would take me to back to Seleucia in the region of Decapolis.

Since early morning I had been making my way on foot from the road that leads to Pisidian Antioch. The heartbreak of leaving my companions was made worse by the shame I felt. Though I knew he meant me no harm, Paul’s harsh words at my departure left my cheeks streaked with tears. Only the dim light of dusk hid the humiliation I felt from his stern words of rejection.

Wrapped in a bundle and slung over my shoulder, I carried a few personal trifles.

Days earlier I had been so excited over the prospect of setting forth to declare the news of my Lord Jesus, but now  with the sun sinking over the mountains, my enthusiasm for the mission waned. I merely wished to be home with Mother in Jerusalem.

In the lengthening shadows, I recalled the moment when I first realized that the Teacher, the one I believed to be the Messiah, had come to call me to proclaim his good news.

On that morning word reached me that Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, had died. I left our home quickly and ran from the city, down into the valley and up through the grove of olive trees. Atop the rise I spied several of his followers and hurried to join them.

“But he has been dead for four days,” one of our companions remarked. “And besides all that, by this time there is a bad odor.”

“Be it so, but I was there. I heard the Teacher ask, “‘Where have you laid him?'”

“And from this you interpret the Teacher’s words to mean he will raise a dead man?”

“Heard it with my own ears, I did. ‘Your brother will rise again,’ the Teacher declared. His words were not those of a mourner comforting the grieving but of someone speaking expectantly of seeing their friend.”

Fortunate I was that day to stumble upon the pair, for had I not, the large crowd would have prevented me from gaining a view. Through scrub bushes and over rocks we scrambled until at last we reached a rise that looked down upon the tombs.

With his back to me, the Teacher said to the crowd, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

Months before in the region of Galilee the Teacher had promised that very thing: that if we would but follow him and believe we would see the glory of Yahweh.

On elbows I pulled myself closer to the edge, sending pebbles cascading onto the ground. Pivoting slightly, the Teacher looked over his shoulder at me, offering a slight smile—and dare I say—a wink as well.

At his command, men stepped forward from the crowd of mourners and removed the stone that sealed the tomb. Shifting his gaze from me, the Teacher looked up towards heaven.

At this, my spirit quickened within me.

At other times I had seen him look towards heaven. First when he fed crowds with only a few loaves and fishes. Then when he healed the lame, the blind, and cast out demons. Among those of us who followed the Teacher we would sometimes say in jest, “Beware of looking away when he looks up. If you do, you may miss a miracle.”

“Father, I thank you that you have heard me,” the Teacher said. His was a private prayer spoken loud enough for all to hear. “I know you always hear me.”

At his words I could not contain my excitement, for the Teacher always thanked his father before drawing power from above.

“I said this that they may believe that you sent me,” the Teacher said. Inhaling deeply, he called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

By now as you well know, the dead man appeared in the entrance of the tomb. The Teacher ordered the bindings of the burial cloth loosened in order that Lazarus might go forth freed from death and decay.

From that day on the Pharisees plotted to take the Teacher’s life. Because so many of the Jews had put their faith in the Teacher, the chief priests and Pharisees gave strict orders that should anyone find Jesus they were to report his location so that he might be arrested. In the streets near my home, people went about asking, “Is the Teacher not coming?” They looked for him in the temple and left disappointed. Such was the hatred those who were righteous in their own eyes had for the Teacher.

“If we let him go on like this,” a Pharisee said to the high priest, “everyone will believe in him and we will lose our place of importance.”

From the beginning the Teacher’s authority, power, and righteousness exposed the hearts and motives of all. Even today the righteousness of his Holy Spirit shines light on those dark areas of our soul we seek to hide. For this reason I fear for the lives of Barnabas and Paul. They will be hated wherever they go.

Wisely, after Lazarus returned home to Martha and Mary, the Teacher retreated to Ephraim and remained there until a few days before Passover. But by then his fate had been sealed. The chief priests and Pharisees, along with all who refuse to acknowledge their wickedness, sought have him crucified. 

Oh how I wish I had the courage of my Lord, but I am a coward. A mere boy in a young man’s body. My Lord and my God, please forgive me for turning back—and for turning my back on you.

Yet, well I know, Lord, that you will never turn your back on me. Your smile and wink at the tomb of Lazarus I will treasure forever. Only please now help me find passage back to Mother. 

Your obedient (sometimes) servant, John Mark.

Jesus Is All the Provision We Need

Book Marketing Jesus' Way (John 6:6)

Jesus already had in mind what he was going to do. (John 6:6)Jesus already had in mind what he was going to do. (John 6:6)

Is this the way we come to our work? Do we already have in mind what the outcome will be? Or are our efforts simply based on hope and a vague prayer for blessing from God?

Prior to his big promotional tour, Jesus gathers the Twelve around him and gives these instructions. “Preach the kingdom of God.”

Good advice. Stick to the message. Don’t get distracted with trivial matters that have nothing to do with the task at hand. When it comes to our book promotional efforts, keep the main thing the main thing.

You have a book. You want to make it known to new readers. Focus on its core message, its benefits to readers (Novelists, entertainment is a benefit.) Explain how your book is a blessing to its target audience.

“Take nothing for the journey,” Jesus said. “No staff. No bag. No bread. No money. No extra tunic.”

Not only will we lose focus if we become distracted by trivial matters, but we will also become frustrated and worn down by doing too much and carrying too many items into the harvest field. Let Jesus provide for our daily needs.

Oh sure, some may advise that you produce a launch calendar, list milestones, hit the right influencers at the right time, posts on other blogs, run ads, pay for promotional services. All this can be great advice if you keep Jesus first. Let him lead. Listen to his Spirit within you. “Travel light,” is his advice to his disciples.

“Find a welcoming home in which to rest and to remain in that home until you leave.”

Spend time with those who believe in you, who welcome you. Along the way you’ll encounter plenty detractors and doubters. Better to be nourished in both body and soul by good food and encouraging words than to hop from person-to-person in search of affirmation and validation.

When the Twelve returned Jesus gathered them to himself in a remote place.

We may think that after we’ve pushed through our first book launch it becomes easier, that we’ve made it. But often Jesus walks us into remote places. The Spirit of God led Jesus into the wilderness. We should expect a version of the same. In remote places our faith grows. In remote places we learn to rely on him alone. Unless we spend time with Jesus in his remote places, we may find that our next launch, our next book release is more tiring and difficult. Let us treasure our time with Jesus in remote places.

 Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to Jesus and ask that he send the crowd away.

The Twelve still relied on their natural eyes, not their faith eyes. They had not yet believed that Jesus was their provision. Have we?

Now that we’ve mastered some of the tools of book marketing, of launching a book or series of books, do we view Jesus as all the provision we need? Or are we relying on our own efforts, friends, finances, influencers, publisher, promotional person?

Days earlier the Twelve went out to draw crowds to Jesus. Their promotional efforts worked so well that people packed the hillside in anticipation of seeing and hearing Jesus.

And now the Twelve are sending crowds away from Jesus.

Too often this is us. The work is too much, the crowds too demanding. With success comes expectations and expectations add stress. If we feel stressed about our success then we have placed our faith in the wrong person—ourself.

“You give them something to eat,” Jesus replied.

At this command our spirits sink. Tapped out, worn out, we’re down to our last giveaway book, last ad dollar, last blog-tour-post. Without a miracle our book will flop and fail. And at that moment what does Jesus asks of us? All that we have.

“But we only have a few small fish and small barley loaves. How far will that go among so many?”

Phillip and Andrew offer rational observations. Nothing wrong with a frank assessment of our situation. But do we catch the inflection in their voice? Onlysmallhow farso many

Our words betray us. The things that come out of the mouth come from our heart (Matthew 15:18)

Phillip and Andrew only saw five small rolls and two small fish and a huge crowd. Jesus saw what he was going to do.

Jesus already had in mind what he was going to do. (John 6:6)

Do we only see the present? Or do we see our future quickened in our spirit by Jesus?

Watch how Jesus turned the present into a future of miraculous multiplication.

Jesus looked up to heaven, the source of all provision.

I lift up my eyes. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 121:1).

Jesus gave thanks: thanks for what he held in his hands—thanks for what would be.

In every thing give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Jesus blessed what he held.

“I give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19)

If we have the Spirit of Christ within us, we have the authority of Jesus. We can bless or we can curse. We can forgive or withhold forgiveness. We can bless God, bless others, bless ourselves, bless our books, bless our seed, bless our children, bless the works of our hands. We can bless! We do not need to wait for God to bless us. Bless now!

Jesus divided what he held into smaller bites.

Though perhaps small and in short supply, what we have is always enough when we have Jesus. Divide what you hold and give to others. This is key to kingdom work.

Elijah said, “Bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

“As surely as the Lord your God lives,” the widow replied, “I don’t have any bread. I only have a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me. Then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry” (1 Kings 17:11-14)

If we hoard, we starve others—and ourselves. When we give all that we have, we receive back more than we ask. This is the way the kingdom of God works.

Jesus distributed to the Twelve.

Delegate. Distribute. Allow others to share in your joy.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

Allow others to witness the miracle of multiplication.

Five loaves fed five thousand men in groups of fifty. 5.50.5000. Imagine the scene. The Twelve disciples direct the crowd of men to sit in groups of 50 (one hundred groups of fifty men plus women and children). And the food never ran out.

At the conclusion of the event the Twelve gathered twelve baskets. Have you ever wondered what might have happened if Jesus had a team of not just twelve, but twenty-four, forty-eight, seventy-two? Would the remains have filled seventy-two baskets? Perhaps the limitation of provision came not from the five loaves but from the number of workers gathered to help Jesus.

A short while after this feeding Jesus sends out the Twelve again. It’s as if he is saying, “Okay, team. You’ve seen how this works. Let’s try once more.” Two by two they went to every town and place where he was about to go. “Do not take a purse. Do not take a bag. Do not take extra sandals.” His instructions are the same as before: travel light.

Jesus concludes his instructions with this: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” Do we understand this kingdom principle?  It’s as if Jesus is saying to us: “I will feed, I will heal,  I will teach, I will reach groups of fifty, a hundred, a thousand, a million if only I can find enough workers to help gather the harvest.”

Pray with an attitude of desperation for the Lord of the harvest to send workers into his harvest field (Matthew 9:38). If your book reflects his glory, truth, love, hope, good news, then your book is one of those workers that can be sent into the harvest field.

Send it. Bless it. Expect your book to gather others to Jesus.

 

Lord, I bless the works of my hands. I bless my books. I name each one and pray blessing upon blessing upon them. I thank you for the opportunity to write. For the words you give me. For the time you provide. For the ideas. For the encouragement I receive. For those who believe in me and my writing. For the readers who read and write reviews: even the ones who criticize my “baby.” Lord, you are all the provision I need. You are the only marketing manager, press release person, promotional advisor I need. You call into being things that were not (Romans 4:17). I declare blessings upon blessings upon my books. I look with expectation for the vision you’ve placed within my spirit to bear fruit. Amen.