No one had the strength to subdue him

“He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.” Mark 5:3-5

No one could bind him…No one had the strength to subdue him. This man wasn’t fit to live among people. Only Jesus could heal what was wrong with this demon-possessed man. People of the village were trying to use their own strength to harness, control and stop this man, but it was the spirit inside that was giving the man this strength and destructive power.

The man didn’t need chains and shackles, they were useless. He needed Jesus. Look in Mark 5:1-20 to see how Jesus got inside of this man and changed him from the inside out. Once the man’s insides changed, then the outside reflected that spiritual transformation. This formerly demon-possessed man became a powerful evangelist for Jesus! But that didn’t happen until the demons within were cast out.

Again, it is Jesus that makes you and me fit to live among people. We may try to harness, manage or control the behavior and words of others, but it is Jesus that really has the power to release the “demon” within. Those “demons” can be things like guilt, past abuse, shame, addictions, etc. If we find ourselves breaking chains and shackles, going around in a rage, and cutting ourselves with stones, then the real problem is what is going on deep down inside of us. Until we truly get at peace with ourselves and with Jesus, then we will be like this man living in a cave howling at the moon.

In our relationships, we must focus more on root causes and not symptoms.

What does it mean to trust?

And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”
(Luke 1:19-20)

Last week I was with one of my younger kids at the farm store. At the farm store they are preparing early for spring chicks. What they do to display the chicks for sale is set out several galvanized stock tanks and then they place a bunch of chicks in a stock tank with a heat lamp, food, etc. Our kids just love going to the farm store in the spring because they love seeing all the baby chickens, turkeys, ducks, etc.

This particular day, my daughter saw all the stock tanks lined up and knew what it meant. She asked, “Can I go see the baby chicks?” I answered, “They are not there, yet, dear.” As we walked closer to the tanks, I could see that my daughter was not convinced. She kept asking to see the chicks and was intent on walking over to the tanks. I asked, “Do you trust me, dear? I said the chicks are not in yet. The people are just getting ready for when the chicks arrive.” It still didn’t satisfy her, and she went up to the stock tank (she was shorter than the top of the tank that was just up off the ground on a shelf), and she placed her ear to the wall of the tank to see if she could hear the baby chicks. After not hearing anything, she looked at me, and I said gently to her, “Honey, do you trust me? I told you the chicks were not there.” She gave me a sheepish grin. This is going to be a continual lesson for her, because she is very much like her daddy in this.

It was a lesson that Zechariah had to learn in the passage above in Luke. The angel Gabriel was sent from God to give Zechariah some very good news, but Zechariah didn’t believe it. He just didn’t trust God that God was right in saying they would have a baby. “How can this be?”, he asked. “This doesn’t make sense.” “How’s this going to work?” “I’m too old, my wife is too old.” He wanted more verification. He didn’t have enough information. So, God made him silent for nine months until the prophecy was fulfilled in “God’s time” (Luke 1:20). Zechariah was forced by God not to talk. He couldn’t ask any more questions. No more requests for verification or information. You are going to see it happen, Zechariah, but you can’t talk until it does happen.

This is a great lesson for all of us when it comes to God’s promises.

  • I don’t have to know all the details.
  • I don’t have to have the exact timing.
  • I don’t have to make sense of it all.
  • I don’t have to physically see or hear all the information in order to confirm.

I just need to trust God. Be silent. Stand still. Trust that God will keep His end of the bargain. I don’t have to go over to the stock tank and put my ear to wall to “check and see if dad’s right.”

Another example for your meditation is God’s law regarding the Sabbath and Manna for the Israelites (Exodus 16). He told them to gather twice as much on Friday, because there won’t be any Manna on Saturday (the Sabbath). Some Israelites didn’t trust (believe) and they went out on Saturday just to check and see. On the flip side of that, God told them that they could not gather twice as much on any other day, because the excess would breed worms and stink. The Israelites didn’t trust, so on those days other than Friday, they would try to gather twice as much. And just like God said, the Manna bred worms and stank (Exodus 16:20,27).

And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.”
(Exodus 16:28-29)

The question remains for you and me. Will I fully trust my Father in heaven? Even if it doesn’t make sense? Even if I don’t have all the information, details and timing?

The Benefits of Reading Scripture Aloud

Here is a link to a great article on BibleGateway.com about the benefits of reading Scripture aloud.

Also, here is a link to a Bible Project video about the public reading of Scripture.

Below are several passages about the Scripture being read out loud, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. May this encourage us all today as families and churches to see the benefits of reading God’s word out loud.

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.
(1 Timothy 4:13)

And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.
(Nehemiah 8:1-3)

And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them.
(Joshua 8:34-35)

Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”
(Deuteronomy 31:9-13)

“For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”
(Acts 15:21)

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
(Luke 4:16-17)

And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.
(Colossians 4:16)

I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.
(1 Thessalonians 5:27)

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
(Revelation 1:3)

Daniel – Stand Firm and Take Action

He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.
(Daniel 11:32)

Daniel chapter 11 can get pretty confusing for me, but when I come to this verse I get the main point. Whatever is going on here in chapter 11, there are people who are seduced and break God’s covenant. That is sad, and that is the way of the world. However we also see that there are those who know God, stand firm and take action.

I’m seeing so many connections between Daniel’s theme and the book of Revelation. In both books, God’s people are being oppressed by a beast, and in both books the Son of Man, Jesus overcomes that beast. Also in both books, those who are with the Son of Man, Jesus, can and will overcome and conquer the beast.

And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 
(Revelation 12:11)
This is our encouragement for today. We are in a war against Satan and any “beast” he sends our way to torture us. The Devil is, with all his might, seeking to destroy God’s work. But Jesus is on the throne, He has already conquered and He reigns supreme. Death, sin and the Devil have no power over Him. In Christ, the Devil has been disarmed and made powerless.
So stand firm today, men. Stand firm today in Christ. Fight the beast. Do not love your lives even unto death. You have a covenant with Christ to keep. You have His blood covering you. His word is always there to guide you. But standing firm means more than standing still. It means taking action.
Take action to say kind words and to forgive others. Take action to reach out to encourage someone else. Take action to say no to the Devil’s temptations. Take action to be honest when the pressure is extreme to be dishonest. Take action to speak up for God to your boss, your neighbor, your friends, etc.
Stand firm and take action.

 

Daniel – They, their children, and their wives

Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.
(Daniel 6:23-24)

Today’s passage from Daniel is a sobering reminder of the consequences of our actions as men and how it affects our children and our wives.

These men had “maliciously accused Daniel.” They wanted him out of the way and even if that meant he was killed, the ends justified the means. Because of their hatred for Daniel, they even went to great lengths to manipulate the king into making a law that would be adverse to Daniel’s faith. They set the king up and used him like a pawn so they could dispense with Daniel. Once the king was wise to all of this, he was full of righteous wrath and threw every one of these men and their families into the den of lions.

Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling.
(Proverbs 26:27)

It is a serious warning for us today that our envy, pride, anger, lust and hatred can wreak serious havoc on our families. That was a horrible day for all of those families. Imagine how awful the sight would have been to see those wives and little kids being thrown into the very mouths of lions. And this was all because hubby/daddy had a malicious heart that craved power.

I got a Christmas card in the mail this week. It made me so sad for that family. Here is another woman now without her husband having Christmas pictures taken with her kids. Where’s daddy? He’s not there anymore because other things/ladies took his heart away from them.

Take your role seriously, guys. Where you lead as men will either take your family to green pastures or to the lion’s den. It’s your choice.

Rejoicing and Thanksgiving

As Christians, we should be thankful for God’s blessings (a noun identifying the gifts bestowed), not only in word but also in deed.  (1 John 3:17).

Being thankful – truly thankful – is more than a matter of words.  It should be apparent by the way we live our lives that we appreciate God’s goodness and His grace.

Are we thankful for our families? Let’s show it by treating them more lovingly.

Are we thankful for our material possessions? Let’s be good stewards of them by using them in the Lord’s work.

Are we thankful for our friends? Let’s demonstrate it by being a better friend to them.

Are we thankful for the gospel? Let’s prove it by sharing it with everybody around us.

It is a circle…through God’s Grace (that is giving us what we do not deserve) He blesses us.  In receiving these blessing with a proper heart, we are thankful.  Being thankful, we go to God in prayer with rejoicing and thanksgiving and this glorifies our Father.  He hears us, answers according to His will, more blessings come, we are thankful, and the process continues.

This is what Jesus did.  We know from the Bible that while Jesus was a man, He gave thanks to God the Father for the revelation of His will (Matt 11:25), for food (John 6:11), for hearing His prayer (John 11:41-42), for the unleavened bread/fruit of the vine (Mark 14:22-23) as a few examples.  These are examples we can emulate in our thanksgiving

The first century Christians did, and we should.  If we follow Jesus, we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him…with thanksgiving.  Thankful for the revealed word (Eph 3:3-5), for our food (Acts 27:35), for His hearing our prayers (1 john 5:14-15), for the body and blood of Christ (1 Cor 11:23; 26), and for the gift of Jesus in our lives (Rom 7:24-25; 2 Cor 9:15).

If we take time to be thankful, every moment of every day…and count our blessings, there will be a difference in our lives such as:

Counting blessings takes the focus off our problems, cares, anxieties and worries.

Counting blessings puts the focus on our God, our Father, the source of all blessings.

Counting blessings reminds us that GOD is there, that our Father cares, strengthening our faith.

Counting blessings fills our hearts with joy!

Counting blessings reminds us that we are blessed!

God wants a people.  He wants a people characterized by thankfulness.  If we are His child, He will dwell with us, walk among us, be our God, be our Abba Father (2 Cor 6:16).

Count the blessings God has given you today (and every day).  Enjoy them to His glory.  Tell Him all about your great day…and even if the day isn’t the greatest.  He is glorified in that and your relationship with Him will not disappoint. He will bless you.  You will be thankful.  You will talk to Him.  You will make other’s aware of Him if you do.  I am thankful for that.

Claude Going Home

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, you may be also.  And you know the way where I am going.”  John 14:1-4

The movers were loading up our house in Texas, Kristine and the kids had already headed north the day before.  I only had one essential task before getting in the car the next morning and making the 18 hour drive to Indiana.  I had to visit Brother Claude.

Over the years I had the opportunity to visit one on one with Claude many times.  Whether he was at home or in the hospital, he always greeted me with a smile and with a joyous spirit.  This visit was a bit different.  He didn’t have the same smile and energy as usual.  His health issues had increased and he had recently made the decision to pay for more constant help at his assisted living facility.  Additionally, he knew it would be our last visit for quite some time.

We chatted about life for a bit.  I told him about the new house in Indiana and I bragged on the Christians in Lafayette.  I updated him on the kids and shared my concerns about their transition.  Claude could tell I was excited to be moving home.  When I asked him how he was feeling our conversation turned in a more serious direction.

“I’m tired. I’m ready to go home.” was his response.  On just about every visit, Claude would speak of heaven but he would never say “heaven” or speak of a reward.  He always talked about “home” and “being with the Lord”.  Heaven was not a mansion or streets of gold.  It wasn’t a materialistic paradise where you run around in the perfect immortal body.  Heaven was the perfect home with the perfect Father, the perfect Brother, and the perfect Spirit.  Heaven was the ultimate fulfillment of our purpose and design…being with the Lord, our Creator.

And when Brother Claude spoke of “home” it wasn’t with wishful thinking or fingers crossed.  He didn’t speak about it in the distant future or as some far off magical place.  Claude had a confident expectation of being with the Lord.  He was longing for it, he was living every moment for it.  He understood the pain of this life, better than many of us, and allowed his physical suffering to fuel his desire to go home.

Now this is the part that hit me right between the eyes and caused an aching in my heart.  On that visit, as he was talking about home, I had just been talking about our new home in Indiana with such longing and passion, such excitement.  I realized, in that moment, that my hunger to be home with the Lord is insufficient.  I spend so much time and energy creating a comfortable existence here, trying to fill myself up with the temporal, that I don’t meditate on the eternal enough.

I realize that many of us are in different life situations than Brother Claude.  We have children to raise and responsibilities that require our time and attention here on this earth.  But the reality is that every day we either draw closer or slip away.  We decide how to invest our time and resources and where to set our minds.  If we don’t consciously and purposefully direct our lives the world will direct them for us.

When things are rough, talk about home.  When things are good, talk about home.  When your kids had a bad day at school, tell them about home.  When your back aches, think about home.  When your brother or sister starts despairing about our culture, remind them of home.  In the morning, at mid-day and just before bed, meditate on home.  When sorrow weighs down your heart, picture the faces of all those loved ones that are waiting for you at home.

Welcome home Brother Claude.

Stand Still–Stand Firm

David writes in Psalm 18 about the words he sang on the day God delivered him from all his enemies and the hand of Saul.  David writes:

1 I will love You, O Lord, my strength.  2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold3 I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.  (Psalm 18:1-3; NKJV)

Peter, after being arrested for preaching the gospel and speaking to the Sanhedrin says of Jesus… 11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12; NKJV)

I thought of these verses in thinking about what kind of husband and father to my daughter I want to be.  There are a lot of different challenges to being a good Godly husband and father.  One of the most challenging for me is to know what the right thing is to do for my wife or my daughter at any given time.  What I want to do is rescue them from whatever is troubling them.  I want to be the knight in shining armor, the fixer, the “man”.  But I will tell you, this approach often has unforeseen consequences and the disappointment I feel when I get it wrong is crushing at times…and if nothing else confusing and can lower my confidence in myself and what God wants me to do.  In the worst case, I get angry and blame my wife or my daughter for not getting me or appreciating me…me, me, me.

What I think about in this context about these verses is this.  If I believe that God is my rock, my fortress, my stronghold and His Son Jesus is the chief cornerstone of my salvation, then I need to stand upon that Rock and be strong for my wife and my daughter.  If I holdfast to God and receive from Him the love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, longsuffering, strength, peace…if I get all these spiritual blessings and more from Him and know that He is with me and will not forsake me…then I am free to just stand there or said another way I am free to just “be there”.  As I stand solidly on my faith and demonstrate the firm ground under my feet in Jesus, my wife and my daughter will take notice.

Standing on solid ground, I can be there for them to lean on when they need me.

Standing on the Rock of Jesus, I can stand firm if they need to climb up, lay down, and rest or just get a hug or a warm touch.

Standing firm in God, I can be an example they can look to or point to in difficult times and be encouraged.

If I am standing with Jesus, I will be what God wants me to be for my wife and my daughter.  It isn’t about what I am getting from my wife or my daughter, but what I get from my Abba Father and Elder Brother that matters.  When I get that spiritual strength through faith and abiding in Jesus, I then can give of myself in a way that is most beneficial to my wife, my daughter and my family.

Sounds crazy, but give it a try.  The next time things are going crazy, the house is hectic, there is more to be done than hands to do it…just stand still with Jesus and holdfast to Him as you hold onto her and that will make an eternal difference.

The Master and Us

Whatever your role as a man, you have responsibilities.

Today we are considering our role(s) as it pertains to the women in our lives…husbands, fathers, sons, brothers…and this is whether we are single, married, widowers, divorced…there are women in our lives and we have responsibility to them because of our responsibility to Jesus.

How well we fulfill our responsibilities depends upon our view of the Master of the House.

As we start with the Master…let’s define the word “master”.  The Greek word is “kurios” and means “he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he as the power of deciding; master, lord.  This is used universally, of the possessor and disposer of a thing, the owner.  Kurios is a title of honor, expressive of respect and reverence, with which servants salute their master.  (Thayers)

Just to be clear.  When we talk Master we are talking about Jesus Christ.  The Savior.  The Messiah.

Because of Who He is…The Lord of Lords!  Because of What He did…Sacrifice!  Because of What He is Doing…Intercession!  Because of What He is Going to Do…Glory!

He is our Master and therefore we are to “…be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”  (Ephesians 5:21; NASB).

“Subject” is to arrange under, to subordinate; to subject, put in subjection.  “Fear” is reverence, respect.  “Christ” is the anointed of God, the Lord of Lords, the Master of the House!

So when we live our lives and find ourselves saying “I can’t do this or that for a particular woman in my life”; let’s change the question and ask “Can I do this or that for the Lord?”

Because, the truth is, what we do we do for Jesus whether we mean to or not.  If we are looking to Him and endeavoring to follow (be subject to) Him, then He will lead us and we will be the man we need to be and He will be glorified.  If we live like that, then the women in our lives will notice and it will make a difference.

The reward in living like this is a reward for all.  If we lead by example and live our lives subject to Jesus then it is likely those women in our lives who we care about, seek to influence, or work along side will be impacted for good.  If we live this way, then together with the women in our lives we can seek out and expect the reward God is offering.

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.  (Colossians 3:23-24; NASB)

Strive for the crown of life promised by God for you in Heaven…and hold tight to the women in your life and don’t let them go…serve them because Jesus is worthy of our service no matter what or who we might be dealing with.

The Company You Keep

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
(Proverbs 13:20)

Today’s article is one of caution, but also of encouragement: the company you keep will (not can) influence you in one direction or another. This is a discussion that I’m sure many of you as parents are having with your kids, but remember that it applies to big people, too.

The new Galatians Christians were “quickly deserting” the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why? Because a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Some among them were troubling them and perverting the gospel (Galatians 1:6-7; 2:4; 4:17; 5:7-10; 6:12-13). It is a reminder of how quickly someone can be turned away from God and led to believe lies.

The same thing was happening in the Corinthian congregation. Some were preaching that there is no resurrection of the dead, and Paul warned that bad company (and teaching) can corrupt good morals (1 Corinthians 15:12,33).

We see the same warnings by Paul as he wrote to the young evangelist Timothy. Certain conversations along with certain types of people can lead to the “ruin of the hearers,” and will “lead people into more ungodliness.” This teaching and influence will spread like gangrene, resulting in the “upsetting” of the faith of some (2 Timothy 2:14-18). These are powerful warnings from God, and as parents and children we should take heed.

There are verses aplenty about how many will follow the bad influences of others. It’s not just about false teaching, it may be that you are hanging around people with lousy attitudes and worldly passions, and that will take you down the wrong road as well (Hebrews 12:15; 2 Peter 2:2,18).

We are called by God to come out from among these evil influences and to chose holy friends and godly influences (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts.
(Psalm 119:63)

Think of what David just said. Who are his companions? Those who fear God and keep His commandments. Those are great friends!

Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.
(1 John 3:13-14)

What is the sign that we have passed from death into life, according to John? Our relationships! When we love the brothers, we will abide in life. When we love the world, we will by definition hate the brothers, and we will abide in death.

Look at this passage from Malachi. In the midst of a lot of wickedness and religious hypocrisy, there was a righteous remnant that hung out with each other and encouraged each other. See how God took notice of this?

Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
(Malachi 3:16-18)

And all who believed were together…
(Acts 2:44)

The believers were together. When we are together, powerful things happen for the kingdom of God. Our fellowship is not with this world, it is with Jesus Christ, His blood, and His body of believers!

that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
(1 John 1:3)

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
(1 John 1:7)

It really is pretty simple, if you want to move closer to God, look at your friends and relationships. Where are they leading you?