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 – 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.

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?

James and Fathers, Part 2

Last Wednesday, we began a look into the book of James and some things we learn about God as our Father. Here are a few more thoughts.

As a Father, He wants us to bless Him, but He is also deeply concerned with how we talk about our brothers and sisters. As dads, remember to keep a check on how your kids talk to each other. That’s a big lesson they will learn and hopefully translate into other areas of life.

Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
(James 5:11)

We can always trust that God’s intentions and purposes for us are good. Even when we don’t understand why things happen or why God asks certain things from us, we can trust He loves us and know that in the end my soul’s salvation is first on my Father’s mind. This is important for us, dads. My end goal is not being “right” on a matter. My end goal is not having my child be perfect in every way. My goal is to keep my heart as a Father in line with the heart of the Father in heaven. If my heart is line with my Father’s, then that will affect everything I say, do and think when it comes to my kids.

We may think too much about the training and instruction we are giving our kids, and all the investment we have poured into them, but fail to think about some very important things. Sometimes we lose sight of the working of God in our sons and daughters. We also at times lose sight on the transformation that God is working within us as well. Our Father loves us very much, too, and He is transforming us every day as dads so that we will imitate our Father as dear children (Ephesians 5:1)

James and Fathers, Part 1

The book of James has been on my mind a lot lately as we are preparing to be part of a camp next week where the theme will be from the book of James.

Today (and also for next Wednesday), I wanted to look at a few passages from James that give us a picture of the God we serve. He is our Father, but what kind of Father is our Lord?

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
(James 1:5)

He gives generously, and doesn’t hold it over our heads after He gives. Of course, God does remind us of what His gifts have cost, but He doesn’t do it like a lot of us dads do. The result of dads reminding kids repeatedly of how much they “cost” is guilt and feeling like a constant inconvenience. Our Father does not do that for us. He gives and gives and gives and gives. One of my favorite verses on this is Romans 8:32 – read it. The result of God’s giving to us is praise, gratitude, and a desire to come to Him for everything! The reason sometimes people feel guilty asking the Father in heaven for things, is because they have been conditioned by their dads on earth to feel bad for coming AGAIN to ask for something.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
(James 1:17-18)

He is a gift giver, who gives good things with the best interest of His children in mind. He is also a Father who is not a different dad each day. There is no variation within Him. As we mature in Jesus, we become more stable and there are less “variations” in our thinking and behavior as Fathers. God “gave birth” to us through His word, and that is the same way we as dads will bring life and growth to our children is through the power of the word.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
(James 1:27)

God has made it plain as a Father what He really wants. Yes, there are other details to “religion,” but there are the main things He wants us to focus on. As dads, we must have to keep focused on what the big things are, and what God really is looking for in them. It can get really easy to get lost in the weeds of all the little things our kids are doing that are either wrong or need to improve, but keep focused on the big things first.

With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.
(James 3:9)

More on this next Wednesday, Lord willing.

How is that scolding working out for you?

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
(Ephesians 6:4)

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
(Proverbs 15:1)

I’m reading a book called “The Power of the Other,” written by Dr. Henry Cloud. I appreciate my good friend Andy Harrison recommending this book to me. In the chapter I was reading yesterday, he was talking about the Brain and Feedback. I wanted to share a brief quotation with you for today.

“Have you ever been yelled at, put down, or scolded when someone was ostensibly helping you get better at something? Remember how you felt? Of course you do: horrible-ashamed, afraid, anxious, sad, angry, and/or closed off. What stood out most to you in that moment-the feedback itself, or how you were feeling about it, the other person, or yourself? No doubt you were much more in touch with how you were feeling-awful-than with what was being said. The actual issue, what was truly important, was no longer what you were focused on.

There’s a reason for that. In highly charged emotional moments, the part of your brain that gets tapped for action is called the amygdala. Chemicals get released there that interfere with learning. Threat of any kind can trigger a fight-or-flight reaction, which is not focused at all on learning, only on protecting oneself. Hence the “checked-out” expression on a teenager’s face while being scolded. In those moments, a dose of adrenaline floods over brains, producing anxiety, and we literally go blank. Whenever we’re in fight-or-flight mode, we can’t absorb feedback and improve our self-control and learning.”

Dr. Henry Cloud, “The Power of the Other,” p. 117-118

Take some time to think about this.

Yes there is a time for corrective measures, rebuke and punishments, but we also need to realize the times when what we are doing and how we are doing it as parents may not be working at all. The reactions we are getting from our kids may be a result of how we are addressing the matter at hand. We are getting the exact opposite reactions we desire because of our own approach.

The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the instruction of fools is folly. The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips. Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
(Proverbs 16:21-24)

Is your approach as a father one of wisdom, calmness, mercy and patience? Or are the lectures and scolding shutting down learning and keeping real growth and communication from happening?

As always, if you need help and growth in these areas, I encourage you to sit down with or talk on the phone to a wise godly father who can help you walk through these things. Those wise godly fathers/grandfathers can help walk you through how to improve your communication and approach.

You Have Authority Over Them, But…

I was having a conversation recently with an elder/shepherd near Dayton, Ohio. We were talking about our approach to people, and how we may try to command people (our kids, people at church), but are we allowing God to work? Are we praying about it?

He referenced a couple of passages that an older man pointed out to him decades ago. Here are those two passages, take a moment to ponder them.

And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.
(Mark 3:14-15)

The apostles were clearly given “authority” over the demons. Authority and power was not the problem. The apostles were able to cast out demons, and they had done so before the events of Mark 9. But in Mark 9, the disciples were not able to cast out a demon from a young boy. They did not understand why they couldn’t do it.

Jesus’ answer to them was simple:

And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
(Mark 9:28-29)

They had the power and authority to command the demons, but what had they not done, according to Jesus? They had not prayed about it. Good grief, this is so simple to understand, but how many times do we as fathers and leaders forget this concept? We have power and authority over others, maybe at church and at home, but are we trying to command people, or are we praying about it? Are we giving these things up to the throne of God and seeking His counsel and wisdom? Are we giving God time and space to work in someone else’s life?

A basic truth, but a powerful one to me. I really appreciated what this shepherd shared with me the other day, and also it was neat to think that an older wise godly man shared these concepts with him decades ago. The wisdom is getting passed on.

Mature Plants and Pillars

May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace;
(Psalms 144:12)

In this Psalm we see a desire of the people of God to receive blessings from God. Psalm 144 ends with, “Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall! Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!” (Psalms 144:15). Some of those blessings are material in nature (cattle, grain, prosperity), while others have a spiritual focus. Verse 12 is one of those. Look at what blessings they desired of God when it came to their sons and daughters.

Sons in their youth to be like plants full grown. 

Daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace.

Think about that for a bit. What is that saying? What do these parents want for their kids? Maturity and stability! Plants full grown, not seedlings and saplings. Corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace brings to mind something strong and stable that supports other things.

May the Lord bless our children with these qualities. May they develop within them maturity and stability. May we as fathers and mothers have the wisdom, grace and patience to guide them and give them time to develop these qualities. May we as parents remember that God has given us quite a bit of grace, patience and time!