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“So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.” (Mark 5: 20)

So what does this new life with Jesus look like? Today’s verse is it in a nutshell. You have an encounter with Jesus. He sets you free without pain and in a way that only God can. You can’t help but tell others about what has happened. It’s a simple as that.

There is no theological diatribe. There is no debate about predestination, or the trinity, or how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. There is no arguing evolution verses creation, or the negative effects of religion on society. There is no program, no meetings, no training. It is simply experiencing God, and telling others about what you have seen and heard.

It was the pattern a Christmas. “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” (Luke 2: 20)

It was what Jesus told a messenger to do when John the Baptist was having second thoughts about who Jesus was. “So he replied to the messengers, ‘Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor’ ” (Luke 7:22)

It is even the pattern Jesus used himself. “…The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard…” (John 3: 31-32)

Certainly it was the mainstay of the church in acts. “As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20) And later in acts, when Paul was converted on the road to Damascus he was told explicitly “You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard.” (Acts 22:15)

If you have not had an encounter with Jesus, if you have not seen him work in your life, if you have not heard his voice, then you don’t have a testimony. You can’t motivate yourself to share good news. It’s either good news, and you want to tell everyone, or it’s not, in which case you have nothing to share.

I’m not saying that telling others is easy. It does require you to actually get up and do it, and not be afraid to face the shame and rejection that might come your way, but what I am saying is that you need to ask yourself if you are not doing it, why? Is it that it no longer means anything to you? Is it that you haven’t seen or heard from God in a long time, and don’t have anything to share?

Don’t feel condemned about not sharing your testimony, simply ask Jesus for a fresh encounter. Ask him to show you things, to tell you things, to give you something you can share. Then step out in faith and tell others about what he is doing in your life. If the focus is about what Jesus did (and not on intellectual arguments, or personal achievements) then people will be amazed.

Every Christian has a testimony. If you invited Jesus into your life, then you are becoming a new creation, the old is passing away and the new is coming. This is your testimony. Share how Jesus is changing your life, and setting you free from your old way of living.

Everybody seems to be searching for the truth that will turn their life around. The want something better, something new, something different. You have that something! No self-help guru, or life coach, or motivation speaker can offer what Jesus offers.

If you haven’t experienced it for yourself, then there is no time like the present. Right now I would encourage you to accept Jesus at his word with a simple prayer. “Jesus I am sorry for trying to do things my way. Forgive me. I give my life over to you so that you can set me free and I can live life the way you intended. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and your grace to make me a new creation. In Jesus name, Amen.”

Once you have prayed this prayer, know that Jesus is faithful and this single encounter will change your life forever. As this happens, tell others about it! That way if they are fellow Christians they can share your joy and support you during the difficult times, and if they are not Christians they can discover a new life for themselves.

God Bless,

Matt.

“Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region”

It never ceases to amaze me how different people react when they encounter Jesus. We have already seen the reactions of the demon possessed man, and we will have a look at how his response changed after this encounter in the next devotional, but I want to spend a little bit of time looking at the response of others today.

When people become a Christian and are set free from all their torment and anguish, you would expect those around them to be happy and welcome the change. This is actually often not the case. Many people who become Christians find that they are rejected by those around them. The very people who should support them end up turning them away. In this passage we seem the same thing happening to Jesus.

There are two applications of this. Firstly when we become a Christian and we experience what it is like to be truly set free, we need to realise that not everyone will share our joy. This is of course no reason not to tell them what has happened, but it should also not be a surprise to us if they reject it.

The second application is if you are doing a significant ministry like Jesus, you can expect rejection and confrontation. Not everyone is going to be happy that you are doing God’s work. In fact quite the opposite. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first…If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.” (John 15: 18, 22)

Why were the people so frightened? I believe it is because they finally met someone who could bring about a powerful change in lives. Here was someone who could set the free and radically change their very existence. For those who are desperate for change this is very good news. For those who would prefer to stay in their comfort zone, it is too much of a threat.

God’s work is often mysterious and beyond our understanding. We can’t control it any more than we can control the wind. If we allow him to work properly in our lives, we are giving over control and learning to trust in him. This is a very challenging thing to do, and if we are not prepared to do it, then we certainly don’t want to be confronted by others who have.

We have a choice. We can give our lives over to God and completely relinquish control, even though it is extremely challenging to do so, or we can simply ask him to go and keep control for ourselves. If we allow him to have complete control then we will be completely free. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). But if we ask him to leave he will not try to force himself on us he will do as we ask, hop in the boat and move on elsewhere.

The question then remains. How are you going to respond to what Jesus want to do with your life? Are you too frightened to let go of your life? Are you worried about what Jesus might do if you give him control? Remember that he will not torture you. Instead he will set you free from the very things that are causing you grief. He will release you. The doors have been thrust open; it’s time to leave your cell and start a new life.

Yes it means you can no longer live for yourself. There is no half measures. But living for yourself isn’t anywhere near as attractive as it seems. It leads us to places we never really wanted to go. We end up among the gravestones, thinking we are free, but being tormented all the time with our demons.

Let us instead give up that old live that we used to love, but that was leading us to death. Let Jesus set us completely free by giving it all up and starting again. “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25).

God Bless,

Matt.

“The demons begged Jesus ‘Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them’” (Mark 5 v12)

How does it all work? How is it that Jesus can just come along and deal with all my big problems? It may seem like you have been wandering in the wilderness for years. You might not believe it possible that in an instant Jesus can set you free from all the pain and torture you are experiencing. But let me tell you from experience it is true.

If you are feeling particularly burdened an weighed down, and just wish there was someone there who could help you bear the load, then I have good news. Not only will Jesus bear the weight of all those things in your life that are holding you back, he will actually remove them completely. He works today in our lives just as he did way back then, when he sent the demons into the pigs.

So how does it work? Well like I just said, it is the exact same way it was with this man. And encounter with Jesus will make us realise how short we have fallen from God’s standards. All the things in us that have been torturing us all our lives will be shown in dramatic fashion. They will not be able to hide.

Secondly, the result of this exposure will be fear. Suddenly all of my secrets have been exposed and I am vulnerable. All my weaknesses are out in the open and nothing is hidden. Now I feel ashamed, but I am also frightened that God, having seen my sin, will turn me away or he will punish me and chastise me.

But we are told “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). We are also told that “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8), so surely and encounter with Jesus would mean an overwhelming feeling of love?

This is true. Nothing could be more true that this, but what some people fail to realise is that God hates sin, and while sin still resides in our life there is no way we can fully appreciate his love. It is part of his love that he need to get rid of the sin in our lives.

We recognise the sin. We know it needs to be dealt with. We fear Jesus because we don’t understand why he has come. He has not come to torture, he has come to set us free. This freedom does not involve some long drawn out process. Instead he takes the sin in our lives and cast them on another life, just like the pigs. That life is then destroyed and sin is done away with forever.

Who is this unfortunate person on whom all our sin was cast? It was Jesus himself. This is why we have nothing to fear from our sin. An encounter with Jesus will be a loving encounter not a torture, because no matter how much sin might have a hold on us, and has left us isolated, rejected and lifeless, Jesus has allowed our sin to be cast on him, and has then sacrificed himself for us.

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4: 9-10)

There is no fear because Jesus has borne the punishment for us. But like the man who was set free from the demons, this was done NOT so that we could continue living our old way, in the graveyard surrounded by death and torture, but instead experience real life. Life in all its abundance. The same life that Jesus experience after he was risen again.

While sin is in our lives there is only death and torture. Once sin is done away with there is life and freedom. Jesus did it for this man, he can do it for you. Acknowledge that Jesus is the sacrifice on your behalf, cast all your burdens on him and start living your life.

God Bless,

Matt.

“He shouted at the top of his voice ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name do not torture me’ ”. (Mark 5 v7)

This is a most dramatic response to Jesus. Here is a man who was on the outer fringes of society, rejected by everyone, but ‘…No one was strong enough to subdue him’ (verse 5). If you could imagine such a person I am sure you would picture (as I do) either someone creeping around in the shadows and not wishing to draw attention to themselves, or on the other extreme someone who confronts everyone who passes by and is not afraid of anyone.

Here we see a man who is both. He shouts a Jesus in what might almost be a mocking voice ‘What do you want with me…’ but then in the same breath he pleads ‘In God’s name do not torture me.’ This is not the only part of his response that seems strange. He also acknowledges Jesus as the Son of the Most High God (a truly remarkable revelation) and calls on the name of God for mercy.

It seems to me that in this encounter with Jesus, this man (or more accurately the demons in this man) have a remarkable clarity about what is happening. The recognise Jesus as the Son of the Most High God, and they know that whatever is about to happen he certainly means business. They recognise that he is able to do anything he wants, and more than that, he is about to do something with them!

Perhaps it is hard to make sense of all this, and yet those who have been through this kind of torture will understand. In my darkest days I was astounded at just how clearly I could see the truth about the nature of Jesus. I knew he was king, and I knew he was God. What I failed to recognise when I was in this state was that an encounter with Jesus didn’t mean more pain and torture, but instead a complete release from everything that weighed me down so terribly.

I have been in a place of agony, of desiring self-harm and of walking around a metaphorical grave yard where everyone around me was dead. All I really wanted was for someone to take all the darkness and crushing weight off my shoulders. When I turned to God I was sure he would expect more of me, tell me all the things I was doing wrong, and then give me a good kick in the pants for not doing it!

Instead I have been surprised to discover that far from torturing us, Jesus takes our burdens off us and throws them into the deepest sea. When a tortured soul comes to know Jesus it is not as a tyrannical ruler or a being with ultimate control over our lives. It is as a person who is willing and able to take on our deepest pain and anguish and banish them forever in the deepest sea.

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death” (Psalm 68 v19-20)

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

God Bless,

Matt.

"This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain…Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones." (Mark 5:3,5)

In the next few devotionals I want to spend some time looking at what happens when someone in a very bad state has a genuine encounter with Jesus. We will start by looking at the state this man was in, and how that he has more in common with us than we might first imagine. Then I want to look at how Jesus and this man engage with each other. Finally I want to look at how this mans life and attitude was changed by this encounter.

Before he met Jesus there is little doubt this man was in a bad state. Clearly he was a danger to himself and those around him. I would suggest that it was because of his state of mind that people had tried to put him in chains. But these chains didn’t do any good. Whatever it was he was suffering from could not be contained.

There is also little doubt that he had been rejected by the local towns. He was walking amount the graves which are always located outside the city walls, and would not be a place where any sane man would choose to live. I think it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to speculate that the villagers were scared of him and had thrown him out of town.

Outwardly he was a free man. No chains could hold him. But inwardly he was a tortured soul. Living on the fringes of society I imagine the only people he could relate to and count as his friends were the dead he lived with.

He was a tortured soul, and there was no respite for his torture. Both day and night he cried out. His pain inside was so great he resorted to self harm. I can imagine he envied the dead. At least they were at peace. Although he was still alive he was well and truly dead inside.

So what caused this state? No doubt modern physiologists would place their own diagnosis on it. But even modern medicine can’t do anything to ‘cure’ such a person. The best that can be hoped for is to keep it under control with treatment (both medical and personal).

The bible describes his problem as an unclean spirit, and although I don’t want to get into the controversy about demons verses mental illness, I will say that I personally believe that they are one and the same thing. The ‘chemical imbalance in the brain’ is I believe merely a physical manifestation of the deeper spiritual condition rising from demonic possession. It is a symptom not a cause.

Whatever you believe, this story is still amazing. There is no doubt the man was in such a condition that he was not able to help himself, and no one else was able to help him. Here we find someone with no direction, not understanding who he is and his purpose, and certainly no life.

The good news is that these are the very people Jesus came to help. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19).

The other piece of good news is that if he can do what he did for this man, then surely he is able to work with you. It only takes one encounter with Jesus to turn your life around. He has come near to you, looking among the graves for those whose life is out of control, and who feel dead inside. Turn to him and he will show you the way, help you to see the truth, and bring you life.

God bless,

Matt.

"They where terrified sand asked each other" Who is this man, even the wind and the waves obey him?" (Mark 4: 41)

Here we have a genuine super hero. A man who has the power to control the wind and the waves. What an awesome sight it would have been. It is only natural that the disciples where terrified and asked each other “Who is this man?”

Have you ever wanted super powers? Have you ever desired to control your environment and command the wind and the waves, bring people back to life, know the future before it happens and know things about people that even they don’t know about themselves. Here is one man who had such power.

His motto? “I am the way the truth and the life.” He is the ultimate super hero, fighting for truth, justice and the Kingdom of God. He fears nothing – not man, nor nature. As a citizen of the Kingdom he is an alien in this land. He is like no other. Nothing can stop him. He is invincible.

Yet he looks the same as us. He breaths, he eats, he laughs and he cries. He also bleeds, and he most certainly can die. But he has control over all of these things. He has been given power and authority over everything in creation. It is all at his command. But with this power comes responsibility – the responsibility to love.

If superpowers where to fall into the wrong hand it would destroy the world. Indeed the world is already been destroyed by people who use their powers for their own ends. The only person who can manage such power is someone whose only motivation is love. Someone who is pure and perfect, and who lives only to help others and not for himself.

Yes I am describing Jesus, but I am also describing you. Yes YOU! The very person who is reading this devotional today. Jesus is calling you to be a superhero, with the same powers he has, and indeed even greater powers. He wants to build up a legion of superheros who will fight with him for the good of all creation.

But we need to be pure and holy just as he is pure and holy, and that can not come from within, that must be provided for us by him. Jesus showed what it took, even sacrificing himself for us. If we want to join his Kingdom and become his warrior then we need that same spirit. Like all superheros he doesn’t want to fight alone. In willingly giving up his life as he did, we now have a way that we can be pure and perfect, and so be able to properly use the powers he gives us. The power to control the wind and the waves is just the start.

If we truly understood what it meant to be a follower of Christ, and the power that we have through him then…"Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." (John 14:12).

Being a christian is not going to church events, belonging to a club, or following superstitions and ancient rituals. It about becoming the person God created you to be, and joining the battle between good and evil by doing the very things Jesus did. This includes using the power of his holy spirit in miraculous ways. In ways that will astound even you. If we were living the way we are supposed to be living then people should say the same thing about us as they said about Jesus, " Who is this man?"

God bless,

Matt

"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?’ ” Mark 4:38

So many times when we experience our own storms in life we look around and don’t see Jesus doing anything. He seems to be asleep on the job and in the meantime everything is going wrong, and we have lost control of our environment, and are worried we will drown. The fear is real. It’s not like the situation has been exaggerated. It might be a genuinely life threatening and the question we are asking are serious. Is Jesus asleep? The strange thing is that he might be. Does that mean he doesn’t care? Not at all.

Let’s take a careful look at what is happening in this verse. The storm occurred just afterJesus had just been preaching the kingdom of God. This is no coincidence. When he described the kingdom he used the following parable. "It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” (Mark 4:31-32)

There are two significant things I can see here. Firstly “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?…But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:25, 33)

Secondly "He replied, ‘If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.’"( Luke 17:6). Jesus has just spent the day teaching his disciples to obey God, get on with the job of building his kingdom. All this must be done in faith trusting God for everything, including life itself.

Now the disciples have a chance to put the teaching into practice. When the storm comes they can stand in faith. Instead all they can say is ‘don’t you care?’ If Jesus didn’t care he wouldn’t have just spent the whole day trying to tell his disciples that they need to trust God with their very life. Perhaps it wasn’t so much a case of Jesus not caring as it was of the disciples just not listening. But surely it is the same way with me when I react in the same way and fail to apply the principles of his word to everyday life.

If Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life then what he teaches is far to valuable to remain just words. Jesus words are life, that is we are supposed to experience them. "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 someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do." (James 1:22-25)

When he speaks we should expect opportunities to put what he says into practice. This is exactly what happened to the disciples. They too could have been sleeping peacefully on a cushion, instead they are caught up in the situation. Did he care? He cared more than they knew. He did want to just save them from this storm he wanted them to learn how to deal with every storm that comes their way.

He wanted them to have peace in all circumstances. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus…Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:6-7, 9)

God bless,

Matt

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