Feeds:
Posts
Comments

"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

Then Jesus said "Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear." (Mark 4: 9)

It is often said of Jesus that he was a good teacher because he was such a good communicator. Indeed as a teacher myself I have often thought about how I could emmulate Jesus in my teaching practice. I have spent quite a bit of time looking at what Jesus did when he was teaching people, and yet I have never really been able to pin down any specific teaching techniques that I can adapt to my work.

It is often said, for example, that he was a good communicator because he ‘spoke with pictures’ using parables to make the complex things he taught be more accessible and simple. But when I look into his teaching in detail I actually find the opposite.

"When he was alone the twelve and others around him asked him about the parables" (Mark 4: 10). The very people who might be able to understand the complexities of the kingdom because they spent all there time with him, were as perplexed as everyone else. Far from making the concepts seem simple, it seemed that it made them harder.

When I first noticed this I thought that maybe it was my imagination. Jesus wouldn’t deliberately try to make things difficult for us would he? Surely it was because his disciples were just uneducated fishermen. Maybe they couldn’t understand Jesus because they weren’t smart enough. But we actually read Jesus own words that say the exact opposite. "At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.’" (Matthew 11:25)

In fact he makes this clear in this very chapter. "He told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, ’they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’ " (Luke 4: 11-12)

Far from being a good teacher, Jesus aim was actually to hide the kingdom of God away from those who wouldn’t appreciate it. The gate is narrow, and few travel it. If you actually seek the Lord (as the disciples and other around him did), then he will make know the mysteries of God. But if you are not interested then he will not give it to you on a platter. He wants us to ask, to seek, to knock, and not to just sit there and say ‘What a nice moral’, or ‘what a wonderful story’.

Contrary to popular belief, I think Jesus he spoke in parables to that what he was saying was NOT obvious. The parables where more like riddles, clues to the kingdom for those who were persistent enough to search out there meaning. Like a child who is not afraid to keep asking why God want us to be both curious and persistent.

Jesus is the way the truth and the life, but it won’t just fall down and hit your from the sky. There is work to be done if you want to discover the mysteries of God. That kind of knowledge should only be available to those who have sought to understand it and struggled with it’s meaning and now know it’s significance.

The revelation of who Jesus is can only ultimately be found by those who are looking in the right place, knocking on the right doors and asking the right people. God is glad to reveal himself and in that way make himself vulnerable, but only to those who love him and obey him.

God bless

Matt

And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons." (Mark 3:20-22).

In the introduction to this series I quoted C. S. Lewis “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God…”

In the last devotional we saw that his own family called him mad. In the next verse we see that the teachers of the law (the religious people of the day) said he had a demon. Here are the two possibilities in these two verses. Is he mad? Does he have a Demon?

To my mind the good things that I read about in Mark prove that far from being mad, he is in fact a genius. He seems to know just what to do and say at every turn. And as far as where the source of his power is coming from – it doesn’t take much effort to refute the claim that it is from Satan. It just doesn’t make sense. As Jesus says in verse 23 and 24 "…How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand."

What I find interesting is that it’s the so called experts who often make the worst judgements. His family knew him best and yet they call him mad. The teachers of the law spent their lives studying God, yet they didn’t recognise him when he was standing right in front of them, in fact they spurned him as Satan. "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened." (Romans 1:21).

If we are going to properly understand who Jesus is we need to look beyond our first impressions. "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem." (Isaiah 53:2b-3)

Would we make the same mistake if we saw Jesus in the street today? We are so quick to judge sometimes that it makes me wonder. He doesn’t necessarily meet the expectations we have of him. This is why it is important to step back and take another look at who Jesus really is.

This exercise is also about discovering who we should be if we are follower of Christ. If we want to be like Jesus then we too can expect to be misundertood. Often the people you thought should know better will be the very ones who will accuse you, and call you mad, evil or worse. But be encouraged because if this is happening because you are following Christ it means you are doing something right.

God bless,

Matt.

“Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’ ” (Mark 3:21)

Until I looked carefully at this passage I actually thought Jesus had a reasonably supportive family. His mother knew he was destined for great things. His brothers, we hear later, helped spread his message. Yet here we see his own family saying he is crazy.

I can see how his family might be concerned that he was not eating, but I think it was more than that. I think what Jesus was saying and doing was making them feel uncomfortable, and because they didn’t understand what he was doing they called it madness. Well all I can say is I would gladly be thought of as mad by anyone, even my family and friends, if I could achieve even a fraction of what Jesus did.

I have been lucky to have a very supportive Christian family, but I know of many others within my church and in the wider community who are not so fortunate. There are many stories of Christian, even in countries like Australia and America, who have to deal with families who say they are crazy because they believe in christ.

If you are experiencing family or friends who are doing precisely that then be comforted, because Jesus said that this is the way it would be. “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Mark 13:12-13) More than this we can also take comfort in the fact that Jesus knows what we are going through. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18).

Jesus didn’t just talk the talk, he also walked the walk. “For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:17-18)

But this doesn’t help us to deal with this issue, does it? Well actually it does. When we read that Jesus suffered the same way we are, not only does it tell us that we are not alone and that Jesus understands what we are going through, but if we read and carefully observe what he said and how he handled himself in various situations we can get an insight into the best way to deal with our problems.

For example, how did Jesus deal with the fact that his family were rejecting him and saying he was mad? He recognised the blessings his father in heaven had given him. He was not without a family. Quite the contrary, “Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.’ ” (Mark 3:34-35)

When thinking about who Jesus is it is more than helpful to remember that for all the amazing sign and miracles that show he was the son of God, he was also very much the son of man, a human like you and me. We can look to his example to get us through our own life.

God bless,

Matt.

“‘But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’, so he said to the man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home’” (Mark 2:10-11)

Who is Jesus? In the second chapter of Mark we see some more amazing acts – None more astonishing and revealing than Jesus healing the paralyzed man. As I read this account again today I can imagine the scene. It would almost be surreal. Jesus has just returned home. We are told that huge crowds have gathered around him, so that it is almost impossible to get to see him.

I guess if you pictured a movie star appearing on the red carpet you might get a similar picture. The problem is that the people who are crowding around are not necessarilythe ones Jesus wants to see. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (verse 17b)

Despite this, those who were determined to see him found a way. This is what impressed Jesus about the paralyzed man and his friends. They recognised who Jesus was and they were not going to let anything get in the way of them seeing him. Jesus described this a faith – that they should see Jesus for who he really is and not let anyone or anything else get in the way of seeing him.

It wasn’t a fancy prayer, or weeks of fasting, or the love that the friends showed for their companion. It wasn’t that any of them had done anything special, or were particularly righteous or special people. All of these are noble things, but in order to have faith all you need to do is to understand enough about who Jesus really is that you will do anything to meet him.

When these men sought out and found Jesus the result was that their friend received both physical and spiritual healing. The most important thing that happened to the paralyzed man that day was not the restoration of his legs but the restoration of his relationship with God, and it was Jesus who did it.

So how can a mere man restore our relationship with God? The pharisees asked the same question. But what they failed to realise was the nature of this man Jesus. He is the means by which God intended to restore his relationship with us. It was his planright from the beginning of time. Jesus proved that he is the way to God, not only with words, but with a very practical demonstration.

It is the same for us. If we understand that Jesus is the one who came to restore our relationship with God and that our sin – the one thing which separated us from him – has been forgiven through Jesus, then we too can come to him for salvation, and that means more than just forgiveness of sins and a restoration of our relationship with God. There is physical healing too.

The Greek word for salvation ‘sozo’ is also sometimes translated as healing, as in the following passage "He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." (Mark 5:34). When you understand that Jesus came to save us from our sins, you also need to understand that this means he came to heal us and give us a full life.

It wouldn’t be true healing if sins weren’t forgiven, and it wouldn’t be true forgiveness of sins if there was no practical sign of healing. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that his own sin caused him to be ill, nor am I saying that as a Christian you will never be sick or get ill, but I am saying that healing is part of God’s plan of salvation through Jesus.

Jesus is inviting us to pick ourselves up, instead of being paralysed by both physical and spiritual illness, and head home where God is waiting with open arms to welcome you. Ask him for healing and he will also provide you with a relationship with God and an eternal home. He alone is the one with the authority to do it. It is part of Jesus is.

God bless,

Matt.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 188 other followers