Do You See Them? (Still The Voices)

“. . .she told me that the only reason she came that first Sunday was because I was the first man who had ever talked to her like she was a real person.”

Forgiven much meme

Last week we talked about Jesus crossing the sea of Galilee in search of a lost lamb, leaving the proverbial 99 to find the one.

Sometimes the Lord would have us go to great lengths, travel great distances, to share Jesus with the lost and hurting. And that’s good, we are commanded to go into all the world to share the good news, that is the great commission. But we are also commanded to love our neighbors as well. Often times we miss what is right in front of us. We can fail to see the person right next to us that desperately needs Jesus, needs rescued, just as much as the fellow from Gadarene that we named Xander.

My wife Donna is good at seeing those people, the lost lambs, and because of that they are drawn to her. She was working with one such young lady at McDonald’s in Billings. Donna had befriended this young lady, a single mother struggling to make ends meet, and this young lady began to pour out her heart to Donna. She had found a safe place to be real.

Donna felt compelled to invite her to come camping with us on our big annual family camp out (Family being used pretty loosely and extending to pretty much everyone we knew.) Since the campsite was not too far from Red Lodge where my church is, and everyone knew me either as family or from church past and present, everyone who was camping planned on coming to our church Sunday morning.

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You know you’re in a mountain town church when you walk in and everyone smells like campfire smoke.

So anyway, this single mother and her one year old daughter, did indeed come camping with us. They had never camped before and Donna invited them to stay with us in the camper we had borrowed. I found this a little awkward but I thought she was  pretty brave to go camping with the preacher’s family, especially since she had never even met me.

Donna told me on Saturday afternoon while we were camping that her young friend said that she probably wasn’t going to go to church the next morning with us. I was suddenly very disappointed. I had only met her the day before but I knew Donna had been loving on her for a while and was very concerned about, and had filled me in on, all heartache and betrayal she had already been through in her young life by her parents and her ex-husband.

Later I saw her and her baby girl sitting at the picnic table in our campsite and I did something I hardly ever do, I sat down across the table from her, and tried to coerce her to come to church with us. I’m just not the kind of person who likes to put someone on the spot.

She didn’t know me, and she actually looked kind of terrified when I sat down across from her. But I looked her in the eye and said: “I hear you aren’t sure about coming to church with us tomorrow. I would really like you to. I know this might sound weird but I really think the Lord gave me the sermon just for you. And if you come I’ll give you one of my books; To My Girls” (Yippee— Hey I was desperate.)

I was desperate because I really did believe that the message I was preaching that Sunday was written just for her. I knew in my heart that she was why God had given me the message titled: You are Loved. To my relief and joy, she came. And she came back the next week, with her sister, both of them giving there hearts to the Lord in that first week or two and both attending quite frequently for a few years driving 60 miles all the way from Billings to Red Lodge to do so.

That young lady is still a big part of our life, her little girl calls me “Granpa” and 8 years later she still loves the Lord with all her heart and soul and is healing from a horrific past as she walks with him and seeks to learn how to live in this messed up world as she tries desperately to see the world through the eyes of Jesus rather than the eyes of a distrusting wounded soul who has every right to be angry and rebellious.

But she has allowed the Lord to still the voices that taunt and haunt.

no tuning back

I had been somewhat amazed for quite some time that she even came that first time, let alone again the next week and that she just kept coming. Especially with what seemed like such an awkward invitation from me, the strange preacher she didn’t know. Maybe it was the book, I don’t know, it had deeply touched many. I was sure love was involved, the love of the Lord, the love of our church family.

Then, one day we were visiting about that day, and she told me that the only reason she came that first Sunday was because I was the first man who had ever talked to her like she was a real person.

I knew she had been hurt and betrayed, seriously betrayed, by the men in her life, but his really startled me; no other man had ever treated you with respect!? —That doesn’t say much for the world we live in, does it?

How sad that people can go through life never feeling like people even see them, at least not as a person. I was kind of startled when she told me that, because of all the reasons I might have come up with for her coming to our little church—and returning— the fact that I had talked to her with the respect that I would give to any other person, would never have been one of them.

Donna saw her, then I saw her, that’s what it boils down to. I saw her through what was no doubt the eyes of the Father, a scared little girl struggling in a big scary world to be a mother and provider despite the worst the world could throw at her, a young woman who needed to know she was loved and that she was not alone. A lost lamb who had been betrayed in the worst way by her own father, her mother and then a husband.

GirlHiding

But Jesus saw her and sent someone to let her know.

We all need that; we all want to be seen;Somebody, anybody—see me for who I really am.” We all share this basic desire, and to some extent I think we all are a little fearful of being truly honest with one another for fear that we will be seen differently, so we either pretend for as long as we can, or we just go full blown; “I no longer care, the hell with y’all!”

At least that’s what we tell ourselves– But inside we are still dying.

The voices are still taunting us; “You are worthless, you deserve nothing but what you got— trust no one and strike first before you get hurt again.” Jesus would tell us otherwise.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?”. . . Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” Luke 7:44. 50

 

Hope meme

 

 

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I am Xander (Still the Voices)

I am the one who hears the one.

Slide1

 

Jesus drew crowds, yet he always saw the one hurting face in the crowd who needed him. This often got him into trouble.

Jesus was always stopping to pick up the broken pieces of humanity that most deemed unworthy of their trouble. Eventually it would be one of his own followers who would turn against him for this as Judas wanted a populist revolution, and he wanted it now. While the Pharisee’s and religious leaders only saw that the ones he seemed to stoop over to help up were the very ones they had kicked aside.

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

Luke 15

Indulge me a bit here as I take a little creative license and get into the head of one of those lost lambs that Jesus had come to save.

Slide2

My name is Xander and I was born in a large city east of the Jordan river. My father was a silver smith who made his fortunes making idols for wealthy clients, little figurines of the many and varied gods that the Greeks had worshiped for millennia.

He was not a kind nor caring man, all he cared about was his silver. His clients were not kind either and the people, having been influenced greatly by the Greek culture brought here by Alexander the Great long ago were a perverse and gregarious lot. My childhood innocence was short lived as I sometimes found myself left alone now and then with one of my father’s clients who abused me in ways I had no words to describe even if anyone did care to hear—no one did.

Early in my teen years I left my father’s home and never looked back. I went North to one of the nearby cities of Decapolis and lived by my wits with other rogues and scam artists on the streets. We survived and the thrill of taking from others, whether it be with our rigged shell games or bogus fortune telling booths, was always a great source of stories as we spent the nights drinking away our ill-gotten coin.

But eventually this life started to seem more and more empty and pointless. There was a restlessness in me that I could not contain, a stirring to find deeper meaning and purpose to my messed up life. I swore I would never have anything to do with the gods my father had exploited as he made his all-consuming wealth by casting their images but there was a temple in this city by the shore that beckoned me—it was the temple of Poseidon, a sea God.Difference-between-Neptune-and-Poseidon2

I went to the temple and was met by a priest who led me inside to worship at the feet of the imposing figure standing within, a bearded giant holding a large fishing trident. This figure, and the feeling of power that the magnificence of this place instilled in me, made me believe that I had found my answer, surely this was a god  that I could relate to.

 

The priest told me that if I placed a silver coin at his feet and prayed the incantation that he revealed to me, my prayers for purpose and guidance would be heard. I did as he instructed. As I lay there prone on the floor before this image I felt a coldness creep into the back of my neck and into my core and I began to hear a voice. It was disconcerting at first but the voice assured me that there were great things in store if I obeyed.

I left there and rejoined my friends but I was a different person; still troubled but no longer alone. The voices guided me and I became the greatest street magician on the plaza and was soon the envy of all my peers. But soon the voices started telling me to do things that seemed just wrong, even for a rogue like me. And they got worse every day until one day I hurt someone in the same way I had been hurt as a child, but this time I was not unseen—everyone was soon shouting for my arrest.

Slide3

They seized me as I struggled, they threw me into an underground cell and chained me. But in that dark hole the darkness inside me grew stronger and eventually I broke my chains, beat my guards senseless and ran—I ran to the seashore, to be close to the home of my god. The only shelter I could find there, the only place I could be away from the others was among the tombs of the dead.

And I lived there for years, taunted by the voices night and day. They were no longer my friends, but now they were my tormentors, telling me night and day that I was not fit to live and driving me to attack all who dared come near and to even hurt myself, cutting myself with sharp stones just to watch the blood flow and to punish myself for being so evil. Strangely I relished the pain because it offered temporary distraction from the pain within.

Slide4

Anointed One

Then one day I found an inscription on one of the tombs in the small Jewish quarter of this graveyard. Chiseled in the stone at the entrance to the tomb were the words:

Slide5

The words were ascribed to a prophet named Isaiah. (Isaiah 61)

I didn’t know who this Isaiah was or who this Lord was. But I had heard that there was a great temple built to him in Jerusalem. But that may as well have been a million miles away from me. The voices in my head and the people of the city would not let me leave the tombs where I lived on fish heads left behind by fisherman and whatever I could steal from the occasional merchant who dared land here unguarded.

But these words on this stone about this anointed Lord, they somehow comforted me and I took to sleeping in the mouth of this tomb. The voices seemed to leave me alone when I was there and I even started to pray to this unknown Lord as best I could as I had no idea what he demanded of his followers, only that I wanted the liberty and healing those words promised.

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The he came, the one from across the sea.

It had been a fitful night. I had dreamed of a great storm at sea with great waves pounding a fishing vessel while lightning bolts crashed all around it as though just taunting the fisherman aboard who dared sail into the night. I saw the spiteful god Poseidon rising above the boat and thrusting his razor sharp trident at the hapless boat and heard the laughter of the voices in my head as they shrieked Kill them, kill the anointed one!  

Then I heard the words, “Peace, be still!” And I awoke with a start as I heard one last great thunderclap in the distant west over from the direction of the sea carried to me by a powerful wind—and then silence, no more thunder, no more wind—and a strange gasp from the voices within.

I spent the rest of the night awake, pondering those words, “Peace be still.” Then, with the sunrise I saw them, the fishermen from my dream and one who stood among them who seemed somehow separate from them.

He didn’t look much different from the countless other fisher and tradesman who had come across Poseidon’s sea, those who survived his storms were usually quick to get ashore and to hurry into the town. Those who didn’t were fair game to the voices in my head who drove me to attack them. But this group was different, they had no goods nor any fish and they seemed unsure of where they were going, except for that one—he just looked in my direction like he was expecting something, ‘well, here I am, I’ll show you whose beach this is.’

Grasping the length of chain still dangling from my wrist and swinging it over my head so that it whistled in the wind, a sound I had learned sent terror into the hearts of men, I ran straight at him. Suddenly the voices in my head started screaming, “No!, turn away!” But another voice, this one seeming to come from deeper within, in my heart, said, this is the one you have been looking for, this is the anointed one.

And when I came within striking distance of him I threw myself at his feet and worshiped him suddenly feeling that same peace I felt when I read those mysterious words on the Jewish tomb.

Free

Deliverance

And then all hell broke loose, the voices in my head screaming in terror that this was the Lord using that same odd Jewish name I had seen inscribed on that tomb. From there it was all a blur as it felt like my soul was being rent in two and I hear the anguished cry of demons and pigs squealing. But the next thing I know I am sitting at his feet, no longer bleeding, no longer naked, and he is telling me how much his Father loves me and how he was sent to find his lost lambs, and to set the captives free.

Slide6

This man from Galilee who had commanded Poseidon’s waves to be still, had stilled the voices in my head and freed my spirit with a word.

As he prepared to leave I begged him to let me come with him but he told me I had a new purpose now, to tell everyone what the anointed one had done for me.

And I have devoted my life to sharing what the Lord did for me with everyone. And every time I tell the story, the painful days seem farther away. And the one who saved me seems closer.

Slide7

 

Jesus Saw beyond the madness, the nakedness, filth and threats and saw a good heart waiting to be rescued

No one loved him, no one cared a whit about himno one that is, except Jesus. Jesus left the 99 to rescue the one.

Love the one.

Just before Jesus and his handful of followers had gotten into the boat to come to this eastern shore of the sea of Galilee he had been surrounded by hundreds, maybe thousands of adoring followers many of whom were proclaiming that they wanted to follow him, they were as enthusiastic as they come: “Here’s our messiah, here’s our leader—our King.

If nothing else, Jesus had an instant Mega church, all he had to do was pitch a big tent and keep telling them stories to make them feel good about themselves, do a few healings, take an offering and go rent a room at the inn and come back tomorrow, he was set —yet he left them and sailed off to find one man— not even an Israelite— who needed him.

the one xander

For those in ministry it’s easy to get caught up in thinking ‘we have to minister to the crowd’. We measure our success by turning around and counting how many people are following us (that Is if you dared turn your back on them in the first place) and then we plan and scheme, we have meetings and take survey’s; “How can we keep all these people coming back and how do we get more?”

Yet time and again we see Jesus leaving and even discouraging the crowds from following. Jesus wasn’t looking for crowds, Jesus was looking for people. Jesus didn’t hear the clamoring choruses of voices singing or crying out in unison all caught up in the momentum of the emotion or excitement, Jesus heard the silent breaking of hearts, the cries of a man living alone in a graveyard. Jesus heard the desperate plea to a God he wasn’t even sure existed from across a sea.

Slide9

In loving the one, you are doing what Jesus did and being obedient to the one command Jesus added, Love one another.

Never grow weary of loving, never stop pursuing the lost, don’t step over the broken pieces of other’s hearts as you go to be with the crowds who seem to have it all together so that you can glean more blessings for yourself.

Pray to see others the way Jesus did, see the ones who are praying to be seen. And in that, find your true purpose and complete your own healing.

If you are that lost lamb, know that you are heard.

 

 

The Dead Ahead II

dead ahead 2

It is not your lot in life, nor the Father’s desire for you, to live in fear of harm.

As a man, a husband and a father I consider it my highest calling in life to provide for and to protect my family, to ensure that they are, and feel, secure. I know that not all of you can relate to a father who really cares about your well being—But you indeed have one. We see him personified in Jesus and can know him through his Holy Spirit. It is His desire that you, His child, should not live in fear. that you can rest easy knowing that things are being taken care of by someone who not only cares, but has the power to take care of things in a perfect way.

Get safe

boat

But—what if you have found yourself saddled with someone who does not care? If you have sailed off to safety with Jesus, away from the dead in your past in that proverbial boat we have been studying, and been met on the opposite shore by the dead and allowed yourself to be deceived by them into trusting them. Like I said last week—If you are not safe, you need to get safe, it is not the will nor the desire of the Lord for you to live in fear or pain, to tolerate or excuse, or to take the blame for someone else’s evil.

You do not deserve to live in pain, you do not deserve to live in fear and if you are now a follower of Jesus—you will recognize that evil just as surely as Jesus did when he confronted the legion of demons who had taken possession of that poor man on the far side of the lake; What is your name?” The demons could not lie to Jesus and had to admit that there were many of them“We are legion” please let us go live with the pigs! How pathetic is that?

“Come out of the man, unclean spirit!” Then He asked him, “What is your name?”

And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10 Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country.

11 Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. 12 So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.”

Mark 5

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And that didn’t last long, Jesus arranged a little burial at sea.

Once we have buried the dead—silenced the voices, we must not allow the enemy to stand in our way or saddle us with new demons and hurts. Not only must the dead stay buried, we must avoid future ensnarement.

That demon possessed man had come out to meet them. According to Matthew’s telling of this same story, these demons had been harassing and preventing people from passing here for some time now, disrupting people’s plans. But the demons quickly recognized that they were the ones who were about to have their plans changed and their day ruined. When Jesus showed up and their host carried them right into His presence they knew they were in trouble and could only beg for a little reprieve from their ultimate end.

This man had attacked everyone else and beat them mercilessly but he runs to Jesus and worships him. The spark of life, the glimmer of hope still alive in his heart recognized that God had heard his anguished cries and somehow knew his redeemer had come—just for him.

Jesus, nor those who love him are not subject to the whims and wiles of the enemy. The disciples had left the dead to bury the dead and they were not going to get bogged down by the dead ahead.

No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. Mark 5

Free

No one was strong enough to subdue him, no one that is, except Jesus— with just a word. Everyone else was dealing with the man, binding him and avoiding the spirit, Jesus was dealing with the spirit and freeing the man.

Jesus Saw beyond the madness, the nakedness, filth and threats and saw a good heart waiting to be rescued, a heart that was so tormented and in such pain that he spent his nights crying out alone in the graveyards, who was in such anguish that he cut himself with sharp rocks and was so hopeless and forlorn that he only sought to hurt others while they only sought to bind him and keep him away from them.

No one loved him, no one cared a whit about himno one that is, except Jesus. Jesus left the 99 to rescue the one.

Jesus didn’t just protect the disciples from a demoniac, he delivered the demoniac—a man created in is image—he set him free and cured his heart. Because—Jesus is fiercely protective of his children; all his children.

35 Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36 They also who had seen it told them by what means he who had been demon-possessed was healed. Luke 8:35,36

story

You are safe with Jesus, there is no need to fear the dead, nor the demons, that taunt from behind and will keep trying to cut you off in your journey with the Savior. Keep pushing forward, keep trusting, be as innocent as lambs and as wily as coyotes and as bold as lions as you traverse the many trails ahead. The road is wide that leads to destruction while the path that leads to salvation is narrow, but it is a path that is well lit and secured by Jesus, the one who will never leave you nor forsake you.

Find your freedom. Embrace the barbarian in you!

Barbarian woman wolf

The Dead Ahead

What happens when the demons of the past give way to the demons waiting for you on the other shore?

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Let the dead bury their own dead, you go proclaim the Kingdom of God.”

In the gospel story we have been following the last few weeks, those who made the commitment to leave the dead in spirit behind, who had left the chaos of Peter’s house where an impromptu healing and deliverance crusade had taken place, getting into a boat to sail for the other shore of the Sea of Galilee, survived a devastating storm that only subsided with the command from Jesus “Peace be still!” finally made it safely to the other shore. And so they lived happily ever after in Never Never Land. Never to worry, never to fear or be in want again—right?

Oh wait, that’s just the modern day church’s evangelism friendly version. Let’s look at the Jesus version;

Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones. Mark 5:1—5

afraid

So the chosen few, those who have answered the call to follow, committed to follow wherever Jesus led them without even the assurance of a place to lay their heads at night. They have left behind the past, leaving the dead to bury the dead, they have survived the storm which turned out to be no big deal after all, because they just happened to be sailing with the creator himself—they get to the other shore and are met by a man— who is stark raving mad. He has been living literally among the dead, in the tombs, he is demon possessed and as evil as they come.

Again, Jesus just seems to be going out of his way to make it challenging for people to follow him. They left the dead and ran smack into a maniac, a man whom, not only hurt himself, but also attacked everyone who came this way.

So—to follow this narrative that has been unfolding these last few weeks—we have been learning to not allow anything to hinder us from being obedient to the call to follow, not let anything or anyone stop us, to leave our fears, the lies and hurts of the past —spoken to us by the dead— behind. And to keep our eyes on Jesus as he leads us safely away from those who would hurt us.

In a nutshell, we have been learning how to leave the demons of the past behind us. So to me this story leads me to ask: Okay, we’ve escaped the demons of the past and moved on; “What happens when the demons are waiting for you on the other shore?”

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Powerless dead

It’s something we all fear. You don’t have to follow Jesus very long before you realize that not everyone else shares your new found enthusiasm for all things good and your desire to shun things you now realize are harmful. This of course leads to the next fear, especially for those who have been victimized by those who are influenced by an impure spirit -‘What is to prevent me from becoming victimized again?’ ‘How can I be safe?’ “I have left the dead, but what about the dead ahead?”

This is the only instance in the gospels where Jesus engages in a conversation with the demons. He usually commands them to silence. I think he did that to prove a point, he was teaching the disciples with him the same thing he is trying to teach us;

Yes, there are demons here, and there are demons ahead. Their influence will be around as they continue to deceive, use, and abuse all who do not yet know the truth. But do not let them deceive you ever again.’ ‘They cannot harm you, in fact they are afraid of you.’

I do not fear meme

Jesus allowed this demon to speak so that there would be no mistake, and no missing what was going on here, this man, someone’s son, was out of control, his life was no longer his. This man was possessed by had a whole host of demons living in him. Yet this legion of demons— enough to possess a herd of 2 thousand pigs and had exerted unfettered control over this wretched man— they were afraid of Jesus. They begged for mercy.

What a stark contrast for all who witnessed this, the swine herders and locals, who had lived in fear of this man, and the Jewish disciples who had lived their lives totally at the mercy of every demon spirit who had influenced them, and all those around them, all their lives.

Now they see these terrible, fearful, all powerful demons, fearing for their very existence and begging for a reprieve from what they know Jesus has full authority and power to do to them, and that is to throw them into the abyss as they await their consignment to the lake of fire.

“What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.”

For He said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!” 

Mark 5

(Have you come to torture us before the appointed time? Mat 8)

Jesus was making sure all understood, that in any and all places, whether riding out a storm or facing agents of the devil himself— they were safe if they were with him.

Safety

Jesus understood that one of the most basic of all human desires is the desire to be safe, to feel safe and to know that we are protected and can defend ourselves against evil. So what does he do? He brings them through a storm and then face to face with a naked bleeding maniac dragging chains behind him like a rabid Pit Bull who has broken his chain just as you were walking by on the sidewalk.

And again, Jesus is not rattled, he does not panic nor tell his followers to run, he simply tells the demons to take a hike like he is telling a disobedient child to go sit in the time out corner. And the fearful demons whimper and complain like unruly kindergartners who have had their snack time taken away.

If this doesn’t prove to the disciples that they have nothing to fear as long as they are with him, nothing will. The Psalm of David—which these Jewish men surely knew—suddenly takes on a whole new meaning and becomes very real to them.

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer. My God, my strength in who I will trust. My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Ps 18:2

Jesus was indeed their shield; I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t even hiding behind him.

But Jesus was also demonstrating to them what they would be able to do as well, as he would impart on them his Holy Spirit, they would be not just safe, but they would also be those who would rescue others. No need to fear the dead, not the dead behind them nor the dead ahead of them.

He would say the same to you.

Barbarian woman wolf

Find Your Freedom- Barbarians in the Kingdom

Bury the Dead

“They made their choice and if they are inflicting pain, … you need to leave them behind and let them bury one another.”

bury teh dead

Early in Jesus’ ministry he is traveling around teaching people, healing many and drawing huge crowds. He ends up at Peter’s house; probably to eat and rest. But they arrive to find his Mother in Law is sick so he touches her and heals her. Word quickly gets out— ‘Jesus is at Peter’s house’; and people are flocking to him for healing and deliverance and he heals them all and drives out many demons.

After a while as the crowd was growing alarmingly large, he gets up and says to his closest disciples:  “Come onWe’re going to go to the other side of the lake.”  Jesus apparently turns to another and invites him along, but this man hesitates for reasons only Jesus can see.

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:59—60

Walking down to the nearby shore Jesus then gets into the boat with those who have decided to leave it all behind, probably the twelve, who are surely thinking about now; “Man, we are the chosen few, the ones who are going to ride this train to glory!”  You can almost hear Willie Nelson sing in the background: “Blue skies shining on me, nothing but blue skies do I see.”

They cast off with visions of the Kingdom Come in their heads —and sail— right into a storm. “Where’s Jesus? Asleep? Ahhh, we should have stayed behind with those others who are safe and dry in their own beds tonight!” “Lord don’t you care that we are about to drown?”

They chose to follow the one who was bringing wholeness and life to those he touched, they left behind the dead—all who refused or were unwilling to give up their pasts—the things they had always counted on to be their provision—and now they had sailed right into possibly one of the worst storms these men who had grown up on this inland sea had ever seen.

Woman and tornado

‘What kind of a deal is this? Did you bring us into the desert to see us perish of thirst?’ No wait, that was Moses. ‘Did you take us from our homes and our families just to see us drown in the sea?’

Storm

I have never been in a storm at sea but I can imagine how frightening it must be. Sitting in a small wooden ship, about half the size of a Viking long ship and not nearly as flexible, getting drenched by the rain and the waves as the wind drives you farther and farther from shore. And the only place to go? Into the churning water that holds only darkness and death, a merciless and terrifying tomb that hungers for the living like a doorway to Hades itself.

That’s what these guys are facing. ‘I thought following Jesus, the miracle man, the Messiah, our long awaited king, would make us impervious to harm, where did this come from? I want my money back!’

So here are the followers of Jesus, who left all behind, now thinking, “This is it! We’re going to be swamped and drown.” A fisherman’s worst nightmare. But what they still didn’t understand was just who it was that they were with. This storm was nothing. They were still thinking as those who were still back in the past, who were still living with, subject to, and even one of —the dead. We’ll never overcome this, we’ve been told all our lives to be careful, to not get caught out too far from shore when a storm is brewing—why are we even here?!’

But they are no longer amongst the dead nor one of them. They were now counted amongst the living, in the very presence of life itself, the creator and giver of life, yet they still feared death. How quickly they had forgotten., how quickly they had lost faith.

Where’s your faith?

be still

The disciples had just spent the day with Jesus seeing one miracle after another. And that very same evening they are in a storm fearing for their lives and what do they do? They panic— “We have to wake up Jesus! How can he possibly be sleeping at such a time as this?  “Don’t you caredon’t you care that we are going to drown?”

“Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” That’s a huge question.

Why are we so afraid? We forget what we are leaving behind, we forget the impossible hopeless situations we have seen God take care of with just a word and we forget who we are with. We are afraid of things that now have no power to hurt us.

Demons, people who have hurt us, financial difficulties, we get bogged down in fear and doubt by worries and unforgiveness— voices and faces that come back to taunt us—the dead. We fear the dead.

The dead keep taunting us, their voices alive in our heads. Which is why Jesus told the disciple back in Capernaum; “Let the dead bury their own dead.”

“Lord, don’t you want us to take care of our families, don’t you want us to honor our fathers?” Yes, but nothing can excuse disobedience and here was God in the flesh telling this man to come with him and here is this man making excuses, using what seems a noble task as an excuse for disobedience.

Jesus was asking this man to put him first, to not be dissuaded from following him by those who choose not to follow, to listen to his voice over the voice of man—even his own father. The man was worried about security, about his inheritance, let me be a diligent son and heir and I’ll catch up with you later…

Get Safe

Listen to this—Those behind us, whether it’s family, friends, employers, teachers, even church leaders—anyone who has pulled at you, planted seeds of doubt in your mind, outright hurt you with words, or blows that bruised more than your flesh, who left wounds that pain you to this day—they are the dead that we must leave behind.

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They made their choice and if they are inflicting pain, then they are not following Jesus, they are following their own flesh. If they claim to be following Jesus but are not bearing the fruit of that life in Christ, then they are living as those who are dead and—listen carefullyyou need to leave them behind and let them bury one another.

You get free, go and proclaim the kingdom of God to those who will hear it, among those to whom Jesus leads you. Staying in a place of hurt out of a sense of duty is not the will of God, is not an acceptable sacrifice, it is disobedience. Jesus is saying to you: “Come follow me. Get into the boat and let’s cross this big lake and get away from this clamoring mob who would drag you down and suck all they can out of you. Let’s get away from the voices of those who care only for themselves while pretending to love.”

get away

 

Make of that what you will— I will let the Holy Spirit fill in the rest in your hearts as only he can do.

 

Follow, Today!

no tuning back

One thing the Bible makes clear—especially the teachings of Jesus—is the need to be in the present— while looking forward— with hope, to the future. We can’t rest on our laurels, nor can we fear the future because of the past. We must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.

…a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

… He said to another man, “Follow me.”

… Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord…  

62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:57- 61

All these would be followers only offered lip service. They all wimped out. Content to be parasites looking for sympathy to their issues but unwilling to take steps that would bring them to a better, even if unknown, place. But Jesus was going places, he didn’t have time to wallow in their mud with them.

Three instances, stacked up on top of each other here by the gospel writer—boom, boom, boom— of people who claimed they wanted to follow Jesus, yet Jesus seemingly shot them down.

Now, we know that Jesus would never discourage anyone from following him and wanted all to know him and be saved, so that makes this all the more startling. We could just write it off as Jesus not being seeker sensitive but we also know that Jesus loved all people so we can only come to the conclusion that there is a lot more going on here.

We have to remember that we are talking about Jesus, the Son of God who knew the thoughts and the hearts of people he was dealing with. So certainly he knew the hearts of these men who came to him eager to follow— to make a good show of enthusiasm for his cause— but Jesus knew their enthusiasm would soon turn to disappointment and resentment when they began to realize the cost of following this itinerant preacher with no home and with no intention of placating the demands of his followers, and who was ready to lay down his life both literally and figuratively and would expect the same of his followers.

The other day I told you there are those who do not want to be healed, to move ahead and away from the pain, they are parasites on the rear ends of those who bring good news. Butt parasites—or life suckers as I call them—never lay down their lives, they only expect that of others.

So yeah, there is a lot going on here as Jesus looks into the eyes of these breathless people caught up in the moment and sees beyond the anticipation of quick rewards and change and he sees that they are not ready or truly willing to let go of the things behind them. I know this surely made Jesus sad because he knew that the things they were not willing to let go of were paltry and tenuous compared to what he was offering. The best lie ahead but they were unwilling to risk the known for the unknown.

lasting fruit

You are not one of those who desire pain, nor do you deserve it. You are beloved of God and he delights in your willingness to seek him and hear.

Today, my beloved, is the day of your salvation.

Words are Real

“…here’s the deal; you have to want healing and deliverance.”

no tuning back

There’s an old saying we learn as kids; “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

That’s a lie, a lie we tell ourselves and the bullies in our lives to try and take away their power over us, the power of the words they sling. Because I will bet each and every one of you can remember nearly every mean and insulting thing that someone said about you when you were in grade school, middle school, High school, and beyond.

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And you hear those voices over and over again, when you look in the mirror and see whatever it was someone deemed irregular and weird about your appearance and just wish you could change the face you see. You hear those voices when you fail to live up to your own expectations of yourself because someone long ago labeled you as lazy, stupid, worthless, whatever—you are still trying to prove those voices wrong.

The bruises and scratches of sticks and stones will heal quickly, but the wounds inflicted by words never do. Well, that’s a lie also. We serve a God who gets the final say in our lives—if we’ll let him, if we’ll let him still those other voices.

We’re going to spend the next month or so revisiting a series of teachings I first did three years ago now, that had a powerful impact on many in my church and in my larger online ministry. I ended up labeling the series Still the Voices as it became evident that the Lord was using it to coax us away from the things of the past—the voices— the memories—that haunt us and taunt us, and to walk in the freedom of our healing; spiritual and emotional healing, one and the same in my book.

We are after all, spiritual beings housed for the time being in a body of frail and ever failing flesh. Flesh that also houses a heart that can be hardened, corrupted and deceived into doing foolish and even horrible things to another and can give us any number of reasons to give up either because of what we have done, or because of what has been done to us.

Because words are the primary weapon of the sexual predator–“Don’t tell anyone, no one will believe you, this is normal, no one else will love you…” –this series ultimately ended up dealing with the hard issue of sexual abuse and I was stunned by what I learned in the process and the prevalence of this evil in the lives of so many. One of the things that stunned me the most, or should I say troubled me the most, was in regards to the church overall and their refusal to deal with this hard issue. But, I was never one to shy away from a challenge, especially if it’s one others fear.

offend you

“Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. . . .

67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”

68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. John 6: 61—68

My prayer and purpose in this series is that the voices of the past, the voices of today, the voices that have shaped each and every one of us and echo constantly in our heads; voices—strange and complex creatures that we are—that God has used for good to encourage who he created us to be, that they take root.

But that the voices that have been used by the enemy to discourage and disturb, that they are indeed stilled. That those negative and poisonous voices would no longer have sway over us and prevent us from being all that God created us to be and has planned for us.

Words of the past planted deep within us can be as fresh and present as the day they were first spoken. Our souls are eternal and words that touch our souls have no past or present—they just are. But we have a God who is the Lord of the past as well as the present and the future. A God who calls us to follow, to not turn back and to trust as he leads us into our tomorrows and our ultimate victory in him.

There is no going back. Once you start following Jesus all else is meaningless apart from him.

But here’s the deal; you have to want healing and deliverance. Some people, sadly, prefer to be the perpetual victim. And no matter how much prayer, council and love they consume, they will always continue to cling to pain. It becomes their identity. You are created for better and the freedom is yours to claim—just do it. Be the messenger of good news, not the parasite on the backside of the messengers.

hear and be healed

Don’t be a butt parasite—hear and be healed.

Offended yet? – Good, it means I’m hitting home. If not, I’ll keep trying.

Tired of being the victim? Stay tuned.

Barbarians in the Kingdom

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