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Dealing With Temptation

Gardens in the Bible our often seen to be dangerous places. In the very first chapter of the Bible we are told that God made a garden and it was perfect. He put Adam and Eve in it and He told them that they could eat of any of the fruit He put in it except for the fruit of one tree he called, The tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Unable to withstand the temptation, and they disobeyed God and as a result physical and spiritual death came upon the human race. In a sense God has also placed us in a garden, what I mean by that there are temptations growing in the centre of our own personal situations also. How do you master temptation it, or just as important how do you stop it creeping up and taking you by surprise, and then mastering you. How is it that so many Christians are overtaken by temptation before they even noticed it creeping up on them? There is another garden in the bible and that Garden was called Gethsemane and what happened there is important because it stands as an illustration of how potentially we can all be overcome by temptation.

The first part of the passage begins with Jesus predicting something when He says; “You will all fall away”. Then he quotes a passage from (Zac 13:9), which says, when the shepherd is struck down the sheep are scattered. Jesus before he has even been arrested states He is going to be deserted, He is going to die and be resurrected again, but He will meet up with them again. So, even though they fall away and desert Him those actions will not end His relationship with them. He is telling them there can still be a reunion even after you mess up or fall away. Peter reply to Jesus is to say what you just said applies to everyone apart from him. His response is to say, ‘Even if I had to die with you, I will never disown you Peter is saying look Lord, that may be true of the others, but I am the exception to the rule.

The second part of the passage that takes us into the Garden of Gethsemane. From there Jesus selects Peter, James and John, and says, “you come with me” and he goes deeper into the garden among the olive trees and He says to them, “Stay here and keep watch.” We are then told he goes off to pray and becomes, “deeply distressed” to the point where and says,  ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death .

What is it that troubles Him? What makes Him deeply distressed? He is overwhelmed by something He refers to as “this Cup”. The expression “this cup” was used in the Old Testament (Jer 25) to describe the judgement cup of God on sin. Jesus fully understands what He must face. He is going to take upon Himself our sin, the sin of the world, so that the judgement of God might fall upon our sin, that he is bearing, so that we might walk free. Not just our individual sin, but the sin of every single human being who has ever walked this planet. A preacher I heard once said it this way, “Jesus choose to go to hell for you rather than go to heaven without you”. He choose to be separated from God, so we wouldn’t have to be.

The text continues; 37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping (By the way this is the same Peter who just a moment ago said, “I would die for you. Willing to die for the Lord, one minute, but couldn’t even stay awake and pray and watch out for Him. How many Christians are willing to die for the Lord on Sunday morning, but “Spiritually fall asleep” Monday to Saturday”. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” indeed. It was important that they did not fall asleep because the next verse tells us what happened next.

43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him.

It was customary for a student to greet a teacher or a Rabbi with a kiss, so no one who have interpreted this as anything unusual. However, on this occasion, it serves as a single to the authorities as to which one is Jesus. So, Judas betrays the Lord with a kiss How do the disciple gets on now, will they stand firm and remain loyal?

 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.

By verse 50 every one of them had deserted him, just as He has said in verse 27 ‘“I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.”  That’s’ why I tied these passages together. It starts with a prediction and ends with its fulfilment. But in the middle of these events Jesus entreats them to pray, in order that, the might not fall into temptation and fall away. What this tells me, if you want to avoid succumbing to temptation, then pray before temptation appears. Pray as a way of warding off temptation. They didn’t pray when they should have, and they fell away. Instead of overcoming temptation, they were overcome by temptation. The way to overcome temptation is of through prayer. When the moment of testing for Jesus came He prayed and submitted to the will of God. Peter slept through what should have been a prayer time and because of that rather than endure the test, he failed. Jesus when facing an emotional crisis, prayed, and having prayed He was able to submit to the will of God. Peter didn’t pray, and he fell, and then he fled. Will you pray, so that you can stand up to temptation and so that you don’t fall when temptation comes?

The great lesson of this passage is wake up and pray before the temptation arises. Remember the Lord Prayer, “lead us not into temptation”. He is telling us to pray about temptation before it strikes, before we fall and mess things up. Don’t wait until your standing in the middle of the consequences of a wrong action before you start to pray.

Three ministers were talking about the appropriate position one should take for prayer. As they were talking a telephone repairman was working in the background repairing the church manse telephone system. One said I hold my hands together and point them upward. The second said real prayer should be conducted on your knees. The third said that they were both wrong, the only correct position for prayer was flat out face down on the floor. By this time the phone repairman just couldn’t keep quiet any longer and he said this. I discovered that the most powerful prayer I ever made was one I prayed whilst dangling upside down by me heals from a telephone pole 40 feet above the ground. Now I pray every day before I go up the ladder.

Hear me and hear me well if you find yourself spiritually hanging upside down 40 feet above the ground, then it’s definitely time to pray. However, in future resolve to always pray before you go up the ladder.

Let’s pray now.

Dealing With Guilt.

Are there thoughts in the back of your mind that trouble you this week? Guilt has a way of affecting us in ways that we are not even aware of.

There is a story in the bible about a man who had a guilty conscience and I suspect guilt can affect us, in the same way as it affected this man. It doesn’t matter that this man lived around 2000 years ago.

Herod had not personally known Jesus, but he heard about him and when he heard about Jesus, being a superstitious man, he thought that John the Baptist must have risen from the dead and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him. (Mark 6:14). How in the world did he reach a conclusion like that? The text tells us what other people were thinking at the time. (OHP 4) DR 15 Others said, ‘He is Elijah.’ (now the Old Testament did indeed say that Elijah would come again, in fact many people though John the Baptist was Elijah, but John the Baptist denied that, so) And still others claimed, ‘He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.’ 16 But when Herod heard this, he said, (No, that’s no right, this is) ‘John, whom I beheaded, (and) he has been raised from the dead!’(Mark 6: 15-17) We now begin to get an insight to how he has jumped to this conclusion. Herod was feeling guilty for having beheading John.One commentator said, “he believed John had come back from the dead to condemn him for what he knew was an illegal act”. (Mark 6: 17-18)

Herod Antipas, had converted to Judaism, whilst at the same time knowing the taking a wife of even a half-brother whilst the brother was alive was forbidden under both Jewish law and current social thinking. Even so he divorced his wife and then he married Herodias and that’s the beginnings of this series of events.  John the Baptist then comes along and basically says you know the Mosaic law forbids this. John the Baptist confronts him and says, just because you are king does not give you a get out of jail card for this offence. Herod’s reaction is to have him arrested However, “Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him”. (Mark 6: 19) Herod’s wife is furious that he had told her husband he had committed a sin by marrying her and she nurses a grudge and that leads to vindictiveness that in turn leads to the desire to kill him Herod was probably also aware that the people respected John the Baptist and he feared there might be an uprising if he had him executed. Mark 6 21-22 then tells us; Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests”.

This is not Herod daughter, it his new wife’s daughter, her daughter from a previous relationship, most probably the daughter of his own brother. For the daughter of a king, a Princess to come in and dance a sensuous dance in front of the great and the good including the leading men of Galilee, was scandalous. One commentator I read said, “She exposed and demeaned her daughter because such dances were the art of the professional prostitute only”. The mother is so angry, so vindictive, that when this birthday party happens she saw an opportunity to literally prostitute her daughter to gain control over her husband.

The men didn’t mind though, and neither did Herod after all it wasn’t his own daughter. Herod is so aroused by the dance, he says to his step-daughter; ‘Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.’ and he promised her with an oath, ‘Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.’(Mark 6: 22-23)

 This may sound outlandish, but do you think this is the first time a man in a group men drinking to excess have ever made an outlandish claim or promise.  Further proof that her own Mother had put her up to this and as when given the opportunity she quick as can be she says, right now, “Give me the head of John the Baptist”. Note the speed at which they act, they don’t give Herod much time to think about this or change his mind. Her entire focus is to eliminate the one man who had the courage to confront her with her sin, and to do it by any means no matter how depraved.

A question worth considering for a minute is, could Herod have got out of this? Could he have resisted the pressure to do this? Could he have found some way to get out of this. Maybe you could argue that he shouldn’t have made this stupid promise to begin with, but the fact is he did, and he then succumbed to social pressure. Herod was indeed a wicked man, but there is something else going on here. Herod was also a weak man and one can often lead to the other. Herod simply did not have the moral courage to do what was right. He crumbled under the influence of a wicked woman, combined with the social expectations and the peer pressure of those around him.

What should we do when we feel such pressures? We should recognise those pressures when them come and allow them to push us towards the Lord. It is when we lean on the Lord we are given the strength to resist those pressures Many of us have responded to peer group pressure in our lives. Many of us have gone and done things we shouldn’t have for fear of what others might say or think. Many people have done things far worse than they ever planned to do just because they feared the laughter or rejection of their so called friends. Even noted Atheist H G Wells noticed this when he said; “The trouble with so many people is that the voice of their neighbours sounds louder in their ears than the voice of their conscience”.

Herod has John the Baptist killed, out of moral weakness but the starting point of all this was when Herod jumped to the conclusion that John the Baptist had come back from the dead because he felt guilty. This story is really about the consequences of guilt and the catastrophic affects it can have if it is not dealt with.  The problem is when people are fearful, angry or guilty, they can’t think straight. Herodias was angry and that drove her to degrade her daughter and bring about the death of John the Baptist. When any of us are angry we are very inclined to not think straight and even do stupid or terrible things. The big point of this story is guilt because that’s what sin does for you it makes you guilty and feeling guilty also makes you not think straight and makes you more likely to do the wrong things and make more wrong choices.

It affects the way you think, it makes you react out of emotion and you stop making rational decisions. Unresolved guilt means you become conflicted in everything you do, and the voice of the devil in your ears tells you are a hypocrite. However, the good news for everyone is that there is a solution to guilt.

First and foremost, you need to trust the Lord, because when you do that you are given the ultimate defence against guilt. The bible is very clear about that when it says;

There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)

Many Christians I know have trusted in Christ, however, when they fall into sin, feel guilty. So, what do you do when you’re a Christian and you sin. The first thing you should do is confess it privately to the Lord, because;.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

The word confess, just means to repeat something back. You don’t have to seek out a religious leader in order to do it either. In the case of sin, you just look at what you did, and call it what it is before the Lord. It wasn’t an error, it wasn’t a lack of judgement, it was sin. By confessing it out loud all you are doing is agreeing with what God already knows it is. The word confession confuses people, it just means your acknowledging what it is you have done and saying you don’t want to do it any more. It sometimes helps to do that with another Christian, but you should only do this if you have complete confidence in that person, so they can support you and hold you to account if you fall back into that particular sin.

 What happens if we refuse to live that way and refuse to acknowledge our sin:

10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1: 10)

Be clear headed about these things do what 1 John 1: 9 says and, “confess your sins, and He will be faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Don’t pretend you have not sinned, when you know you have because in doing so you make God out to be a liar”. When you get it wrong just acknowledge it and make sure you don’t do the same thing again in the future. Don’t live in denial, confess your sin and go do what is right. Guilt is the most corrosive of things because it makes a person not think straight. People will bend there thinking process to the point of breaking rather than deal with their guilt. They will live in denial, they will rationalise, they will justify, to carry on doing what they are doing, rather than just do what’s right. That’s the key, choose your direction for your life. When it comes to moral choices, you also need to choose the right path. Choose to be free of Guilt and confess you sin before God Call it what it is and accept the path of repentance and forgiveness. Choose the right path, to release you from feeling guilty about your past, and to protect you, and prevent you from feeling guilty in the future. Choose the path every day of being and becoming a follower of Christ.

May God Bless you this week.

God always has time for you.

As a young child I often wondered how God could be in more than one place at one time. As a Christian you may be beyond asking such a question, but on other occasions I have heard Christian believers say. “There is no need to pray for me, you don’t need to trouble God with my insignificant problems, he has better things to do -He has a whole world to look after”.

Have ever felt that your problems are too insignificant for God to worry about. I would like to speak into that perspective, because there is something that happened when Christ walked on this earth that vividly illustrates a response to that way of thinking.  Mark chapter 5 is an interesting section of scripture, no less because it starts by telling us a story about the ruler of the local synagogue and his sick daughter. Then in the midst of that story the narrative is suddenly interrupted by the actual intrusion of an sick woman into the proceeding. A woman suffering with what we would today call an uncontrollable haemorrhage literally pushes her way into this story.

Jesus again finds himself surrounded by a large crowd pressing in to get his attention, when then ruler of the local synagogue comes, and we are told he pleads with Jesus saying,

“My little daughter is dying. Please come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.”

However, this story is put on hold because the crowd “thronged” Jesus, and then;

 “A certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse”.

This lady had a problem that was very, very serious not just physically but socially, as well. The physical problem is obvious she suffered from continual bleeding. The social problem was that according to the Mosaic law a woman who was bleeding was declared ceremonially unclean and anybody she touched or came into contact with was also automatically ceremonially unclean. These two seemingly separate narratives together show a massive contrast in the people Jesus interacts with.  We have a ruler of the synagogue a highly respected member of the community. A man who would have been in charge of maintaining the rules to insure the community remained ceremonially clean. In juxtaposition to that we have this woman who is a social outcast and had been ceremonially unclean for at least 12 years because of her illness. Worse even than that because the text tells us she had suffered at the hands on doctors, she had spent all her money and was no better, in fact she had got worse. She understandably felt hopeless, but then….

“She heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment.  For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.”

She had probably heard he was healing the sick, but it seems to me her first thought was probably, “I can see he is in the middle of dealing with the ruler of the Synagogue”. I don’t want to interrupt him, he is too busy with important people. What if, she thought, I just touch the hem of his garment as he passes by, that will be enough. So, with a mustard seed of faith she makes her way through the crowd and she touched Jesus, and this happened…

 “Immediately her bleeding stopped, and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.”  

Jesus responds to her by saying;

“Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed of your affliction.”

 Notice he called her “daughter”, then he says, “your faith has made you well”. There is much more going on here than just a physical healing.

At this point the narrative goes back to the ruler of the synagogue and some people come from his house and tell him, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”

There was never even a thought that anything more could be done about this, they knew he could heal, but it had never even entered their minds that he could raise the dead.  “As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.

Jesus take just three disciples with him to see the daughter of Jairus, his inner circle, so to speak, Peter James and John. When they arrive, the family are just beside themselves with grief because they believe she is dead.  Jesus’ response to this situation is he says, “The child is not dead but sleeping.” Let me be categorically here, this girl is dead, really dead! However, if that is so, when why did Jesus say, she was sleeping. This is because in the New Testament, the death of a believer in Christ is said to be no more than soul sleep.  When Lazarus had died and had been entombed for four days, the word Jesus used then is the same as the one used today, on both occasions he said they were asleep. The literal translation of the word cemetery means sleeping place. (from the Latin coemētērium or the Greek koimētḗrion a sleeping place).

Jesus then takes the girl by the hand and says, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.  Then this happens

 “Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement. But He commanded them strictly that no one should know it and said that something should be given her to eat.”

In both of these current situations there is more going on in these situations that just physical healing. Sometimes Jesus worked miracles as a way of confirming who he was and authenticating his message. Sometimes he just healed people out of compassion. However, sometimes he did it to communicate spiritual truths. Physical healing was on some occasions an illustration of spiritual healing and salvation. At the point of healing Jesus called the woman, daughter? That’s because he did more than heal her physically, he spiritually adopted her. Furthermore, he said, your faith has saved you. Granted he had saved her from the effect of the disease, but these words also echo spiritual salvation. This woman was not only healed, this woman at that moment was made right with God, she became a child of God.

In both cases it was their faith that made them well. Jesus is on his way to heal the dying daughter of a highly respected leader of civil society, and he stopped to heal a social outcast. (Who had faith). Jesus always pauses to pay attention to those who have faith. The critical part of this story I believe lies in recognising the contrast between the highly respected member of society and this social outcast. She was nobody, he was a somebody. He was wealthy, she was broke. He was important, she felt unimportant, but they both had faith. She may have even felt too unimportant for Jesus to care about her, but she didn’t let that thought have the final say. This man was a highly respected member of the community, but he has humility enough to say to Jesus, help me, please come to my house.

Maybe sometimes you too think, I’m not important enough to trouble God with my problems. That may sound self-effacing but maybe that’s just another way of saying, God doesn’t care about me.

Yes he does. Just have faith.

The Lord has time and pays attention to anyone who believes in him. In this case both the poor old woman and the wealthy influential man with the dying daughter had faith, and Jesus paid attention to them. God’s got time for you, and all you have to do to get his attention is to believe in Him and ask him to help.


Dealing with the Demons in Your Life

(Mark 5: 1-20)

People sometimes speak about the demons in their lives. It’s not an expression I like to use, because I actually believe it is factually incorrect when it come to the life of a Christian believer. Many people who say this usually mean that there is something unhealthy in their lives that is controlling them. In Mark’s gospel accounts Jesus is seen to deal with real demons If we look at one of the episodes when he deals with a demon possessed man perhaps we can learn something that will help us deal with those areas of our lives where we feel we are not in control.

Jesus and the disciples had got in a boat and had set off to cross the lake to the other side during the crossing Jesus calmed a storm and now we find them across the lake to the east to an area of the Gerasenes. When they arrive, they encounter someone who is described as having an unclean spirit. This is a man who is profoundly disturbed, he is also violent to the point where people have felt the need to tie him up in chains and even those chains did not hold him. He broke free and he headed for the hills where he lived amongst the tombs, and he would cry out night and day. To make matters even worse, he is cutting himself, self-harming. This man is out of control, violent and was now living wild among the tombs.

There is no evidence in the bible that people get demon possessed against their wills. This situation doesn’t happen without the person somehow cooperating in it. The bible clearly forbids anything to do with messing around with the demonic forces or what we today would call the occult. In the Pentateuch the book of Deuteronomy lists demonic activities that you should not participate in because of the potential consequences. Things like fortune telling, card reading, and seances are all forbidden because they are spiritually dangerous. Today there are those who openly admit to being participants in things like witchcraft and Satanism and are unashamed to say so. Such people are inviting intensely dangerous spiritual consequences upon themselves similar to what we see Jesus dealing with here. However, demon possession described in the bible is a completely different thing from what we today usually recognize as mental illness today.

However, the Bible is clear that all of us are at risk of becoming susceptible to coming under demonic influences. Let me give you a couple of biblical standards to see what it actually means to come under demonic influence. It may be slightly different that you imagined. The book of Timothy gives us a litmus test of what being influenced by the demonic is.

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. (Tim 4:1)

One form of demonic influence is the teaching of false religious doctrine. We cannot afford to get complacent even Peter was accused of giving voice to a doctrine inspired by Satan himself. Jesus had just told him  “I am going to Jerusalem, I am going to be killed, crucified in fact, and I am going to be raised from the dead”. And Peter then says, “no, no Lord. that not going to happen”. You’re not going to be killed, none of these things are going to happen and Jesus says, “Get thee behind me Satan” Any doctrine of faith that excludes the death and resurrection of Jesus, Christ himself said it is inspired by Satan. Is there any other way we can be influenced by a demon?

‘In your anger do not sin’: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4: 26-2)

  This warning is not saying we can never be angry, there is such a thing as righteous anger, but we should never let anger fester because if we do we give the devil a foothold? The bible is telling us if you let the sun go down on anger or unforgiveness you open yourself up to being influenced by the devil. By allowing bitterness or anger to fester for more than a day you invite demonic influences into your life. If you hold a grudge, or harbour unforgiveness, you are coming under demonic influence.

The Lord turns his attention to the demons, or to be more accurate they turn their attention to him.

When he (That’s the demon possessed man) saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. (Prostrated/submitted) 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 don’t torture me!’  For (This was because) Jesus had said to him, ‘Come out of this man, you impure spirit!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘My name is Legion,’ he replied, ‘for we are many.’ 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. (Mark 5: 6-10)

Jesus’ conversation is with the demons, not with the man. Don’t torment us they beg and don’t send us out of the area. This passage makes a point of saying this man lived “among the tombs”. Therefore, what the demons are saying is don’t caste us out of this area because we are at home among the tombs. They then make a third request of Jesus.

11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, ‘Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.’(Mark 5: 11-12)

Please note, the demons didn’t know what Jesus planned to do, the demons have no insight into the plans or purposes of Jesus. It’s good to know the devil doesn’t have any idea of the future plans or purposes of God. That’s a great comfort to me, and it should be to any Christian. The bible teaches that Satan cannot control our minds. Satan can only influence or react to what we do, he cannot make us do anything, but that also means you can’t blame him for your incorrect choices. He can encourage you to make wrong choices and tempt you to journey in the wrong direction, but you are always responsible for the choices you make. Satan’s plan has always been to spiritually destroy and he usually does this one of the two ways. Either by getting you to accept lies or false teachings or by getting you to hang on to anger and unforgiveness that you just won’t let go of it.

Jesus allow the demons to go into the pigs in order to demonstrate to everyone watching, (Including the owners of the pigs) that the demons had now left the man and after momentarily residing in the pigs before then destroying themselves. The people watching are amazing and recognise the power of what has just happened.  However, they don’t say to Jesus, come with me to our area, we have also got some crazy people you can help? No, the just said, leave. Get out of here, just leave.

What follows is remarkable, When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting (Not running around anymore), sitting there, dressed (not naked anymore) and in his right mind; Not running around cutting himself) and they were afraid. Their reaction is to say to Jesus, get out of here, go, and go quickly.

Why do they want Jesus out of their area so quickly? Money, it’s all about money. Jesus is destroying the local economy. What does it matter that we had a demon possessed man as long as you don’t disturb our economic system. So, the tell Jesus to leave and we see that is exactly what Jesus did.

Jesus gets in the boat and makes ready to leave and the previously demon possessed man, but he, “begs to go with him” However, Jesus says no, Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ Go home, to your friends and tell them about the compassion that God has shown you this day. The man does what he is told, he goes away and tells those in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him.  Decapolis means ten cities, so he didn’t just go home, he didn’t just tell his friends, he told everyone in the whole region of the 10 towns and cities where he lived. This man who was radically changed and then in obedience to the Lord he went and told everyone what had happened to him.

If this story tells us anything, forget all the extra stuff about demons if you like, it tells us Jesus has the power to change lives. Did you notice what the people tried to do to solve this mans problem, they chained him up? However human power will not overturn or contain a spiritual problem. Jesus still takes over and changes lives. God still changes people through the words of Jesus. God still changes people by speaking to them through his word and He still has the power over anything that you feel might overwhelms you. If some area of your life needs to be dramatically changed by God, then you need to look in his word. To draw back the forces of darkness, to banish demonic influence, all we have to do is saturate our mind with the words of God. He can do it by his words, and through the power of his Holy Spirit.

God still changes people, today. When God does changes you, he wants you to start telling people about it, including friends and maybe even family. Going to you friends, or worse still, your family is the hardest thing to do but only by doing that will are able to demonstrate what has really happened to.

Here’s a way to demonstrate a changed life, here is how to do it’

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, (Philippians 2: 14-15 NKJV)

Want to be different from everyone else in the world, quit complaining. Quit arguing with people and quite holding onto unforgiveness or any grudges you might have. If you can demonstrate you live a peaceful calm life, free from conflict and that you have an inner peace within, then people might think something has really changed in you. Live out the changed life God has called and empowered you to live and when people see that it tells them that he has the power to change their lives. Show others what Christ has done for you, and you can show others what Christ can do for them.


Stilling the Storms of Life

Stilling the Storms of Life. (Mark 4:35-41)

C.S Lewis writing in “A Grief Observed” said;

You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth of falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to tie a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then discover how much you really trusted it?”.

Storms are just a part of life, I’m not just talking about natural disasters, like rainstorm fire or floods. I am also talking about the storms of life. Events that blow through our everyday existence sometimes causing us heartache, anguish or pain. This passage of scripture shows us Jesus dealing with an actual physical storm, however I also believe it can provide some insights as to what we might do in the midst of a personal storm. I believe there are some helpful truths to be discovered here that we dare not miss if we wish to navigate the storms of life.

Jesus had been explaining to ordinary people what the kingdom of God was like, now as evening is coming he dismisses the crowds and he says to his disciples, lets cross to the other side of the lake and they leave the crowds behind. Many people reading this will already know what’s coming, because they have heard this story before…. a storm is approaching.  Jesus, I believe, knew very well he was sending them into a storm. I would like to suggest Jesus was going to use this situation to teach them, and this is what we might call the practical part of their curriculum.

These are disciples following and obeying the Lord, they are doing what the Lord asked of them, going in the right direction so to speak, and they still encounter a storm. We too can be sailing smoothly through life enjoying the trip when a storm can suddenly appear on the horizon. In life, as in nature, storms can appear out of nowhere. Many Christians seem to believe that storms only come into your life when you disobey God, but that’s not the case. It obvious to every even minded Christian that trials and tribulations are a part of life. Being in a relationship with Jesus Christ does not promise you perfect health, trouble free family relationships, a successful career, or life without ill health, suffering or tears. Any preacher who tells you otherwise, well the nicest thing I can say about them is they just don’t know their bible. Here are the disciples, in the middle of the lake and they thought they were going to have a peaceful crossing with the Lord, but the text tells us otherwise.

37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4: 37-38)

It is significant that Mark takes pains to point out that on this occasion Jesus was asleep. We have been told before that Jesus rested, but we have not been told he was actually asleep, and he is asleep, in the middle of a storm. This really resonates to me, often when I too have found myself in the midst of a storm when it felt like Jesus has gone to sleep. In the midst of life’s storm, I too have found myself praying in panic and thinking where are you Lord when I need you? However, what seem incredible to me that they say, “do you not care?”. Don’t you care Lord, they say this is life or death, were going to perish. Don’t you care?

39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. (Mark 4: 39)

Who stands up in the middle of a storm and says to the wind “peace, be still”. Who else, other than God? In the last 24 hours Jesus has dealt with demonic powers, he has also dealt with diseases mow he is dealing with the very elements themselves. This is a demonstration of the all-encompassing mighty power of God. The awesome power of God over the created order of things. In verse 39 he does that, he rebuked the wind, then in verse 40 he turns and rebukes the disciples.

 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4: 40)

Jesus turns and reproaches the disciples and when he does so he accuses them of two things.

Firstly, he rebukes them for being fearful. Maybe you are thinking, “what’s wrong with being afraid?” In the same circumstances I would have been afraid.  The normal response to danger is fear. There is a proper time and place for fear, but look at the text carefully, he didn’t say, “why are you fearful”. He actually said was, “why are you so fearful? Fear, in certain situations is normal, but to the Christian excessive fear or worrying should be out of bounds. We have a heavenly father who has promised to take care of us. A heavenly father who has promised us that ‘all things will work together for our good’, he has promised us he will get us to the other side. Excessive fear and excess worry is a sure sign that we have forgotten the promises of our heavenly father. Jesus didn’t rebuke them from being fearful, for that’s normal. I believe he rebuked them for being overly afraid.

Secondly, he rebuked them for is their lack of faith. What was it that they did not believe? Look back for a moment to verse 35 again.

35 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” (Mark 4: 35)

Jesus did not say, let’s go to the middle of the lake where we shall flounder and perish in the middle of a storm. He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side. In other words, they didn’t believe his words from earlier in the day. Should there have been any doubt or question in their minds of whether Jesus had desire or the power to see them safely through?  Why didn’t they just wake him and say, Lord we know you have the power, therefore can you deal with this storm. They hadn’t learned yet, to calmly ask his to help them when in the midst of trouble.

You may know the Lord, you may know the word of God? But how about when the storm comes? That’s the real issue, do you rely on it when things get tough or stressful? His disciples didn’t believe God’s Word, they didn’t believe God’s power, but they also didn’t believe God’s love.

38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4: 38)

Do you not care about us Lord”? They doubted the love of God. They doubted that he was in control and that God had a plan and a purpose, but most of all, they doubted that God loved them. The next time you find yourself in a storm please remember God loves you, and he is in control.  Remember he has the power and if you just trust in him you can know he still has a plan and a purpose to fulfil in you through whatever life brings. Look at the disciples reaction to all this.

 41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (Mark 4:41)

This is the good type of fear, not the wrong type of fear I talked about earlier. This is not fear combined with worry, but fear combined with awe.

Perhaps the main point of this story is this question asked in the last verse. Who can this be? Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

The big question that lies behind everything is, who is Jesus? If Jesus is who he said he is, then you can trust in him, and need not worry. However if he is not who is said he is, then just carry on, and go ahead and worry all you want. If Jesus is not the Son of God then you really have a lot to worry about, you have not only the immediate storms of life to worry about, but you still have to worry about you eternal position before a perfect Holy God.

Victor Hugo was famous for his novel the Hunchback of Notre Dame also wrote an autobiographical novel called “Ninety-Three.”  Part of it tells of a journey on a ship caught in a dangerous storm on the high seas. At the height of the storm, the passengers heard a terrible crashing noise below the deck. They knew at once that this noise came from a huge cannon that was part of the ship’s cargo and had broken loose. The cannon was sliding back and forth with the swaying of the ship, crashing into the side of the ship with terrible impact.  Knowing the real danger to the ship was not the storm but the loose cannon a team of brave sailors volunteered to make the dangerous attempt to go to the lower deck and try to retie the loose cannon. They knew the danger of a shipwreck from the cannon was far greater than the risk from of the storm.

Storms of life may blow upon us, but it is not these exterior storms that pose the gravest danger to us it is our reaction to them. The furious storm outside may seem overwhelming but what is going on inside can pose the greater threat to our spiritual and eternal lives. The storms that rage within us cannot be cured by us on our own, it takes the power of God’s love, as revealed in Jesus Christ. He is our only hope of stilling the tempest that can harm our souls and damage our lives. If we try and do it in our own strength we too are like that loose cannon, tossed and turned, crashing and wreaking damage as we thrash about uncontrollably. Instead, of relying on God’s love and God’s power.

If Jesus has power over the forces of nature we can certainly trust him as the living God to intervene with power in the lives of ordinary people like you and me, and in the everyday situations we struggle with. If we are trusting the Lord in the middle of life’s storms, we need not be afraid because he is loves us and he still has the power to still the storm and to carry us through.

I pray that you too may know that God Himself will carry you through the storms of life


What Easter Means For Me

What Does Easter Mean For Us?

Please note I did not ask what Easter means to us, I asked what it means for us.

You can see it’s a very different question. Let me to you you what Easter can means for you, by telling you what Easter means for me. Hopefully what it means for me, applies to you also and maybe what is true for me, is already is true for you, and if not, it can be. Ephesians tells us this;

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Eph 1: 18-19a)

The writer says there are three things he wants us to understand.

1 Hope. – That we may know the hope to which he has called us.
2 Riches. – He is not talking about money but the riches of his glorious inheritance as the people of God.
3 Power. – And that we might also know his incomparable great power.

He mentions these three things and tells us that we should know and experience these things when living amongst Gods people.

What is the great power that those who believe, can grasp hold of?

This power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, (Eph 1: 19b-20)

He wants you to and experience the power behind the resurrection of Christ. Jesus was dead, and God raised him to life again, and that used God’s incomparable great power.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins
in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world. (Eph 2:1)

When he talks about being dead, he is not talking about our physical death but the fact we are or were spiritually dead. Before we became a Christian, you were spiritually dead, but now, he made us alive. Even when you were dead in sin and wickedness his resurrection power made us alive again in Christ.

This is the first thing that Easter means for me personally. I have been brought back to life to God. Easter means new life for me because by the death of Jesus for my sin, I was born again into the family of God. When I heard that message and understood it for the first time everything changed for me. That day I believe for the first time I recognized two things at once. I had probably already believed these things individually, but it was when God put them together in my mind then I finally knew I was made right with him. Those two things were?

Firstly, I was living outside the ways of God, I definitely knew that even as a teenager, I only had to look at my life.
Secondly, God loved me. Two things previously polar opposites in my mind, in a moment came together.

Things that individually that were a stumbling block on the journey for me, became the actual route to my salvation when brought together. God loved me, even though I was a moral mess, yet because he loved me he sent Jesus who died for my sin, in order that I might know and experience the fact that God loves me.

That was the first thing I got because of Easter, I was born again, into the family of God

There is a second thing Easter means for me.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. (Eph 3: 14-17a)

I not only gained a new life in God, but I also got a new strength to help me live my life. Things I couldn’t do or change in my own strength now with Gods help and with God’s grace I can do.

That you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3; 17b-19)

The Bible really wants us to get this, to understand the amazing scope of the love of God.

  • The width of his love is to include all nations creeds and colours, all cultural and ethnic  backgrounds.
  • The length of his love is from eternity to eternity.
  • The depth of his love is extended to the depth of any depravity so much so that God wants to reach down and pull us out of our sinful lives.
  • The height of his love is that it reaches up to the heavenlies and into the very thrown room of God.

A child does not fully understand the love of a parent until they are mature and they themselves becomes a parent. That’s what this passage is saying, “I am praying, he says, that you might come to full maturity, to fully understand how much God loves you. The night I accepted Christ as my saviour as a teenager, I knew that God loved me, but it was not until years later, probably 15 years later, that I finally understood the depth of God’s love. Today I understand the love of God more than I have ever understood it before and that’s what the Easter means for me.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3: 20-21)

This tells me that God desires to bring us all to a higher level of spiritual maturity. It is entirely possible for every believer in Jesus Christ to know the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, in their life. It is entirely possible for God to give you the strength, to take you through life and live in a way that is obedient to God and to know the blessing of God. That is the power of Easter, and that is what Easter mean for me. It means I got a new life, I got to be born again and I got new strength, a strength to live that life in a way that is more in line with Gods plan for my life. I also get a third thing.

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4: 30)

This is an amazing scripture, because God doesn’t say don’t disobey me or I will punish you. It says don’t sin, because it grieves me, and also remember I have sealed your salvation until the day of redemption. Even though I may grieve (upset) him, my salvation is sealed by him until the day of redemption.

When we sin as Christians, it doesn’t bring about God wrath, all it means is that we are hurting someone who loves us. The anger of God wrath can still fell upon our sin, but not upon us, the sinner.

That is what Easter means for me. I get a new life and I get the power of God in my life and I get to have my sins forgiven. However, I don’t just get Good Friday and I don’t just get new life. Furthermore, I don’t just get the power to live that new life and I don’t even just get to have my sins forgiven, I get Easter Monday as well. It means that because Jesus arose from the dead and went to heaven. It means that when I die, I too get resurrected, I too get to go to heaven to be with my heavenly father and that is what Easter means for me.

Let me tell you how this can apply to you also, but only under certain conditions.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1: 18-19a)

All you have to do is believe, believe what Good Friday and Easter Monday tells us about God’s plan for us. That’s he died for your sin, then he rose again. If you believe in that, if trust in that, and that alone, it will get you to heaven.

I’ve told you what Easter means for me, let me remind you what Easter can mean for you.

It means you can have a new life, you can have a new power to live that new life. If you really believe and trust in that then you get to live it out not only in this life, but you get to experience it throughout eternity. But the decision you have to make is simply to believe. Note, I didn’t say you have to be religious, note I didn’t even say you have to go to church. I just said you have to believe in him, plus, nothing else.

Please note, I am not suggesting you should join a church this Easter Sunday. I am not even asking you to do go out and do good things. I am just telling you what this book teaches. Because;

by grace we are saved, but not of ourselves but it is the gift of God, not of any good works let anyone should boast”. (Ephesians 2: 8)

That is what Easter means for me. It can mean the same for you this morning as well.

God Bless you and Happy Easter – He is Risen.