The Power to Choose – For Better and For Worse

God has allowed each one of us the power to choose. In His sovereignty He refuses to deny us that ability. The unrestrained power to choose can ultimately lead to immeasurable good or irreversible harm. Nonetheless, for better or for worse, the choice is ours.

I have a long history full of both good and poor choices. Probably, so do you! If we are wise, we will learn from both our successes and failures. My life is colored by the effects of choices I’ve made regarding finances, health, relationships and a multitude of other areas.

It is often the little choices that lead to bigger decisions with even greater consequences. Little things form big habits of conduct that result for the better or for the worse.

“This day…I have set before you life and death,
blessings and curses.
Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.
and that you may love the LORD your God,
listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”
Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Moses is wanting the people to realize how serious the power to choose inevitably is.

Life or Death

If the consequences of our choices were instant, perhaps we would learn quicker and be wiser when it comes to decision making.

“A little extra sleep, a little more slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest —
then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit;
scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.”
Proverbs 24:33-34

Do you notice how it is “a little” of this and “a little” of that, that leads to something seriously alarming? That little extra may not seem like much in the moment. Over time though, a pattern of behavior develops that leads either down a path of destruction or up to God.

Many people are bound by addiction. None of them sought such an ending. Usually it started with a little taste, a small whiff or a sneak peak. All too soon, an unbreakable habit leads to brokenness, regret and even torment.

My consistent prayer over our family has been, “Lord, don’t let us get away with anything. May we face the consequences of our sin quickly and soundly.” We can be lulled into apathy and indifference when we think, in even a small way, we are getting away with something contrary to God’s perfect will.

Blessings and Curses

When I flip back a couple chapters in Deuteronomy, I see the promises of blessing God has waiting for those who seek to obey Him with all their hearts. Blessings such as overcoming enemies, gaining prosperity, open heavens and receiving promotion.The extensive list invites us to revel in God’s goodness and grace.

“You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.
the fruit of your womb will be blessed,
and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock
— the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.
Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.
You will be bless when you come in
and blessed when you go out.”
Deuteronomy 28:3-6

I have lived in the city and in the country, farmed land, raised livestock and enjoyed abundance. Yes, hard work was involved. All success was entirely the result of God’s blessing, however. Yet, there were also seasons, when my heart was equally fixed upon God and devastation seemed to loom everywhere.

Through the legitimate struggles God was working out a higher good, developing my character, strengthening my faith, humbling my heart and allowing me to lean totally on Him as my Source.

This same chapter that speaks of the blessings of obedience also contains the negative consequences of turning away from God. God warns that the power to choose goes both ways — blessings and curses, better and worse.

Choose Life

Moses presented the truth, honestly and sincerely. Now everyone who heard was released to weigh their own actions in the balance of God’s standard. God isn’t wanting to allow harm to come our way. He lovingly invites us to Himself.

“Now choose life, so that you and your children my life
The LORD is your life
and He will give you many years in the land…”
Deuteronomy 30:20

I wish I could have been there to hear the intonation in Moses’ voice and catch a glimpse of his expression. The gift of life, a life that would affect generations, was being extended freely and fully.

I can hear that same offer repeated by Jesus,

“The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full.”
John 10:10

We see again the power to choose and the results of that choice.

Extra Benefits

When we wisely exercise the power to choose, “extra” benefits come along:

“Now choose life, so that …
you may love the LORD your God,
listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”
Deuteronomy 30:20

The road of life is littered with relational corpses of poor choices. That “thing” we mess with may not result in instant death, but every act of disobedience drains life from us in one way or another. God’s gift of choice affects not just us but everyone around us as well.

More than anything, our choices affect our relationship with God. I am foolish if I believe I can walk in disobedience to God and still maintain intimate relationship with Him. My power to choose will either open my heart to hear clearly from Him or cause dullness to cloud my perception. A little compromise here and a little more there is the outward evidence of how much or how little I am “hold(ing) fast” to Him.

Sadly others can see the outcome of my choices long before I do. Sometimes my willful blinding to God’s truths causes dullness in my mind. At other times, I have stepped off course in innocence or ignorance. The reasons my vary but the results are consistently damaging.

Power to Choose

God will never take away our power to choose. His heart rejoices when we exercise that gift of grace to turn to Him in wholehearted love and devotion. At other times, He grieves as we turn and go our own direction.

Love propels God to release us to our own destinies. His love invites us to choose wisely.

At the end of Joshua’s tenure as leader, he declares his stance:

“…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…
but as for me and my household,
we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua 24:15

The principle of the power to choose life or death flows through the pages of the bible from Genesis to Revelation.  Today, I simply add my little voice to the mighty voices of multiple others, “choose life.” For in choosing life we also make the choice to love, listen and hold fast to the things of God.

The Paradox of Jesus Christ – His Death and Resurrection

The paradox of Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection stands immovable against the flood of human reasoning. The magnitude undeniable! To presume understanding would diminish the unexplainable.

A paradox is something “self-contradictory that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded and true.” I suggest that every apparent contradiction, or paradox, is unequivocally true in relation to Jesus Christ.

For many people, Jesus Himself was and is a contradiction to their preconceived expectations! Scholars memorized the scriptures, studied the prophetic indications of His coming and work, and yet failed to recognize Him. And still today many disqualify Him on the basis of their own limited understanding.

No where do we see this dilemma more than in the contradictions surrounding the cross and resurrection. The cross was earth’s darkest hour! The resurrection heaven’s greatest dawn!

“The true light that gives light to everyone
was coming into the world.
He was in the world,
and though the world was made through him,
the world did not recognize him.
He came to that which was his own,
but his own did not receive him.”
John 1:9-11

Dawn of a new day

The Light of the world invading darkness! Creator touching creation unaware!

Love In Action

Here is John’s capsulated explanation,

“To him who loves us
and has freed us from our sins by his blood,
and has made us to be a kingdom and priests
to serve his God and Father —
to him be glory and power
for ever and ever!
Amen.”
Revelation 1:5-7

Stripped naked, Jesus hung upon the cross  to clothe the unlovable, the unworthy, the undeserving in garments of love and robes or righteousness. Leaving heaven’s throne, He established an earthly but royal priesthood and kings unto God.

Light of the world

“You have made them to be
a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.”
Revelation 5:10

The paradox of Jesus Christ is undeniable.

Crucifixion

The bread and the wine at the Last Supper rich with symbolism: bread in the hand of The Bread of Life broken to feed the spiritually starving; a cup held by The Lamb of God, soon to be crushed, pouring out new wine to the desperately thirsty. All for the sake of “re-membering” a church dis-membered through jealousy, selfish ambition, strife, and personal agendas.

“…The Lord Jesus, on the night
he was betrayed, took bread,
and when he had given thanks,
he broke it and said,
“This is my body, which is for you;
do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way, after supper
he took the cup, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood;
do this, whenever you drink it,
in remembrance of me.”
1 Corinthians 11:23-25

Sunrise and mist

Jesus was bound so that multitudes would be set free! He remained silent before His accusers to give bold voice to people of every nation, tribe and tongue! His body brutally whipped, beaten, clubbed, and pierced so our bodies may receive healing! Paradox upon paradox!

“”He himself bore our sins
in his body on the cross,
so that we might die to sins
and live for righteousness;
By his wounds you have been healed.””
1 Peter 2:24

The Son, rejected by Father, purchasing adoption rights for many sons and daughters to be born anew into His family! The sacrificial Lamb bearing the undeserved stain of our sins upon Himself, to cleanse and redeem the truly guilty! Such is the paradox of Jesus Christ!

Dead to Life

The Eternal God, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and End, submitting to the way of the cross, surrendering to the cruel Destroyer, to break the curse of the fall and defeat death, once for all.

“The thief comes only to steal
and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full.”
John 10:10

Light over darkness

Not just life, but life “in all its fullness! Superabundant, superior, excessive life! The paradox of Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection continues — unstoppable, undefiable, unquenchable!

“If a man can predict his own
death and resurrection, and pull it off,
I just go with whatever that man says.”
Andy Stanley

There is More

The King of all kings becoming servant of all! The One crowned with all glory humbling himself — becoming nothing, to make something of us. Like it or not, it required nothing less than such a radical move to make anything of the hunk of raw clay I am!

He emptied Himself so that we would be filled! He was denied any comfort to make room for the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to be with us.

“But very truly I tell you,
it is for your good that I am going away.
Unless I go away,
the Advocate will not come to you;
but if I go, I will send him to you.”
John 16:7

His death triggered the sending of Someone better, the Holy Spirit — the Advocate, Intercessor, Counsellor,  Comforter, Helper. Leaving before sending! Departing preceding receiving!

From Today

The only fitting personal response I find, is the passionate determination and fervent pursuit of all that Christ has died for, all that His resurrection has acquired. Only then will God truly receive the glory He is worthy of.

” … he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death
— even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him
to the highest place and
gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:8-11

Resurrection morning

Anything less would be heresy. He became weak humanity to give us strength. May we boldly live our lives in reflection of the paradox of Jesus Christ:

contending for freedom of those
chained in sin and addictions;
decreeing release for captives internally bound,
and healing for bodies, families, churches and nations;
new wineskins continually being filled
with the wine of His Spirit
and satisfied only in the bread of His Presence;
sharing the gospel with liberty and power,
affirmed through miracles, signs and wonders;
never settling in complacent indifference
or apathetic denial,
but preaching, teaching, admonishing, encouraging
and exhorting believers everywhere
in their identity as sons and daughters,
priests and kings of the Most High.

The paradox of Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection shouts to us all, “Live! Live full! That superabundant, superior, excessive life that He paid for, live it today! Live it always!

Why? Because “He is risen! He is risen indeed!”

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Timeless or a Capsule of Time? Time in Perspective

Any one else struggle with time? That fleeting thing that whizzes by at breakneck speed past days, months and years. Only by gazing at the Timeless One will we fully appreciate the capsule of time we are given and reign time into its proper perspective.

We micro-manage time with intensity.  With day planners in pocket phones that never leave our sides, we organize time for work, family and recreation. We divide our time into minutes, hours, days, months and years. Sensing the fleeting nature of time, we pack every moment with busyness.

Moses who lived a good 120 years, much longer than I anticipate life to be, said,

Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Psalm 90:12

Life goes fast! Too Fast!

Life goes fast, too fast!

“I don’t have time!” are words that echo often throughout our culture. We postpone the things that should be done for what must be done!

Capsule of Time

If we experience even the years of Moses’ life and measure them against eternity, it would be like the tiniest capsule floating almost invisibly in an endless ocean.

Time is the most precious of all commodities. If I lose all my wealth and financial resources, there is opportunity to regain some portion. When health fails, The Healer stands close; heaven’s reality holds neither sickness nor death. If I lose even the closest ones I love, the hope of being reunited in eternity sustains me.

Timeless eternity!

Time is the only commodity never to be regained! This moment replaced by the next — both instantly gone!

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the human heart;
yet no one can fathom what God has done
from beginning to end.”
Ecclesiastes 3:11

We stir with an awareness of more! For surely we were created not for fleeting moments but everlasting days.

The Perspective of Time

Every part of creation is affected by time — everything! One glance in the mirror at my deep wrinkles and laugh lines and the crown of thinning grey shouts, “Time is passing, girl!” Youthful subtle skin thins, bones ache, eyesight dims, memory comes and goes.

Time management!

Hide it? Ignore it? Excuse it? Nonetheless, time wears through the most resilient, defying restraint. All of creation succumbs to its influence.

Because our minds cannot fathom anything apart from what we know, it is impossible to perceive Someone,  the self-existing God, beyond time.

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:
With the Lord a day is like a thousand years,
and a thousand years are like a day.”
2 Peter 3:8

Time is an earthly concept defined by multiple terms of measurement: decades, centuries, millennium. Time-words define our time, not God’s, because He is both within yet beyond all expanse of time.

The Timelessness of God

God has no beginning and no end. He has no past and no future living in the ever present now. In fact, He inhabits beginning and end simultaneously. Now that exceeds comprehension!

The only One expanding beyond all scope of time is God; He alone is absolute everlasting!

Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
Psalms 90:2

Counting the moments of time!

Because mankind was created in His image, we too were made for timelessness.

“To be made for eternity
and forced to dwell in time
is for mankind a tragedy of huge proportions.
All within us cries for life and permanence,
and everything around us
reminds us of mortality and change.”
A.W. Tozer

We live in this tension of time! Its deep significance, yet fleeting nature. Time has intrinsic value, uncontainable essence.

Making the Most of Our Time

So how do we best value time? The obvious is to not waste it. Yet, we all have “time-wasting” pursuits. Television, computers, Facebook top the list of many. Less obvious perhaps are procrastination, fear, daydreaming and indecisiveness.

Time is to be treasured!

People and relationships are the most significant endeavours that should occupy our time. Because most of our days are spent in the workplace, create opportunities for deep and caring relationships with colleagues. Family will NOT always be there, as we sometimes perceive; seize moments to love and invest in close and distant relatives. Friendships take time to develop levels of trust and commitment that speaks mutually of love and value.

Live wisely among those who are not believers,
and make the most of every opportunity.”
Colossians 4:5

People are the only “things” we actually can take to heaven!

What about time for the greatest relationship of all — the one between us and the Lord? Is there time for prayer, reading and silent meditation of scripture, study of God’s character and nature, or serving Him by serving others?

Between Time and Timeless

A young man told me once that he actually liked funerals. Astonished, I asked why! Early on he recognized that funerals brought him face-to-face with the shortness of his own life. A wise young man, I think!

“It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.”
Ecclesiastes 7:2

It is neither in the beginning of life nor in the fullness of busy days that we come to realize that faith in Jesus Christ is not optional. Christ is the only solution to the fleeting nature of life on earth. In Christ “God’s eternity and man’s mortality” collide.

Time is fleeting!

Christ acquired the great victory for man’s dilemma with time!

O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?
For sin is the sting that results in death,
and the law gives sin its power.

But thank God! He gives us victory
over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 15:55-57

We must all remember and view with brevity the limited time we have before we the leap from numbered days to limitless eternity. Today God extends His irresistible invitation. Death should never be “normal”. It pushes against all we are created and destined for. Thanks to Christ and the cross death never has the final word!

“For he says, “In the time of my favour I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour,
now is the day of salvation.
2 Corinthians 6:2

Today is the day to secure your place in eternity!

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Further Reading:

Finding The Solution for Pressings Problems and Difficulties

 

Communion – The Cross and Resurrection – “In Remembrance of Me”

Communion - The Cross and the Resurrection

In a small room with a cracker in one hand and a small glass of grape juice in the other, I silently reflected on their meaning. “Do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus said. Many times, I have received communion and held these tangible elements representing His death.

Communion

Communion

I waited for personal revelation of the implications of the cross: of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.

God still speaks. I “hear” Him mostly when reading the Bible, at times through dreams or visions, and often with thoughts I know are not my own. Of course, everything is weighed against the truth of scripture.

Tabernacle

In a vision, suddenly Jesus (the Son of God not the glorified Christ) took me by the hand. Together we quickly and purposefully rushed past multitudes standing by their tents. It seemed like perhaps the encampment of God’s people in the wilderness.

We approached what I knew to be the Old Testament tabernacle but without curtains to contain or divide it. There were no busy priest performing sacrifices or tending to the required rituals and requirements.

Past the Brazen Altar and the Laver He took me. Past the Golden Lampstand and the Table of Shewbread we went. There was no need to stop! Now as a New Testament believer, I knew Jesus had fulfilled every requirement of the Law. Together we skirted the Altar of Incense and entered the Holy Place.

“Do not think that I have come to
abolish the Law or the Prophets;
I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
Matthew 5:17

A thick cloud of glory filled the area, circling and swirling. Jesus’ pace did not slow. A millisecond of panic gripped me as He let go of my hand. I was engulfed by the cloud.

Glory of God

I was lost, without body or identity; nothing of me existed in the Presence of Holy God. I an instant I was completely inhabited by God. I was “in” Him, in His glory. His Presence “consumed” me.

Joy

As I looked back toward Jesus, He was the embodiment of unconfined, unrestrained joy. In that moment, I realized this is part of why He died.

“…For the joy set before him he endured the cross,
scorning its shame…”
Hebrews 12:2

“For the joy set before Him!” Jesus’ greatest joy is to bring all who believe in Him to the Father with shameless audacity!

I have given them the glory that you gave me,
that they may be one as we are one —
 
I in them and you in me
so that they may be brought to complete unity.
Then the world will know that you sent me
and have loved them even as you have loved me.

John 17:22-24

The “oneness” humanity once had in the garden completely restored! Access no longer denied with Father, Son and Holy Spirit! A unity that goes beyond humanity and reaches beyond comprehension! Communion, a common union!

Bridegroom Bride

I stepped out of the glory toward Jesus, The Bridegroom, as I glanced downward. I stood in shock and amazement! My garments radiated gold and even my skin was dusted with it.

Just as the Son’s joy is to bring us to the Father, the Father’s joy is to prepare us for the Son – a bride worthy of the bridegroom.

In Love

Jesus’ enthusiasm and love surpasses our understanding or even our confusion! He is ecstatic!

… even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
That he might sanctify and cleanse it
with the washing of water by the word,
 That he might present it to himself a glorious church,
not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing;
but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
Ephesians 5:25-27

Jesus is not coming back for a weak unprepared bride, but one adorned and ready! It has nothing to do with us; it has everything to do with the finished work of the cross.

In my right hand was an abnormally large golden sword.  It was fully my height and heavier than I could lift on my own, let alone wield! It is the sword of mercy and grace.

“Let us then approach
God’s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace
to help us in our time of need.”
Hebrews 4:16

Jesus arose from the grave with all authority and power! What is rightfully His, He lavishly gives to His bride! Here in Him alone, we receive mercy! Here, we find grace! Every need is met!

Bible

Available

My needs, in comparison to many others, are small indeed. Yet, in all honestly, I struggle with personal “heavy” things of life. Joy is not always spontaneous or overflowing, nor is victory obvious! I am contending, prayerfully war, for what Christ has attained.

Today I need the reminder of communion, the emblems of His death and resurrection. Drawing on the exuberant joy that originates and emanates from Him, I wait. Grasping tightly the sword I cannot wield on my own and did not merit by my efforts I take a stand, until like another warrior it is froze to my hand. I rest undone yet completely united in Him through His death and resurrection.

“For if we have been united with him in a death like his,
we will certainly also be united with him
in a resurrection like his.”
Romans 6:5

Jesus has each of us by the hand, leading us to places we cannot, could not and would not go on our own. We live in Him; He lives in us!

“This is how we know that we live in him
and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.”
I John 4:13

As we celebrate the Easter season, and each time we participate in communion, may we remember we have received mercy and found grace.

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Committment

If this resonates with you, but you don’t know Jesus personally, today is an excellent opportunity to enter into a relationship with Him. Jesus did all the work! Do you know for sure that you will go to heaven when you die? You can.

“I write these things to you who believe
in the name of the Son of God
so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
I John 5:13

There is a problem! God is holy. Only those without sin can come to Him; everyone sins.

The solution to man’s greatest problem of sin is in Jesus Christ. God sent His Son Jesus to pay for our sin and make us holy before God.

Jesus death on the cross was payment for your sins and mine. If you believe Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, paid for your sins and has been raised to life, so that we too may have life, pray this simple prayer with me:

“Lord Jesus,
I believe that you died on the cross for my sins.
Please forgive me, come into my life,
and give my your life.
I want to do my best to live for you
from this day forward.
Thank You Jesus for what you have done,
be Lord of my life.
Amen.

Welcome into the family of God! If you don’t already have a bible, find one and begin reading in the book of John. It is helpful to join a local church where you will be encouraged and supported in your new walk of faith. An exciting chapter of your life has just begun. Congratulations!

“…if you confess with your mouth
that Jesus is Lord
and believe in your heart
that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved.”
Romans 10:9-10

The Tomb Raider and Bondage Breaker! Chains no More!

Chains No More

The tomb is meant to be a burial place for the dead; it is not a habitation for the living.  Jesus made a perilous journey to meet a man who was so bound by tormenting spirits, tomb dwelling seemed the only fitting place to be. Until “Jesus stepped ashore”!

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke present the account through almost opposing lenses. Luke calls the region “the Gerasenes” which means “alien, stranger or foreigner”or more specifically “a stranger drawing near.” Matthew, on the other hand terms it the region of “the Gadarenes” which means “rewarded in the end.”

A Stranger Draws Near

Only one person in the entire region came to meet Jesus welcoming Him. Everyone else treated Jesus like an alien, a stranger or a foreigner!

“When Jesus had stepped out on land,
there met him a man from the city who had demons.
For a long time he had worn no clothes,
and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs.”
Luke 8:27

The living among the tombs

This was neither his original home nor his original condition!

We don’t know how long his existence was relegated to the tombs; only that it was “a long time“. A long time

without family or relationship,
crying out night and day,
cutting himself with stones,
naked and exposed to shame,
rejected and ridiculed,
bound and chained.

It is no wonder Jesus was willing to endure the severest of storms to come and to release this man from bondage.

Most of us would have caught one glimpse of his condition and scampered right back into the boat paddling hard in the opposite direction. Not Jesus! Then too, most of us are impressed by crowds. Not Jesus!

For this one man, Jesus came!

Though an entire city was close, only one man welcomed Him!

Among the Tombs

What causes a man to trade a home for a tomb? This isn’t normal human behaviour, after all.

“…(For many a time it had seized him.
He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles,
but he would break the bonds and
be driven by the demon into the desert.)
Luke 8:29

Though no earthly chain could hold him, this poor man was completed bound by the demons that inhabited him. Up until this moment, they had complete control.

When Jesus stepped in, everything changed!

All around us are people “out of control!” Daily we encounter hurting people who hurt people. Our lives and neighbourhoods are affected by those who have long ago forgotten personal worth or identity. Behind closed doors many are driven by drugs, addictions and lust. They appear to be alive, but reside within personal tombs of death.

For these Jesus comes!

The Pigs Nearby

Living among pigs!

A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside.
 The demons begged Jesus,
“Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.”

Mark 5:11-12

The imagery is more than symbolic! Jesus allows the demons to enter the pigs who quickly make a suicidal dive into the nearby lake.

The saddest part of the story is about to unfold. The people of the Gerasenes were perfectly comfortable to have a demon possessed man among them, naked and screaming in agony night and day. However, they were totally unprepared to allow Jesus, The Healer, Deliver, Tomb Raider, and Bondage Breaker to stay one moment more.

“…they came to Jesus and found the man
from whom the demons had gone,
sitting at the feet of Jesus,
clothed and in his right mind,
and they were afraid.”
Luke 8:35

As twisted as a living man dwelling in the tombs is, the reaction of the locals was even more so. Rejoicing over the man’s deliverance would seem to be a more appropriate response.

Enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season!

Pigs were considered “unclean”. Their delight in wallowing in “mud” representing the human tendency to enjoy and cling to our pet sins. Jesus came into their region to free everyone who lived there. Only this destitute and demon possessed man responded. The rest preferred to “enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin.”

Jesus came to release them all from sin’s cruel bondage! They preferred the swine, instead!

Only One Man

Only one man from the region of “the Gadarenes” was “rewarded in the end.” He was the only one — unnamed but completely changed.

“And all the people in the region of the Gerasenes
begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone,
for a great wave of fear swept over them.
So Jesus returned to the boat and left,
crossing back to the other side of the lake.”
 Luke 8:37 

The evidence of Jesus’ authority and transforming power sat before them, gentle, calm and dressed. Perhaps up until this moment, they could look at him, aiming their pointed fingers while wagging condemning tongues, “We’re not as bad as he is!”

But standing before Jesus, the Truth and Deliverer, they were without excuse. No other man, except this one, was willing to fall on their knees and surrender to Jesus as Lord.

“You are already clean
because of the word I have spoken to you.”
John 15:3

One man received The Word and was cleansed. Every other person treated Jesus as a stranger. rejecting Him. Out of fear, they clung like pigs to their own filth.

When Jesus came, only one received the reward of surrender.

Tomb Raider

Jesus stepped ashore!

He raided the tomb of death, restoring dignity, value and life. He broke the bondage of sin and shame, releasing its prisoner to everlasting freedom.

Grateful the man pleaded with Jesus to allow him to come with along. Jesus lovingly refused.

Tomb Raider and Bondage Breaker! Freedom in Christ!

Jesus did not let him, but said,
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.”
Mark 5:19

Jesus restored him to his home, family and relationships. He sent him back into his community with purpose and value. There is no greater testimony to the mercy and grace of God than a transformed life.

Reluctantly, the man obliged! Though his heart longed to stay with Jesus, his mission was to his world.

Jesus steps into lives again and again, giving opportunity for freedom. What is my response? Will I consider Him a “Stranger drawing near” and refuse? Or will I welcome Him, allowing Him to do whatever He desires in my life, ultimately being “rewarded in the end“?

Jesus never stays where He is not wanted

 “…So he got into the boat and left.”
Luke 8:37

On the other side of the lake
the crowds welcomed Jesus,
because they had been waiting for him.”
Luke 8:40

Today I ask, “Which side of the lake am I on? Which side of the lake are you on?”

Jesus is stepping ashore!

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Resources:

If you need help, there are many organizations that will assist you:

Freedom in Christ

Pure Desire Ministries

or a local bible believing church.

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Olivia & Me – Helping Children Live Emotionally Healthy Through Tragedy

Emotionally Healthy In Days of Increasing Violence

How can a parent shield their children from death and tragedy in these days of increasing violence? It isn’t just in war-torn nations that this question is asked. Violence has become the “norm” in even peaceful nations like Canada. Olivia & Me is one small instrument for helping children live emotionally healthy through tragedy.

In Foreign Nations

At a woman’s center in Cambodia a woman, now in her 40’s, clings to my neck weeping, “Will you be my mother? I have never had a mother.” The violence of Khmer Rouge swept away all trace of family decades before; the vacant hole cried to be filled.

Will You Be My Mother

Another image creeps from my heart – a woman rescued from unmentionable abuse as a child in Guatemala. She gasps of air in an effort to put words to her story of childhood.

In Canada

It is easy to turn a deaf ear to the violent assault on the minds and hearts of children right here in Canada. We watch the news; they watch the news.

the youngest victim in the Manchester Bombing
8 years old
school lock down protocol
as common as fire drills for my generation…
Third Child Dies in Shooting in Just 2 Days”
the headings blare…
in schools, playgrounds,
streets and beds
children bombarded by death and tragedy.

Just a few years ago I witnessed the effects of a double murder suicide on an elementary school in a First Nations community. Painful wounds stole words and safety from these tender shoots of humanity. The leadership team was incredible as they cared for these traumatized wounded. Given freedom, one by one, I was able to pray, love, listen, with arms of tenderness – a channel of the hope in Jesus.

“Without God”

A recent post by Jonathan Kay states,

“… I realized that I hadn’t the slightest idea how to talk to my children — or anyone — about death

“…The memorial Facebook pages for other Manchester Arena victims … reflect … vague, but admirably humane idea that we should respond to tragedy by loving one another more. It is sentimental and unsatisfying. But without God by our side, it’s the best we can do.”

Without God by our side”

words feel shallow
efforts empty
love insufficient
caring temporary
sentimental and unsatisfying

God Within

A group has just returned from the refugee camps of Jordan. They went with God!

 the love of God within
the power of the Holy Spirit upon
the gentleness of the Father over them.

Numbers became faces capturing hearts as friends – some Christian, many Muslim, all loved by Holy God! Images children have drawn to help them speak of the atrocities too vivid and violent to fully explain adorn the walls.

Images of War Syria Iraq

When God is present everything changes. Everything! In Christ is

hope for the hopeless
healing for the broken
words for the wordless
help for the helpless
protection for the vulnerable
strength for the weakest of these.

Personal

Just as the assaults against humanity are personal, so is the greatness of the gift of live in Christ deeply personal and available.

I have shared before about our own little family’s touches by death. They were minuscule compared to the impact that millions have faced globally; still death is only overcome by life. Jesus is the life!

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6

In Him we offer more than just “sentimental and unsatisfying”; our message to children and those who love them is powerful and tangible.

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
1 Corinthians 15:54

Life

Olivia & Me

 “Olivia & Me”  proclaims to children and their families:

Life overcomes death;
eternity a reality beyond the dust on our feet.
Love is present and powerful
God’s purpose and plan prevails
the pain of today will be
“swallowed up”
by The Life!

__________

For Those in Pain

Lord today we hold up those who are facing the pain
of death and tragedy.
Be their comfort in the storm
the strength that carries them fragile step by fragile step.
Hold them gently
giving them courage for today.

__________

Related Posts:

Children and Death? How Can We Help?

Children and Death? How Can We Help?

Children and Death

Three random conversations over a span of four hours; all remarkably similar in context. Conversations that brought me face-to-face with the subject of children and death. Death leaves a deep imprint. Such an imprint on children will be dealt with either effectively or ineffectively. You can make the difference!

Three Conversations

First of all, a grandchild, now in her teens asks “What happens when you die? Does everyone go to heaven? Does it happen right away?” Death and heaven were on her mind.

Then a man in his 40’s shares how he still deeply misses a friend.  Even though it has been over a decade since his passing, thoughts and questions rise to the surface. In the conversation a striking remark, “he never fully recovered from the loss of his father.”

Finally, a young man in early adulthood tells of a rocky place in his own life. As a teen his parents divorced and his grandmother died, both in the same year. Tears flowed as he mentioned his grandmother, whom he had been “very close to”. His lifestyle changed dramatically as a result. It was a turning point toward destructive choices.

Death

Personal Experience

As a toddler, my two baby sisters passed away: one soon after birth, the second a few short months later. My mother, a true nurturer, was thrown into an emotional tailspin, unable to deal with the impact of such a great double loss.

Though I have no memories of tiny siblings, there are many of a sad father and an angry mother. Both struggling for breath in the midst of heart wrenching personal pain.

Even now, it is difficult to put pen to paper reflecting on my family deeply imprinted by tragic loss. More difficult still, it is to lay bare the wounded soul within me of the impact of those years.

Common Theme

Sitting next to a woman in midlife, through tears she whispers, “I finally have the words.” Her life as a small child had been filled with loss. Now as an adult, she “finally had words”…words that would open wide the gates to inner and lasting healing...words released from an inner cavern of pain.

Words open wide the gates to inner and lasting healing. Click To Tweet

Mourning

It is an expression painfully familiar. Barely a week goes by in fact when I don’t hear them uttered in one form or another as I walk beside women of all ages into places of increased strength and purpose.

Children and death! Not an easy topic! For many children there are unbirthed, silenced or stolen words surrounding death of many shapes:

physical death
divorce – the undying death –
death of innocence or sense of stability
of personal worth and value
… loss in various ugly forms.

God’s Answer

With a grieving heart I pray seeking God for answers. How do we help children walk through “the valley of the shadow of death” – especially when it has been someone close to them?” In the midst of trauma, young children can easily be ignored, while the needs of others take priority. Certainly, it is not intentional! The life-long repercussions of by-passing the young should be cause to take another look!

What if we helped children find their voice in the centre of their situation and circumstance. Or if we did not wait for decades to listen for that fragile wavering voice? What if we stopped and silently listened, intentionally creating a gateway of expression?

The language of a child is different from the language of an adult. (1 Cor 13:11) There is a tender intuition in a child to protect others – an intense sensitivity to the painful currents around them. Children, even very young children, carry the emotional load of pain internally and personally.

Matthew 19 Little Children Come

Especially relevant for today are these words spoken long ago! It is our privilege to set before children of all ages the realities of the life of Christ. In this way, a solid foundation is established for even the smallest of children. A foundation that is secure in the most difficult of moments. Even as dark winds of pain come, the brightness of His goodness breaks through!

Hope in Christ

Jesus’ invitation to children still rings out, “Let them come!”

Such is the intention a little children’s book, “Olivia & Me”. It doesn’t contain answers to the hard questions; however, it does open wide the gate for conversation about life, death and hope we have in Christ Jesus.

Death never was, or is, God’s intention. Never! Quite the opposite is true; Jesus Christ is the

Giver of Life
Source of Life
Sustainer of Life
Bread of Life
Eternal Life
Abundant Life
THE LIFE!


Children and Death! Lord Teach us to Pray!

Lord help us be sensitive and present
for all those grieving.
Give us listening ears and an open heart to
hear beyond words  and see beyond natural limits
to the secret places of wounded hearts.
We need your love and compassion at all times.
Fill us with your wisdom and gentleness,
your grace and mercy to lavishly give
until the broken are whole again.