Do I irritate the enemy?

We are good at irritating each other. Liberals irritating conservatives, both Christian and political… and the return fire is done with equal zest.

But how about the REAL enemy?

He doesn’t mind if we think he doesn’t exist and we want to go with the mantra, “Evil is the absence of someone doing good.”

As a great professor of mine once said, “Some say there is a devil. Others say there is no such thing. Either way, he doesn’t care.

I am reflecting on Luke 4, but have moved on past a week in the Temptation in the Wilderness. I am now reflecting on Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum. Jesus is teaching and then a demon manifests itself through a man sitting there.

I am only reflecting lightly on this passage, but it is my estimation that the man was probably a regular attender of the synagogue. Jesus comes with authority, and the demon manifests. All those other times in the synagogue, not one leader with authority…

The question here today is this: Do I irritate the enemy when I come into a place? I know I irritate other people, but do I irritate the enemy?

Is the presence of Jesus so real in my life that the enemy gets agitated when I’m close to something he’s held on to for a long time?

It’s time to live life on purpose and with power.

Stand

Daniel 3 is one of those great kids’ stories. The fiery furnace. Standing up to the king. Not bowing to idols.

As I prepare this chapter for preaching, I am coming to really not like this chapter. My series is looking at the example of Daniel in hostile territory and learning how that speaks to us in our ever-changing culture. Facing idols and the possibilities and repercussions just isn’t pleasant.

We can rejoice in the fact that God delivered the three Hebrew men. We can shout out about deliverance.

But I find two difficult truths surfacing in this passage:

1. We really CAN believe God for deliverance in moments of intense confrontation, but that means we must be willing to stand. 

2. While God is ready to come through in those moments, he is also looking for his people to be ready for the “but if God doesn’t deliver” reality.

The challenge is this: We should be ready to stand, and we certainly should ask for God’s gracious and powerful deliverance. We can be ready for God to deliver, but can God count on us for the boldness to stand even if he doesn’t deliver. 

I am not liking this passage.

Don’t Settle for Status Quo Bondage

One of the notes I made on the passage in Mark 5 where Jesus heals the demoniac: “Don’t settle for letting people stay in bondage.”

Sometimes it is hard work seeing people set free. It might be pray. It might be fasting. It might be counseling. It might be a huge combination of many things.

Don’t give up. Don’t let up. Jesus had to deal with the demoniac to some extent because his name was Legion. There is indication that this conversation took a little more time than “normal” for Jesus. Yet, he stayed at it.

Don’t settle for bondage… in yourself… or others.

Why Could We Not Cast It Out?

Mark 9:14-29. The disciples couldn’t cast out the demon from the boy. The father easily confessed his belief and lack of belief and asked for more. Yet… the disciples are baffled. Mark, in his gospel, leaves the disciples baffled more than the other gospel writers.

One of the heart-searching things about the Gospel of Mark is how I find myself baffled like these disciples. Sometimes I just don’t get things done in the Kingdom I know I have the ability to do, only because I have the power of the Spirit. But when encounters come… sometimes I’m left in the dust like these disciples.

There is also the issue that disciples are supposed to be able to “take over” for the Master while he is away. That is why the father brought the boy to the disciples. Jesus was not available… they should do it. 

Am I, as a disciple, taking on the tasks of my Master?

 

When We’re Not Effective… We Argue

In Mark 9 Jesus comes down from the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James, and John. He finds the rest of his disciples in an argument with the legal experts.

14 When Jesus, Peter, James, and John approached the other disciples, they saw a large crowd surrounding them and legal experts arguing with them. 15 Suddenly the whole crowd caught sight of Jesus. They ran to greet him, overcome with excitement. 16 Jesus asked them, “What are you arguing about?” (Mark 9:14-15, CEB)

The issue was a demon-possessed boy. The father had brought him to the disciples and they couldn’t cast the demon out.

Somehow, what had resulted in that ineffectiveness was an argument with the legal experts.

When we get caught in a setback, it’s often our default position as well. I think of such an episode in today’s world. Maybe we had prayed for deliverance for someone and watched God deliver someone. Then, here comes another case and we take it on in the same way and… nothing.

In our day, the argument might look like this:

How do you know it was demon possession? Maybe it was just an illness.”

What is your problem? You did it before! We watched you!”

How dare you cast out a demon when all he may need is a good therapist!”

And on and on.

When we hit bumps in our road, we try to figure out what went wrong. Often we end up in arguments. Sometimes those arguments may be with ourselves.

Jesus nails the disciples hard on this one. They are called “faithless” (along with others in that crowd), and then when they ask him why they couldn’t cast it out, he fires back, “This kind requires prayer.” (Newer manuscripts added “and fasting,” which helps make the point.)

What Jesus is saying is this: “No more formulas, fellas. You better learn to pray and hear from heaven consistently.”

The Kingdom isn’t for the faint of heart.

My Name is Legion, Pt. 2

Mark 5:1-20 is the story of Jesus delivering the demoniac. The first challenge out of this story I posted here.

The second challenge I have is the response of the people.

14 Those who tended the pigs ran away and told the story in the city and in the countryside. People came to see what had happened. 15 They came to Jesus and saw the man who used to be demon-possessed. They saw the very man who had been filled with many demons sitting there fully dressed and completely sane, and they were filled with awe. 16Those who had actually seen what had happened to the demon-possessed man told the others about the pigs. 17 Then they pleaded with Jesus to leave their region. (Mark 5:14-17, CEB)

They begged Jesus to leave. The maniac who had made their lives miserable was well, but they asked Jesus to leave.

Loren Cunningham, founder of YWAM, had a great message I heard many years ago called, “Choosing Swine Over the Savior.” It was from this story, and I still think of that title every time I read this passage.

What is it that causes people to want a raving lunatic in their midst rather than the power of the Kingdom of God?

Perhaps it’s control. Even though the maniac was painful to deal with, they could manage that pain. With Jesus they came face to face with Someone they couldn’t manage. This Man had crushed demonic spirits. A lot of them.

What did that mean for them?

We often will tolerate a lot of pain in our lives. We will tolerate things that are often considered intolerable because we fear the pain of change. When the pain of change is less than the pain of staying the same, then we change.

The people of the area feared change. They feared what they could not control, or at least manage.

Setting people free is messy and it’s hard work. Often we’re just not up for it. We like the manageable God we have come up with and any sense of something new can really put a jolt in us.

But people are bound. The gospel sets them free. And we are the instruments of change.

My Name is Legion

2 As soon as Jesus got out of the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit came out of the tombs. 3 This man lived among the tombs, and no one was ever strong enough to restrain him, even with a chain. 4 He had been secured many times with leg irons and chains, but he broke the chains and smashed the leg irons. No one was tough enough to control him. 5 Night and day in the tombs and the hills, he would howl and cut himself with stones.(Mark 5:2-5, CEB)

There are several things in Mark 5:1-20 that challenge me.

In this passage it is the horrible torment that a man is going through. Society couldn’t handle him any more. There weren’t enough ways to deal with him in their own strength and knowledge. It had come to just dealing with a man like this.

The torment that was outward was also something that challenged me. As I was praying through this passage yesterday the thought was this: “It’s not just the torment that is outward. There are many who face that same intense torture inwardly. No one knows.”

Lent prepares us for the Resurrection. The resurrection is power. The same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead dwells in us. All around us we may encounter people facing intense battles. Some are outward. Some are inward. And the resurrected Christ has sent his Spirit to empower us to deal with people in bondage. People that no one else can see changed… this is where the Kingdom of God touches. No one is beyond Kingdom blessing. No one is beyond the powerful touch of the Kingdom of God.