The Red Words #11 Feb. 19, 2019

Jesus summoned His twelve apostles and imparted to them authority over every demon and the power to heal every disease. Then He commissioned them to preach God’s kingdom realm and to heal the sick to demonstrate that the kingdom had arrived. As He sent them out, He gave them these instructions: “Take nothing extra on your journey. Just go as you are. Don’t carry a staff, a backpack, food, money, not even a change of clothes. Whatever home welcomes you as a guest, remain there and make it your base of ministry. And wherever your ministry is rejected and not welcomed, you are to leave that town and shake the dust off your shoes as a testimony before them.”  Luke 9: 1-5

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Can you imagine the uproar if a young couple from your church announced that they were leaving for the mission field in the very same way that the apostles went out in the text above – no suitcase, no extra clothes, no money?  Can’t you hear the gasps of disbelief?  Why, they must be out of their minds!

Why in the world did Jesus tell His disciples to go on their first missions trip empty-handed?

Certainly He wanted them to walk in faith, trusting God for everything they would need.

But is there more here than meets the eye?

Without a purse you learn to rely on the Lord to fund what He desires. With a purse you check the extent of your own resources, not His.

With a backpack you depend upon the resources you’ve packed. Without a backpack, you have to depend upon the Lord.  Why? To teach endurance and ingenuity that the well-equipped may never learn.

But really – no extra clothes? No underwear? “Travel light,” is the code word for this mission. The disciples are to go from town to town with just the barest of essentials, nothing more.

No staff? For this mission they aren’t even to take a walking stick for protection or comfort. They are to utterly rely on the Lord. There will be plenty of time later to get a staff for future journeys.

Jesus’ instructions to the Twelve to take nothing special for the trip, but just go, was a crash training course.  Sometimes zealous but spiritually insensitive disciples move out before they are properly prepared. The result is usually not pretty.

However, let’s not use this Scripture passage as license to make no preparations for the Lord’s work. It is a training exercise before a live audience, not the last word from Jesus on mission preparedness.

The disciples are also told not to keep moving from one house to another in hopes of finding more comfortable lodgings and better food. They are to be content with the accommodations in the first home they come to, and then they are to get on with their mission of preaching and healing.

Being content with God’s provision is difficult sometimes.  The Lord doesn’t always seem to provide what we “think” we absolutely have to have!  Some of you may have faced a financial reversal or been faced with losing a job. Can you live in contentment rather than worry about food and shelter and clothing? Jesus calls us to do so. “The pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:32-33).

I am a disciple. You are a disciple. Sometimes disciples must endure hardness like good soldiers (2 Timothy 2:3). My prayer for myself is that I might get to the place that God brought Paul:  “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry,whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”  Phil. 4:11-13

Dear friends, has the discipleship training the Lord has brought you into been a place of hardship?

Learn the lesson Jesus would teach you, the secret of being content: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! Jesus imposed these curious mission rules to bring the Twelve to that realization.

Here is the truth of God’s Word:  “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

We like our imagined self-sufficiency; we like the illusion of being “self-made” or “self-reliant”.  However, there is no such thing for the disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are dependent on Him for our very breath!

Teach us, Lord, to depend on You, to trust You, to find all our sufficiency in You.  Deliver us from the delusion that we can do things on our own.  We need you, Jesus. Come and take over; guide us, teach us, change us.

For even You said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. John 8:28

The Red Words #8 Jan. 28, 2019

Yes, I know – there was no post last Tuesday :-((  I’m sorry.  I spent last Tuesday in four different airports and on four different airplanes on my way back to Israel from the USA.  So….not terribly conducive to writing something inspirational!

This week, let’s go to Mark 5: 1-20 and talk about the Tombstone Terrorist and see how Jesus dealt with him.

Having reached the area of the Gerasenes (or Gadarenes) on the east side of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus and the disciples stepped out of the boat near a cemetery.  No sooner had they landed, a man who looked and acted more like a wild animal than a man, came running towards Him.

Now this poor fellow was a mess.  Nobody could control him, even when they tried to bind him with chains.  He broken them off as if they were paper.

He was possessed not by one single devil, but a ‘legion’ – several thousand, if you can imagine.  He lived in a cemetery at a time when corpses were buried in caves.  He screamed and yelled all the time, day and night and his body was covered with scars and blood for he cut himself with stones.  Did he do so to try to escape his desperate condition? Who knows?  But for sure, he was a pitiful but also terrifying sight to all around him.  People from the nearest village kept their children away from him.  They avoided him at all costs and hated to hear his shrill, blood-curdling screams.

Nobody wanted to be anywhere near him….no one except Jesus.  Jesus made a special trip across the sea and calmed a storm on the way in order to deliver this one man who wasn’t even a Jew.

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Running toward the Lord, this man who terrorized the entire region, cried out, ‘Leave me along, Jesus, Son of the most High God! Swear in God’s name that you won’t torture me!’ And the text adds: [For Jesus had already said to him, ‘Come out of that man, you demon spirit!’]

Jesus said to him: ‘What is your name?’

‘Mob’ he answered.‘They call me Mob because there are thousands of us in his body!’

Jesus sent the demons into the herd of pigs nearby.  The horde of demons drove some two thousand pigs down the hillside into the sea where they drowned.  Afterwards the townspeople – incredibly – asked Jesus to leave their region.

As Jesus prepared to leave, the former demonic ‘terrorist’, now fully clothed and in his right mind, said to Jesus, ‘Could I go with you?’  But Jesus answered, ‘Go back to your home and to your family and tell them what the Lord has done for you.  Tell them how he had mercy on you.

So the man left and went throughout the area, even into Syria and Jordan to tell everyone he met about what Jesus had done for him and all the people were amazed.

There are four things about what Jesus did and said here that I want us to look at for a moment.

First, the Compassion of Jesus: Though everyone else feared and fled from this demonized man, Jesus went toward him.  The Lord cared about his condition and went out of His way to do something about it.  What Jesus did for this man assures you and me that NO ONE is too far gone for the Lord.  NO ONE is beyond the mercy and compassion of Jesus – NO ONE.  If there’s anybody you know that looks like a hopeless case, they’re not. Jesus is not only able, but willing, to deliver ANYBODY.  He’ll even go out of His way to where they are!

You know why? Because when we see a drunkard, Jesus sees a future disciple.  When we see a drug addict, Jesus sees a future preacher.  When we see a prostitute, Jesus sees a future Lydia or Priscilla or Mary Magdalene.  Jesus sees people with a different set of eyes than we do – we need to learn to see with His eyes!

Secondly, the Confrontation of Jesus: notice that the man everyone ran away from, ran toward Jesus!  The demons that drove him away from all other relationships on that day drove Him towards the only relationship that could save him from his desperate situation.  My friends, there is NO demon – NONE – that can stand against our Savior.  Every spirit is subject to the Lord Jesus Christ and they recognize His authority, sometimes more than humans do!  If you’re ever tempted to think that the devil is ‘winning’ in a situation in your life or in the world at large, think again!  Jesus alone is King of all Kings and Lord of all Lords.

Thirdly, the Command of Jesus: No religious ritual delivered this man from his misery. No psychologist, no psychiatrist, no priest and no program.   There is only one solution to the problem of evil: His name is Jesus.  One word from Jesus and the man was set free!

Fourthly, the Miracle of Jesus: Jesus changed him, clothed him and calmed him.  The cemetery terrorist was seated, clothed and in his right mind when the villagers came out to see what had happened.  What a magnificent picture of what the Lord can do for every lost soul.  Salvation changes us, clothes us with His righteousness and gives us His peace.

How did the Lord do that? By starting from the inside out.  He delivered the man’s soul from a legion – thousands – of devils that tormented him inwardly day and night. The result was that he was then able to clean up, get dressed and sit calmly, listening to Jesus.

And…not only was he healed and delivered, Jesus actually commissioned him to ‘go and tell everyone what the Lord has done for you.’  And he did.

We don’t know this man’s name; we don’t know his family background, how long he lived after his deliverance or how many people he brought to the Lord.  We’ll only  learn those details when we get to heaven.

But his testimony speaks to every generation, right down to ours, that Jesus, and He alone, is Savior, Deliverer, Healer and Redeemer.  No one – NO ONE – is too hard for the Lord.

If you’re trusting God for the salvation of a loved one, a neighbor, a co-worker, etc., let this man’s miraculous transformation encourage and inspire your faith to new heights.

Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever!