This is what Jesus does to the demons

This is what Jesus does to the demons

Luke 8: 30-33 “Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss. A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

  1. He brings into the light what is hidden.

The man is a good man with a bad problem. Jesus exposes the man not to shame but that what is causing him shame.

  1. He commands to know their name.

This is not because he doesn’t know. It is because at his feet everything has to bow. To reveal your name is to surrender your identity.

  1. He permits them to beg.

They begged repeatedly and they begged again. If a legion is up to 6,000 Roman soldiers in a unit then the begging would have been very loud indeed! Hell is begging Heaven. What an amazing sound that is!

  1. He does not give them what they want.

It may look like the demons have got what they wanted but Jesus was playing a better game. The demons wanted to temporarily enter the pigs so that somehow they could return to some other human. They didn’t want to go into the Abyss. They got what they wanted to a point, but they didn’t account for the pigs choosing the wrong route!

  1. He shows them that the sanity and welfare of this man is more important than their destruction and that of the pigs.

The removal of the oppressing, possessing and controlling spirits is a demonstration to the forces of evil that Jesus in a human being is far more powerful than 6,000 demons.

Thank God for Jesus!

 

 

This is what Jesus does for you!

This is what Jesus does for you!

Luke 8: 26-29

They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

The devil will humiliate you, but Jesus clothes you with righteousness.

The devil will make you homeless, but Jesus invites you to come home.

The devil will make you dangerously free, but Jesus sets you completely free. Free indeed!

The devil will break any authoritative figure from you, but Jesus gives you friends of accountability.

The devil will make you isolated, but Jesus places you into His family.

Thank God for Jesus!

Just have faith

Just have faith

Luke 8: 24-25 “The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we’re going to drown!’ He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. ‘Where is your faith?’ he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, ‘Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.’

Faith isn’t only the ability to rebuke and calm the storm.

Just have faith. “Only believe and you will be healed, provided for and blessed”, that’s what we hear so often. This is faith. But is it?

Thousands wake today with the thought, “If I just have a little more faith then my situation can be changed.”

I wonder if you need more faith not to wake Jesus up and be prepared to capsize with the boat.

Maybe faith is not panicking even if it looks like you are going to drown.

Faith is not to prophecy our doom.

If we go down we go down with the Lord of the Resurrection. That is a great position to be in.

I think that’s the faith that is missing today. Faith to lose knowing we always win.

God never makes mistakes

God never makes mistakes

Luke 8: 22-23 “One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.”

Has Jesus not checked the weather forecast? It would appear so.

Is Jesus tired? It would appear so.

Is Jesus not aware of the danger the boat and the disciples are in? It would appear so.

Is this a dreadful mistake by the Son of God? It would appear so.

Today you may need to make a decision on what you are going to hold on to.

Does God know all things? Then He has known all along the storm that you may be in right now.

Does God go quiet when we want Him to be loud? Then He is confident about the circumstance we find ourselves in.

Is God certain all the time? Then He remains constant even when life is uncertain.

God never makes mistakes. That’s what we hold on to today. Appearances can be deceptive.

What opposes our potential?

What opposes our potential?

Luke 8: 19-21 “Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.’ He replied, ‘My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.’

 

Jesus has just finished the parable of the sower and Luke positions this awkward story immediately afterwards. It makes sense that he does that because Jesus still refers to the Shema, listening, hearing and doing God’s word.

There is nothing more upsetting than seeing someone not reach their full potential. Whether that be ministers or marriages, there are times when you roll your eyes at another collapse, another breakdown. You hear of another outburst from some respected person and you wonder if it is possible to ever be who we are called to be.

The key to success of potential lies in the following 3 areas:

 

  1. Context

The context for Mary and her sons according to the other gospels was that they were increasingly concerned over Jesus and had come to take him to task over his lifestyle balance.

The context for Jesus is he has been teaching on the sharing of the gospel, whether the scattering of the seed or being the light in this world.

Which context is more important? Our contexts and justifications have to bow the knee to the context of Jesus and the Gospel.

 

  1. Expectation

The expectation from Mary and the brothers was that because they couldn’t get through to Jesus they expected him to get through to them. “We think it is a lot easier for you to come outside than we come inside.” Are we today desiring God to move upon us more than we desire to move towards Him in the obedience of gospel sharing?

Which expectation is more important? The next move is not God’s it is the Church’s, ours. God is waiting and so is our world.

 

  1. Entitlement

The invitation to become the mother and brothers of Jesus when biologically you already are was not a rebuke but grace. They invited Jesus on their terms but he invited them into a new relationship. The spirit of entitlement was as prevalent as today. Entitlement because of history, of family ties, qualifications, experience, work done, gifting and skill, the list goes on. Entitlement kills a surrendered heart. Jesus invitation was gracious. “Mary and my brothers you are invited to move from being in my biological family to my spiritual family.” That is what Jesus offered them and offers everyone still today. You see, his heart is always the good news. It is always to scatter seed and to be the light in dark places. To welcome all into the Kingdom of God.

It is these 3 things we need to surrender continually in order to become all that we can become.

THE LIGHT AND lists (not capitals because they’re not important)

THE LIGHT AND lists (not capitals because they’re not important)

 

Luke 8: 16-18 “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. 17 For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.18 Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.”

 

Many simply interpret this passage of Jesus with the filter of avoiding sin, secret sin, exposing sin or the judging of sin. I think we have missed what Jesus is saying. I also think when we become so engrossed in eradicating sin from this world through placards and outspoken tweets and enraged arguments then we have lost sight of the Saviour.

Why do so many Church people become fixated with sin?

Why do the world know more about what we are against than what we are for?

Why did Jesus seem to spend more time with sinners and talked more about the sin of those who thought they were not sinners than those he was eating and drinking with?

I truly believe Jesus wouldn’t get accepted in many pastoral search committees.

There’s a Jesus we don’t want.

We all have our own Jesus, made in our own image. (Is that blasphemy?!)

Why do we talk about sin so much? We have lost the smell of sinners in many quarters of the Church. We describe this as purity but I don’t think it is.

Recently I have been discovering a world of hate on twitter. But I have been weeping over where this world is staged, within the kingdom of Christ. Anger expressed over women preaching, anger because someone dared suggest we should love muslims and gay people, such anger that it feels like a kingdom of darkness. Where is the light? Where is the joy? Some of these angry people I would not want at one of my parties that’s for sure!

One of my pet hates is going into a smoke-filled room as a non-smoker because the smell is on my clothes and in my hair etc. Those who are also not smokers will come near me and turn their nose up and say, ‘Paul you stink, have you been smoking?!!’ It is hard to defend because I certainly smell like I have!

The truth is, I took on the effects of sin in that atmosphere. Isn’t that the incarnation? Jesus became one of us and he smelled of sin so much so that when he took on our sins at the cross people accused him of being the worst sinner, cursed by God! You see the true battle with sin is when we embrace the sinner, when we love our way through the pain and effects of sin and we run the risk of being judged by man for being soft on sin. That’s when the battle intensifies. In some places the most ruthless battle over sin is not on the cross as much as at the church door.

So what is this text about? This will help …

“No one lights a lamp and then covers it with a washtub or shoves it under the bed. No, you set it up on a lamp stand so those who enter the room can see their way. We’re not keeping secrets; we’re telling them. We’re not hiding things; we’re bringing everything out into the open. So be careful that you don’t become misers of what you hear. Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes.” (The Message).

It is about the LIGHT not lists. His LIGHT. We don’t have a problem with darkness when JESUS is here. This is how Luke ends the parable of the sower and the reason Jesus gives for him coming to the towns and villages.

Basically it is this …

Jesus is the LIGHT, this amazing new kingdom announcer, revealing a kingdom that no one has known. It is not a hidden kingdom, it is not a cult with secret practices that no one knows. No, it is a wide-open invitation to the whomsoever kingdom. The parables that Jesus tells are the unlocking of the mysteries and secrets of this kingdom. So, if you can hear then Shema! Listen, hear and do. Copy. Give this same LIGHT to others, don’t give them lists of what they cannot do, encourage them into what they can do and who they can be in this kingdom. Let the world know what you stand for. Be generous with what you have. Of course if you don’t have this LIGHT then you cannot give it. If you do have it and don’t share it then you will become poor and it will be taken from you, the LIGHT will die.

So with all my heart I plead with the Church to please put the lists down and shine Jesus

Gospel stories are gracious

Gospel stories are gracious

Luke 8: 19-20 “His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.”

Do you really want to be a preacher when you only have 25% chance of any lasting fruit from it?

Do you really want to be a witness when 3 people out of every 4 people will make you feel disappointed?

What Jesus says may at first glance cause some confusion.

Everyone would know he is quoting the prophet Isaiah who was sent to preach to 4 major kings in Judah. Isaiah knew this would not be a successful appointment because of the hardness and apathy of their hearts. In fact his preaching would make it worse, for he would make their hearts even harder.

Jesus is explaining to the crowd what he has been doing. He is scattering seed, but the people need to hear and understand. Yet understanding the secrets of the kingdom hidden in a parable is a work of God in a heart that is willing to be open to receive the truth. For others, Jesus hasn’t come to condemn, so if they reject the kingdom then to lessen their guilt they are actually only rejecting a story that they didn’t understand.

As we scatter seed, let’s not be as focused on our ability and skill in doing so but in prayer that there be a move in their hearts to hear and understand.

Yet in scattering seed we must acknowledge that it will have the effect of the hardening of hearts in some people. So the sharing of the gospel may not bring results but it is always effective because it will at the very least bring judgment. And maybe that is the uncomfortable truth. You share a story of your life to witness to someone the gospel and they receive it gladly, they get it completely. What a great story and presentation! You do exactly the same thing to another person and they look at you with a blank face. Don’t worry, it’s okay, there may be nothing wrong with your presentation, it is just that on this occasion not only did they not take the opportunity to hear and understand they became more entrenched in their position yet they did so in the most gracious way possible, because all they heard was a story of your life, the meaning was hidden from them. Parables are gracious. Judgment doesn’t have to come in hard knock-out blows.

The power of the Seed and Shema

The power of the Seed and Shema

 

Luke 8: 8, 15  “Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown … But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”

 

After all that, after seed falling on the path, the rocky ground, the thorny soil, still … it is okay because if you scatter enough seed some will land on good soil.

 

v8 When he said this, he called out, ‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’

 

There is power in the seed, power to multiply a 100 times more than what it was when it was sown. That’s like saying if you scatter the seed and it lands on good soil, just one seed, one presentation of the gospel can be enough to produce a 100 member church which then has the capacity to reap a 100 other 100 member churches resulting in a 10,000 movement. One more time and you have won a city for Jesus!

Now that is worth the waste of the path, the rocky soil and the thorny soil isn’t it?!

So where is the good soil? Where are the noble and good hearts? Of course we don’t know at first glance.

But the Shema helps.

The Shema is in Deuteronomy 6:4-9

It’s the first passage children recite. It is prayed twice a day and at the end of festivals.

It starts with the word Shema = Listen or Hear. “Hear, O Israel the Lord your God is one.”

It means to understand, consider, allow the words to sink in and then decide to do something with them.

When Jesus calls out this phrase he was shouting a Jewish idiom. They were fully aware of what he is referring to. They knew their prophets like Ezekiel:

Ezekiel. 12:2 Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, which has eyes to see but does not see, and ears to hear but does not hear; for they are a rebellious house.

Listen, understand and then do. That is the Shema. That is the noble and good heart. That is the good soil and this is where we get the most lasting reaping.

The question is can we continue to be Shema disciples and Shema churches.

Are we teachable? Who is speaking into our life and questioning our heart, words and actions?

You know whether you are in an accountability relationship or group when you have given permission to others to question your motives, your attitudes, your words and your actions in a teachable style, in order to be the best you can be in life. BUT you then listen to those questions, you understand, you take them in and make the mental changes and then you go and take courses of action that are then necessary. That’s being accountable.

If someone is above being questioned. If a leader is too big to reach then they are perhaps too big.

A Christian, a Church with good soil is one that is teachable. That means at times they will be wrong, they will make mistakes, they will need to apologise, change their mind and take another course of action. Anything less isn’t accountability. Nor is it Shema. It would indicate they have no ears to hear. Perhaps that is why there is no lasting crop a hundred-fold.

Choking

Choking

Luke 8: 7, 14  “Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants … The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.”

 

Those who ‘do not mature’ are the ones who do not reach their true potential. They do not become all that they could.

When the scattered seed fell into the thorny soil it carried within it the life and power to produce a fully grown plant. There was nothing wrong with the seed. Initially it grows but so did other things alongside it. These things are not really bad things, they are at first really small and look harmless enough. Wisdom is not only seeing potential in the seedling but potential in the weed and thorn.

So what are these thorns?

Worry. The Bible is full of instruction not to, yet it doesn’t seem like a command when we are concerned about something. Worry can seem responsible. It can make us feel like we care about what is going on in the world. But it deceives because worry is not that at all. Worry consumes, it can make a person slow down and it can even make a person ill. Why worry when you can pray?

Riches. Jesus says more about money than perhaps anything else. He called it ‘Mammon’ referring to it as a false god which tries to offer you what only God offers, security. It wants you to pursue it with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. Yes it is trying to copy the worship of God.

Pleasures. What is it that you think you cannot live without? I talked with my daughter yesterday about the power of a certain chocolate bar which we had recently discovered. I won’t tell you what it is called because it has this powerful ability to give you a good feeling. It is simply amazing! It begins with P and ends in C and it is what we call an activity where we carry our food to some beauty spot and then put the rug on the ground, sit down and eat as a group. Oh my goodness! What a pleasure! If only a chocolate bar was a thorn. For some it may be! But there are pleasures or habits that we just cannot shake loose. They do have a hold over our lives. It leaves us with the reaction, ‘I must have that thing.’ Cravings can choke us.

These 3 things prevent us reaching our true potential.

I wonder if it’s possible that a whole church can become choked because of the thorns. Is that why they enter a decline? ‘Come to Jesus and he will satisfy you with all that you need, you will have no troubles when you receive Jesus, he will give you riches and he will satisfy your every longing.’ That’s not the gospel because it not only isn’t the good news, it just isn’t true. Initially we can get converts with this and the church grows. But soon these converts realise that actually it is right to worry because recently some of their prayers haven’t been answered the way they had hoped. They get made redundant or for other reasons enter into some financial difficulty and they wonder why when Jesus was meant to be improving their life. So they turn to their pleasures again. Pleasures plus Jesus leads to just pleasures. Yes it is true, a whole church can become choked.

It can become choked by going through seasons where everything is filtered through a worry. Prayer meetings are intensified, preaching is centred around the topic of whatever is wrong in the world, the tough challenges we are facing, the atmosphere is heightened, red alert, this is a battle, the forces of evil are banging on the church door trying to get in, maybe they are already in, we need to get them out. The leaders maybe thinking they are being spiritual but the guy in the pew is just worried and the church chokes.

It can become choked by wealth. When the leaders of a church are desiring a project then they need to lead the church to give. How they do this needs wisdom. Sometimes out of their frustration and perhaps lack of faith they are wanting to tip every church member upside down through manipulation and brute force to get whatever is in their pockets into the offering plate. Let’s have more offerings! We need to preach and teach about money but it becomes difficult to do so when you are at the same time wanting the money from people you are speaking to. Give me £10 for a soul. 5 dollars for a healing. There are online prophecy ministries where you can get an instant prophecy or a long range forecast, for a fee. Other churches preaching wealth as a prize for the walk with Jesus have done more damage than anything else in the church, they ask for a seed from you with the thought that if you seed into them then you will prosper. What happens is that they get a sack full of seeds so that they become rich and you have lost sometimes what is far more than a seed.

It can become choked by pleasures. The pleasures of politics within church, in-fighting, gossip, spiritual abuse is pleasurable to those that abuse, ambition, Pharisaic religion, sin, going to sleep etc. The list just goes on. Pleasures abound in many forms.

Yes it is true a whole church can become choked as much as individual Christians.

Is the fault with the one scattered the seed? Should Jesus not be sharing the kingdom to the whosoever? Should we first not have some rigorous application to make sure that this is not thorny soil. No, let’s scatter. There will be pain but there are times when we simply cannot tell the quality of the soil, we will find that out later. But for now the whole world needs to hear of Jesus.

Pentecostals, flakiness and steely determination against all the odds.

Pentecostals, flakiness and steely determination against all the odds.

Luke 8: 6, 13 “Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture …Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.”

The extravagant Jesus scatters his seed in such a way that seems careless to the many. He doesn’t seem bothered where it lands. There is no limit to the gospel. There is an endless supply of the seed. It can be wasted, no panic, it is okay. Let us enjoy the joy while it lasts. For some it will be short-lived others will make it for the long haul.

I have been astounded often by finding out the ones I thought wouldn’t make it because I thought under the test of life they would fall away. Whereas the ones I would have betted on them lasting the course didn’t last a year in the Church.

Happy Pentecost everyone!

One of the accusations thrown at the Pentecostal is shallowness. That underneath there isn’t much. At the surface it is just froth and bubble, unconventional behaviour which is contrived, indulgent, bizarre, over-emotional and alarming.

Acts 2:13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

Yet, today, there are 600 million Pentecostals in the world.

  • 92 million denominationalPentecostals (or “Classical Pentecostals”).
  • 234 million Charismatics. This includes Catholic (177 million), Orthodox (4.2 million), and Protestant (35 million) Christians.
  • 259 million IndependentPentecostal/Charismatics.

(source: https://www.andrewkgabriel.com/2017/09/26/how-many-pentecostals/)

Taken as a whole, Pentecostals (in the large sense of the term) make up over 25% of all of the world’s Christians. So Pentecostalism is large! And it will continue to grow. By 2025 scholars expect over 30% of Christians will be Pentecostal-Charismatic.

So the answer is, ‘No, these people are not drunk, as you suppose. It is only nine in the morning!’ (Acts 2:15)

Do they survive the testing, do they fall away because they have no root, no depth? Just ask those in Eritrea where the Pentecostals are hunted down and are persecuted the most.

In 2017 a report titled “In Response to Persecution,” which was a new study from the Notre Dame’s Under Caesar’s Sword project, stated that the Pentecostals in the world were targeted far more than any other in the Church. It concluded, “The word martyr is derived from the Greek for “witness” and those who die for their faith “embody the fullest expression of Christian freedom, testifying with their lives to the ultimate triumph of the God in whom they hope.”

So, not so much flakiness in that report.

Acts 2: 16 “No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people …”

Peter scattered the seed of the gospel and 3,000 souls came into the kingdom that day. Amongst them probably some of a rocky soil, some who wouldn’t last the testing. But that’s okay. That’s just how it is.