They Could Not Tame Him

Mark 4:36
“When they had left the multitude . . .”

Mark 4 ends with the story of a dangerous journey on which Jesus took His disciples. Knowing all things, He knew they would face a storm on the sea. He knew this storm would be so great that those who had grown up fishing those waters, and experiencing rough conditions, would fear for their very lives. However, it is not until we venture into Mark 5 that we understand the reason for the journey was just one man. Jesus left the multitudes and took twelve men on a death-defying trip across dangerous waters, in order to reach this one man. Multitudes were flocking to Him, but in the country of the Gadarenes, a man was in need. This becomes even more amazing when we understand who this man was. We read of him,

“. . .who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him.” Mark 5:3-4

As sad as that description is, I am struck by the final phrase, “neither could anyone tame him.” Tame him! What a word. It seems so out-of-place to be used of a man. It is a word I reserve for animals; yet, it is so appropriate for this man. His lifestyle, whatever that was, had ruined his life. The world had done all they could do to help, but to no avail. He was now chained in a graveyard, and people simply avoided him. That is, until Jesus, not only went out of His way to rescue this man, but took His disciples on a trip they would never forget, for the purpose of saving this one lost soul.

When the story ends, we find the man in His right mind, sent out to tell His friends what Jesus had done for Him. No doubt, he would explain how Jesus crossed a turbulent sea to save him. Let’s learn the lesson the disciples were meant to learn: Jesus places the highest value on the human soul, even if he is living like a wild animal.

Pastor Jim.

It’s Not Worth It

Zechariah 11:12
“Then I said to them,  ‘If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.’ So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver.”

As the time of His death drew near, Jesus asked His disciples two very probing questions. First He asked, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul”(Matthew 16:26)? The question itself reveals that the soul is of infinite worth, and all the world’s wealth, honor and power would not be worth giving up to gain eternity. Since no man will ever gain all the world, Jesus asked a second question, “What will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Sadly, many people have sold their souls for pocket change. No one more infamously than Judas Iscariot.

Scripture declares, one of the twelve apostles, chosen by Jesus, to carry on the work of His ministry after His resurrection, was a man from southern Israel named Judas. We know little of his backstory, but can assume he was drawn to Jesus through the ministry of John the Baptist. (When choosing his replacement, one of the requirements was the person must have followed Jesus since the baptism of John). Judas spent three years training with Jesus and the others. He spent long walks, private meals and special, behind the scene, encounters learning from Christ. He was given opportunities to serve, and power from heaven to accomplish the work of God on earth. Tragically, this was not enough for Judas, and he began to allow covetousness to fuel his thinking and later his actions. It was not long before he plotted to sell his soul for 30 pieces of silver.

I have often wondered what 30 pieces of silver could purchase in the 1st Century. Could he have bought a new chariot, remodeled a room in his home, or taken a fancy vacation with that unholy cash? Whatever it was worth, it was not worth his soul. Even if he hadn’t been overcome by guilt and thrown the money away, it still would have been gone in a matter of time, and he would have been left with nothing.

Judas is not alone in selling himself off, for that which has little or no value. People are doing the same thing today. A person might trade their relationship with Christ, for a relationship with someone else. Instead of remaining faithful to God and His word, they compromise, fearing that if they don’t, they will lose the other person. Another, might take a job where they are forced to compromise, because it pays a few dollars more per hour, or comes with the promise of better “tips.” Soon, this compromise leads to other compromises, and they find themselves far from God, living the same life from which Jesus had set them free. Others, lose sight of the value Christ has placed upon them, and desire to find their worth in how the world views them. Soon, they are dressing like the world, attempting to fit in, or even buying into the world’s value system, so as not to face any form of persecution or ridicule.

Allow me to remind you,  you are worth more than that. No dollar amount is worth the exchange of your soul, because no relationship is more valuable than your relationship with Christ; no job is worth the cost of compromise. Instead of selling out, let’s try being more fully committed to Christ than we have ever been. Those 30 pieces of silver bought nothing that lasted, but those who committed themselves to Christ, have had an impacted upon the world that has lasted for 2,000 years.

Pastor Jim

 

Game Over 

Jeremiah 41:15
“But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men and went to the Ammonites.”

After conquering Judah and Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah governor over the people. He allowed many of the Jews to remain in the land, and gave them certain freedoms regarding their worship. Soon, those who had fled from Jerusalem, when the Babylonians forces first arrived, began to make their way back to the city. Many of them were faithful to a man named Ishmael, who secretly wanted to overthrow Gedaliah and Babylon.  He soon took action by going on a killing spree, putting to death all those he saw as faithful to the governor. His actions not only caused the death of many innocent men, but also turned Babylon against Jerusalem, and finally forced Ishmael to flee from Israel to the Ammonites.

This passage reminds me of the question Jesus asked His disciples. Recognizing that no man will ever gain the whole world, He inquired “What will a man give in exchange for His soul?” (Matthew 16:26 ) Ishmael was willing to murder to pursue his drive for power. He valued a position as more important than obedience to God. When his murderous tirade finally came to an end, he reigned for only a few short days, before he fled as a fugitive to a foreign land where he died in obscurity never to be heard from again.

The height of folly is to give up what will last forever in pursuit of what is only temporary. Like Esau selling his birthright for a bowl of soup, Ishmael gave up eternity for a few days upon the throne. The missionary Jim Elliot once wrote “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”

Pastor Jim

 

Prescription That Works 

Hebrews 1:3
…and upholding all things by the word of His power…

When the children of Israel were in the wilderness, God supernaturally provided for their needs. Each morning, as the dew settled on the ground, a substance known simply as “manna” would appear. Manna was similar to a pastry sweetened with honey, and contained all the nutritional needs of the children of Israel, throughout their wilderness journey. When the kids arose and were hungry, they were given manna, at lunch time, manna, after school snack, manna, dinner, manna. No matter what the hunger, the answer was “manna”. For those who lost site of the miraculous nature of this “Angel Food”, this may have become somewhat monotonous.

A similar thing often happens with believers. We face a fear, struggle, temptation, disappointment, challenge, or trial, and when we seek counsel, we are told to read the Bible. We might even be given a prescription of a couple of key verses, and told to memorize them, and meditate upon them. There are times when we may feel like “Come on man, I am in real trouble and need some real help, how is a Bible verse going to help me?”

“…and upholding all things by the word of His power…

Hebrews 1 describes the value of the Word of God and why, no matter what the diagnosis, the prescription is more of the Word. We are told the entire universe is held together by the Word of His power. I remember learning that within the nucleus of an atom, are two opposing charges that should repel one another but are being held together with what scientists refer to as “atomic glue.” Two thousand years ago, the Bible described the atomic glue holding all things together, as the Word of God.

The reason we prescribe the Word to be ingested daily, is because there is no substance in the universe which carries the kind of power that the Word of God does. It has the power to reveal to the sinner their need for a Savior, leading them to Christ. It has the power to transform the life of the struggling Christian, giving him strength to withstand temptation, and follow after Jesus. It has the power to equip the saint for service, providing him with a “sharp, two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12), with which to influence others for the kingdom of heaven.

Don’t get tired of the Word. Don’t think because you ate from it yesterday that you can skip your meal today. Like Manna, we must arise every morning and partake of the Word if we are going to benefit from its miraculous power.

Pastor Jim

Leanness Of Soul 

Psalm 106:13-15
“They soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel, but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.”

As Israel followed God out of Egypt and through the wilderness, they faced many obstacles. Some of the more memorable ones were the Egyptian army, the Red Sea, and the wilderness without food or water. These obstacles became opportunities for them to see God accomplish great things. He parted the Red Sea, exterminated the Egyptian army, provided water from a rock, and sent food from heaven to feed His people. As time went on, the people grew tired of the provision of God, and began to yearn for something else. This passage refers to an event recorded in Numbers 11, where the people complained to Moses about the Manna. In response, the Lord sent an enormous flock of quail. The people went nuts beating the quail out of the sky and devouring the flesh. It seems from the text, they were so out of control in devouring the quail, that they did not cook it properly and became sick from it. The Psalmist writes; “They lusted exceedingly in the wilderness.”

The text in Numbers 11 tells us the contributing factors which led to giving into their lust. First, it had much to do with the people with whom they surrounded themselves. Two groups of people are listed with the children of Israel. One was the mixed multitude; which refers to people who came out of Egypt with Israel, who were not committed to the Lord. Sometimes the most dangerous relationships are those who claim to be followers of the Lord, but are not committed to Him. We tend to let our guard down around them because we view them as believers. Sadly, that often leads to compromise in our walk with the Lord. Another group mentioned were those who dwelt on the outskirts of the camp. Prior to this, God had mapped out where the people were to camp. Each tribe had a spot with the Tabernacle in the center. No one was told to live on the outskirts. Those who did, were breaking fellowship with the rest of the congregation.

This is all too common of an occurrence. Christians break fellowship for many reasons; all of which seem to be a good idea at the time, but since God designed us to need the encouragement, rebuke and example of one another, this broken fellowship will always weaken us, and lead to failure. Finally, we are told they “yielded to intense craving.” As we walk with the Lord, we are constantly facing temptation, but there are times when those temptations create a greater draw than others. It is at those times we need to fight harder against the flesh, cling tighter to the Lord, and surround ourselves even more with the people of God. Instead of clinging to the Lord, they gave in to their desire, and the end result was their flesh got what it wanted, but their souls got leaner. In other words, this had a detrimental effect upon them spiritually.

One thing is certain, each of us will face temptation today. That temptation will promise to make us happy, only to rob us of the life God has promised. Rather than giving into those desires, let’s be sure to cling more tightly to the Lord. Perhaps it would be a good thing to call a Christian friend and confide in them the struggle you are facing,that they may hold your hands up in prayer.

Pastor Jim

 

This Is Not The End

Ruth 1:5
“Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; so the woman survived her two sons and her husband.

To say that Naomi had been through some difficult times is a colossal understatement. Because of a severe famine throughout Israel, she and Elimelech made the difficult decision to leave their homeland, family and friends, in search of a better life. The road that promised a better life actually led to heartache. Naomi watched as her husband died, and shortly thereafter, each of her two sons died. Widowed, heartbroken and left with nothing, she decided to make her way back to Israel. After such grievous trials, it would be easy to concede, this was the end for her.

As the story unfolds, we begin to realize God had not deserted Naomi. In fact, He had a wonderful future in mind for her. A future that involved the restoration of a family and the redemption of mankind.

As Naomi made her way back to Israel, Ruth, her daughter-in-law, insisted on returning with her. Naomi’s influence led Ruth to make a decision to follow the Lord. This decision would change the course of human history. As the story continues, Ruth will meet Boaz, fall in love, marry, have children, then grandchildren, and David will be introduced to the world.

When all seemed lost, God had a future for Naomi that included the salvation of souls. Whatever you may be facing, remember, this is not the end. The Psalmist declared,

“Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.” 
Psalm 42:5

Pastor Jim

 

Mercy And Compassion

Proverbs 11:17
“The merciful man does good for his own soul,
But he who is cruel troubles his own flesh.”

Mercy is often defined as not getting what we deserve. While that is true, the word carries a greater meaning. It also means to show compassion and kindness to those who are in need or distressed. We see it evidenced in the life of Jesus. When He heard the leper calling out for Him, we read Jesus was moved with compassion, reached out His hand, touched the man, and cleansed him. Mercy stirred the heart of Jesus to touch the untouchable, and restore what leprosy had destroyed (Mark 1:40-41). When He felt a tug on His garment, He turned to see a woman who had been struggling with an illness for 12 years, without any hope of healing. Mercy stirred Him to heal her sickness, and reward her great faith (Luke 8:43). When He arrived on the scene of Lazarus’ funeral, and heard the wailing of his family and friends, mercy stirred the heart of Jesus, to weep with those who wept, and to intervene by raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-17). Over and over, page after page, person after person, we see Jesus expressing His mercy, in compassion and kindness, to those in need. Nowhere, is this seen more clearly than in the cross. Our need was much greater than that of a woman with a blood disease, a man with leprosy, or even a family with a dead brother. Our need was caused by sin, and the only cure was the death of God. Jesus saw our condition, and bore the weight of all our sin, as He hung on Calvary’s cross. Mercy was extended as His blood was shed.

Mercy is something we are to receive and to spread. Solomon stated, it is the merciful man who does good for his own soul. Jesus said we are blessed when we are merciful. Just as Jesus looked for, and aided those in need, we should be looking for ways to express the mercy of God to others. Mercy is expressed in forgiveness. When we choose to forgive someone who has wronged us, and treat them as though they had never acted that way, we are expressing mercy. When we choose to be kind to someone, not because they have been kind to us, or in hopes of being rewarded, we are expressing mercy. When we go out of our way to show the love of Christ to others, whether it be in word or action, we are expressing mercy. This mercy will benefit the receiver and the giver alike. Those who receive mercy are learning something of the nature of God, and those giving it, are doing good to their own soul.

Pastor Jim

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