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Sensitive Love

Our verses today are Mark 5:30-32: “And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about inthe crowd and said, ‘Who touched my garments?’  And his disciples said to him, ‘ou see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’  And he looked around to see who had done it.”

A woman with a incessant flow of blood, an illness she had possessed for twelve years, an illness that had robbed her of all her life’s savings, in desperation, made her way through the crowds and touched the hem of Jesus’ robe.  Her desperate faith drove her to believe that even if she touched Jesus’ garment, she would be made well.

When she touched his garment, Jesus felt a power leave his body.  There was a large crowd.  Many were following him.  He asks, “Who touched me?”  The disciples responded, “The crowd is too big.  How can we know?”  Jesus looked into the masses to see who had done it.

What strikes me most in these verses is Jesus felt power leave his body when the woman touched his garment!  She didn’t touch him.  She touched his garment!  She may have only touched the hem of his garment.  Yet he still felt God’s great power in him leave.

How could this be? How could Jesus feel a power surge leave his body if only his clothes were touched?  It must be because of Jesus’ great, sensitive love to all needs of his followers.  His tender sensitivity to the world’s needs must be beyond anything we can imagine.  A desperate cry of help to him that only touches his clothes is still heard and felt by him.

I remember when our first child was born.  We had waited a long time for her birth.  Finally, she had come.  At night, while she slept, if she even gurgled my wife would awaken and hear it.  If she moved ever so slightly, my wife would awaken and hear it.  Any small whimper for help would cause my wife immediately to awaken and respond to her need.

My wife possessed a tender “mother love, a sensitivity of love toward my daughter that only a Mom can understand.  It responded to any movement, any need from my daughter.

That is God’s love toward us.  No matter what your need may be today, reach out to God.  Go to him and tell him all that is on your heart.  Even if your effort only touches the hem of his garment, he still hears your needs.  You are his child.

He loves you deeply and dearly.  His love for you is tender, sensitive and…responsive…as we’ll see tomorrow.

Life’s Baggage

My wife and I travel a great deal.  We have to carry and roll our baggage from home, to the airport, to our destination, to the motels in which we are staying, then back home again. It’s tiresome, to say the least!  I get tired thinking about it!

Here’s a truth we’ve learned about carrying this baggage: you really don’t know how heavy it is until you put it down.  You muster all the strength you can to get to your destination.  But when you finally stop and put the baggage down, you say to yourself, “Whew, that was really heavy.  How did I keep carrying it?”

The same is true with our life’s baggage.  We are all carrying some.  Maybe it’s resentment toward a person who hurt you.  Or perhaps it’s a life disappointment, something that didn’t work out like you wanted.  Or maybe it’s that job you didn’t get or the team you didn’t make.

Most often, this baggage is cumulative.  It builds up over years.  Yet we keep moving forward, carrying heavier burdens by the year.

Today, why not try putting the baggage down?  How?  Just do it!  Release it from your puny hands and give all of it to God.  Say to him, “You are sovereign over all.  You know this happened to me.  I’m tired of carrying it.  I’m giving it to you. It’s too heavy to keep carrying.  I’m letting you carry it.  You promised to use it for my good and your glory.  So I’m trusting you.  I’m letting go.  I’m putting it down.”

Then walk away.

Not only will you discover God really does care for you, and is carrying your burdens as he promised, you’ll also discover how heavy the baggage was and how light your walk with Jesus is now.

“Cast all your cares upon him, for he cares for you”–I Peter 5:7.  Wise words for tired people carrying lots of life’s baggage!

If you like to read the insights from the daily Bible reading in Mark, please click here.

Brokenness Everywhere

Today’s verses are Mark 5:25,26: “And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him.  And there was a woman who had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.”

The throngs followed Jesus.  His teachings, exorcisms and healings motivated many to follow him.  In these verses, Jesus is heading toward Jairus’ house (see yesterday’s blog).  Jairus had approached Jesus asking, begging, imploring him to come to his house and heal his little daughter who was at the point of death.  We see the broken heart of a father living in a broken world where he worst of tragedies was staring him in the face: the potential death of his young daughter.

On the way, there is a woman in the crowd.  Her brokenness is beyond words.  She had been experiencing a continual, incessant discharge of blood.  It had lasted for twelve, long, agonizing years. Many physicians had tried to heal her but she suffered much.  The condition never abated.  Moreover, she had spent everything she had to try and be healed, all to no avail.

On account of this problem, she is also ceremonially unclean.  She is not even permitted to enter the part of the temple reserved for women.  If she is in public, she must let everyone around her know that she is ceremonially unclean.  Was she yelling this out as she approached Jesus?  If anyone touched her, they would become ceremonially unclean too.  Bottom line: she was an outcast.

She was physically exhausted.  She was in pain.  She was broke.  She had no hope.  Her life was totally broken.

There is brokenness everywhere.  We live in a very fallen world.  Little girls get sick and die.  Women get diseases and suffer.  People spend thousands of their savings when ill, often to no avail.  Of course, the same is true of men, and people of all ages.  The world is broken.  It is not working as God intended.  Sin has ransacked God’s once perfect order.  Creation is groaning for the day of redemption.

That day will come.  Jesus inaugurated it when he entered human history in a stable in Bethlehem.  His cross and resurrection assure us all that his second coming, that wonderful day of redemption, will come.

While on this earth, Jesus walks amidst the brokenness.  He moves toward healing a little girl.  He lets an unclean woman touch him (we’ll see this in greater detail tomorrow).  Many others are healed.  Demons are exorcised.  He teaches of the Father’s eternal love for his creation. His kingdom has come.  And one ne day he will return and finish his work.

Until that day, Jesus’ followers are supposed to be his hands and feet.  We are to walk amidst the brokenness of this world and heal as we are able.  We are to touch others and tell them of the Father’s eternal love.  We are to care for the outcast in our society.  We are to be living monuments of God’s love.

It is a broken world.  This brokenness is everywhere.  It won’t last forever.  Until then we are Jesus’ hands and feet in a very broken world.

Come soon, Lord Jesus!

Go & Tell

Today’s verses are Mark 5:18,19: “As he (Jesus) was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him.  And he did not permit him but said to him, ‘God home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’”

The demoniac, now free and in sound mind, sees his deliverer, Jesus, getting into a boat, ready to leave this Gentile area.  He begged Jesus that he could join his group and be a part of his inner circle.  Jesus didn’t permit it.  Rather, he sent him home to go and tell his family and friends what the Lord had done and how he had had mercy on him.

Many churches today are using an evangelistic strategy of “Come and see.”  They want their people to invite their family and friends to “come and see” what’s going on in their worship services then, prayerfully, they will come to faith in Christ.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with this strategy.  However, it appears the strategy Jesus most often used was not “come and see” but “go and and tell.”  After experiencing the life-transforming power of Jesus, it’s the responsibility of the newly changed person to go and tell what Jesus has done for you.

That’s what Jesus told the now-free demoniac.  He went home to this area called the Decapolis.  As a Gentile territory, Jesus didn’t have to face the growing hostility of the Jewish authorities.  He didn’t have to worry about misinterpretations of his Messiahship among these people.  Therefore, as opposed to earlier places in the Scripture where Jesus demanded healed people to be quiet, here he gave the man freedom to proclaim.

Also, by proclaiming Jesus’ power and grace in this area, it set the stage, after the Resurrection, for the Gospel to be proclaimed in this Gentile area.  People would have known the name of Jesus because of this event and been more willing to receive the message of salvation.

And what was his message to be?  He was to tell his family and friends how Jesus had had mercy on him.  Mercy.  It means not getting what we deserve.  There was nothing meritorious the demoniac had done to deserve Jesus’ healing grace.  But it was given, freely, mercifully, to this man.

That same kind of mercy from Jesus has been given to all of us who believe.  We don’t deserve the Cross of Christ.  We don’t deserve our sins to be forgiven by grace through faith.  There is nothing meritorious within us to deserve mercy.  But it is given to us, freely, graciously and mercifully.  That is the message we proclaim to those who don’t know him: I’m a sinner, far from God.  But God mercifully, through Jesus, died on the Cross to forgive me of my sins.  Now he gives me salvation as a free gift, by grace through faith.

Come and see is a strategy that works.  There is nothing wrong with it.  But go and tell is what Jesus wants from all those whom he has touched with his mercy.

Is the Resurrection True?

Millions upon millions of Christians worldwide will celebrate this week-end the living Lord Jesus.  We will all proclaim, with a unified voice, “He is alive!  He is risen!”  We will proclaim, as a bedrock of our faith, that Jesus is raised from the dead.  Without this conviction, we know, as the apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 15, that our faith is in vain.

If Jesus is still in the tomb, what message do Christians have to offer a dying world?  We don’t have one.

But the Resurrection must be true.  Hundreds of eyewitnesses in that day said they saw a resurrected Jesus.  Many are mentioned by name, as if the Gospel writers were saying, “Here are their names.  Go talk to them!”

Many of these same witnesses were later threatened with persecution or death if they didn’t recant their story.  But they would not.  Some did die for this belief.  Often, they would say, with their dying breath, “He is alive!”  Their faith was as real as their breath.  They refused to recant.

Here’s one of the major reasons I believe the resurrection is true: people don’t suffer torture, persecution and death for what they know is a lie.  They might die for what they think is true but is really a lie (like driving a plane into a building and believing your martyrdom will grant you eternal life with dozens of virgins).  But people don’t suffer and die for what they KNOW is a lie.

If these disciples knew Jesus hadn’t been raised form the dead, they’d have recanted with the first lash on their backs, the first drop of boiling oil on their bodies, the first flame licking their bodies.  ”Hey, just kidding,” they would have cried out.  ”It’s not true!”  But they did not say it.  They died refusing to deny what they’d seen and heard.

Why?  Because they knew they’d seen a risen Savior.  They knew they were forever forgiven.  They knew he had promised them eternal life.  They knew that they were eternal creatures. They knew their destinations.  They knew Jesus was on the other side waiting for them.  They knew the importance of believing in the Resurrection.

Is the Resurrection true?  There are many, many reasons to believe it is.  But one of, if not the most plausible reason to believe in the veracity of the Resurrection is the eyewitnesses willingness to die for what they knew that had seen.

Cling to this truth this week.  Cling to it forever.  The Resurrection is true.

Hallelujah!  He is risen!

If you like to read the insights from the daily Bible reading in Mark, please click here.

A Sound Mind

Mark 5:15 is today’s verse: “And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.”

The man with the legion of demons is now set free.  No longer is he wandering the tombs unclothed.  No longer is he in chains.  No longer is he cutting himself, doing himself bodily harm.  He is now sitting in their midst, calm, serene and sedate.  He is “in his right mind.”  He has a sound mind.  His body, soul and spirit are now perfectly integrated, as God intended.

This is God’s will for all humans, all people who are image-bearers of God.  2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God did not give us a spirit of fear but of love, peace and a sound mind.”  If you feel fear, it’s not from God.  He never intended his children to live in fear but in faith.  He never intended us to be under demonic assault, constantly hurting ourselves with fear and worry. He wants us to trust him as a loving, heavenly Father who cares for us.  He doesn’t want us to be anxious about anything.

A sound mind is a mind that operates in perfect peace.  It trusts, knowing that everything that happens to us must first pass through our heavenly Father’s perfect plan for our lives.  It believes he is causing all things in our lives to work together for good.  We know that God is God over all the demonic world. Therefore, we have sound minds.

Trust God today.  Believe his plan for you is good because he is good.  Let your mind become peaceful.  Rid yourself of all fear.  His will for you is a sound mind, a right mind, free from all demonic assaults that want to make you less than what God intended.

Really Love God

This week is Holy Week.  Many churches, like Forest Hill, will have a service of darkness.  It will be a time of deep reflection into our sin.  During this time, we will reflect upon the fact that our sin nailed Jesus to the cross.  It should have been our cross!  We should have suffered upon the cross instead of Jesus.

But because of his great love and mercy, he substituted himself for us.  He who had perfect righteousness, took sin upon himself, so that we, who are filled with sin, might receive his righteousness.  ”He who knew no sin became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ”–2 Corinthians 5:21.

Do you know how sinful you are?  Have you gotten in touch with the Biblical fact that all of us have fallen way short of God’s glory?  Do you know that before you met Jesus, you were a traitor, enemy and sinner before the holy God of the universe?  Do you know that you deserve eternal hell as your destination?

Only then do you desire the grace of Jesus.  Only then do you desire his forgiveness.

Let me put it another way: our love of God is in direct proportion to how great a sinner we know ourselves to be.  If you think you sin a little, your love for God will be just a little bit.  If you think you are a gross sinner, your love for God will be great.

This week, reflect upon the cross of Christ.  Realize anew it’s because of your sin that he had to die.  Understand that your sin nailed him there.

Then experience the exponential growth of his grace in your heart.  Realize anew his eternal mercy given to you through his death.

Realization of your sin should increase your love for him.

That’s what’s happens in my life, when I survey that wondrous cross!

If you like to read the insights from the daily Bible reading in Mark, please click here.

 

We Are The Crown

Mark 5:13 is our verse for today: “So he gave them permission.  And the unclean spirits came out, and entered the pigs, and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank int the sea and were drowned in the sea.”

In yesterday’s verses, we see how the demoniac, knowing the inevitability of being cast out of the man by the absolute authority of Jesus, asked if Jesus would send them into the herd of pigs.  Our verse today shows that Jesus gave this permission.  And the unclean spirits went into the pigs.  Were there 2,000 demonic hosts?  We don’t know.  They were named “Legion,” thus showing there were many.  But the exact number, we don’t know.

Why did Jesus permit them to enter the pigs?  I offer this conjecture.  Jesus is exalting here human beings, the crown of his creation.  Yes, God loves the animal kingdom, including pigs.  He created all animals.  They are precious in his sight.  But humans are supreme in God’s created order.  We rest at the top of God’s importance.  Only we have souls.  Only we can worship God.  Only we hold the key to choice in moral behavior.

Jesus wants no human being to be possessed or oppressed by any demonic agency.  We are his penultimate prize!  God wants a personal relationship with us, to live inside us, Christ in us, the hope of all glory!

Today, realize how much God loves you.  He doesn’t want you to be filled with anything except his presence.  If you haven’t done so, invite Jesus today to live in your heart.  Be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Let nothing or no one except Jesus control you.

Why?  Because you are the crown of his created order!

Even Demons Believe

Mark 5:7,8 are our verses today: “And crying out with a loud voice, he said, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?  I adjure you by God, do not torment me.’  For he was saying to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit.’”

The demonic inside the man knew who Jesus was.  Surely they’d encountered each other in heaven before the Satanic rebellion.  Look at what how he addressed Jesus:

1. By his personal name: Jesus, the Savior of the world.

2. Son of the Most High God.

He knew he was Jesus, the Savior.  He knew Jesus was God’s Son, the Son of the Father who is higher than any other god, the “Most High God.”  Do you know this about Jesus?  Do you believe this about Jesus?

Many want to argue that Jesus was just a prophet, a good teacher, a very moral man.  Yet the invisible, eternal world always recognizes his true identity.  Do you?  Recognizing who Jesus is is the beginning of an eternal, intimate relationship with him.

Notice the demon didn’t want Jesus to “torment” him.  I wonder if this demonic agency knew that God the Father had created hell to be a place for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).  I wonder if he knew eventually he would be cast into this place of eternal torment.  He not only didn’t want it to happen but he didn’t want it to happen now.

Jesus “was saying” to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit.”  The “was saying” is in the imperfect tense in the Greek, implying Jesus made this command several times, perhaps over and over again.  The demonic world can be stubborn, not wanting to give up its possession of a life.  But Jesus was us whole, clean from the filth of evil.  He would do anything, even die, to make us clean.

Demons believe who Jesus is.  But they don’t believe in what he has done for us on the cross.  Both are necessary to be clean from sin and protected fully from the demonic world.

I pray you will know both today.

Problems Or Possibilities

I was a fairly good basketball player, good enough to earn a four year scholarship to UNC.  I had the privilege of playing under one of the game’s great coaches, Dean Smith.

My game did have some weaknesses though.  One of them was my ability to use my left hand.  As a right-handed player, I just didn’t spend much time developing my “off-hand.”  When I went to the college level, I realized this weakness.  But I still didn’t do much to overcome it.

Until one summer, in the off season, I broke a bone in my right hand.  It was in a cast for six weeks.  I couldn’t use it.  My doctor told me not to do anything strenuous with it, upon fear of injuring it again.

I was in a dilemma.  I needed to work out.  I needed to continue to hone my skills if I had any chance of playing that next year.  What should I do?

Then it came to me.  Spend the six weeks working on my left hand, a weakness in my game!

I went to the gym daily and spent hours dribbling with my left hand, shooting with my left hand, passing with my left hand.  I worked out like my right hand was tied behind my back.

Gradually, over the six weeks, I became very proficient with my left hand!  When the doctor finally took off my cast and gave me the go-ahead to start using it again, suddenly I discovered I was a much better player.  My weakness had become a strength!  I was a much better player.  And everyone, especially Coach Smith, noticed it when I returned that fall for practice.  And I played more minutes that season.

Maybe you have a weakness in your life.  Maybe it’s hindering you from becoming the person God wants you to be.  Is there a way you can turn the weakness into a strength?  Maybe that bad thing that has happened to you is the very motivation you need to tackle your life’s issues and get better.

Today, turn your scars to stars.  Turn your problems into possibilities.  Take your life’s lemons and make lemonade.  Use evil for good.

You just may be surprised how much better you become if you do so.

If you like to read the insights from the daily Bible reading in Mark, please click here.