The Scariest Verse In The Bible

The Gerasene Chamber of Commerce would not have been happy. A man named Jesus and a few of his followers had just sailed to their shores. But before Jesus could get out of the boat all of the way and put his feet on the ground, the craziest man in town runs up to greet him.

This wasn’t what typically comes to mind when you think of some guy who’s a little off. This man didn’t walk around pushing a shopping cart talking to himself. His condition was more severe. The gospel writer Mark lets us know pretty early on why the man was so crazy. He was demon-possessed (Mark 5:2).

Mark gives some frightening details about this man who came to meet Jesus.

He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. Mark 5:3-5 (ESV)

Mark is very graphic. The man standing before Jesus lived in a graveyard. People tried to contain him with chains but he kept breaking them. No one in town had the power to control this man. All throughout the day and night, he would scream and cut himself. It sounds like something from a Stephen King novel.

But none of those verses are the scariest one in the Bible.

The man begged Jesus for mercy. Most likely, the request was one part the man wanting relief from Satan’s torment and one part the demon not wanting to face the power of God. And then Jesus asked a strange question.

And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” Mark 5:9 (ESV)

A legion was a group of 6,000 Roman soldiers. Mark is not necessarily saying that this man was possessed by 6,000 demons but we can be sure that it was more than one. The man’s reply was something similar to, “We don’t have a name. We have 6,000 names.” So whether it was 100 demons or 6,000, let’s be honest, this was a scary situation.

But it’s still not the scariest verse in the Bible.

The demons begged to stay in the community before being cast out of the man. Strangely enough, Jesus granted their request. I told you that the Chamber of Commerce wouldn’t like this. The demons were sent into 2,000 pigs which they forced to run off of a cliff and into the sea. If you were the guy in charge of looking after those pigs that day, you were scared. If you happened to be fishing in sea when you saw 2,000 pigs jump off of a cliff and into a watery grave, you would have been scared too.

But still, those aren’t the scariest verses in the Bible.

The pig farmers couldn’t keep this news to themselves. They told the city folks and the country folks about what the strange visitor did to the town lunatic and their pigs. Sure enough, everyone came to see for themselves. Mark’s description of the town’s reaction to the changed man is very peculiar.

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. Mark 5:15 (ESV)

This was the first time that the people in the town were ever described as being afraid. Mark never said that they were afraid when the demon-possessed man cut himself, screamed or broke chains. Only when they witness the transforming power of Jesus are the described as being afraid.

Even still, that’s not the scariest verse in the Bible.

But Mark 5:17 is.

And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 

These folks never seemed to have a problem with the evil of up to 6,000 demons possessing one man. They never cried out in protest at the fact that those demons wanted to stay in their town once Jesus evicted them from their host. No, but when they encountered the holiness of God, they just couldn’t take it. So they asked Jesus to leave.

It is possible to excuse evil, ignore evil and indulge in evil to such a degree that evil becomes comfortable. Yes, even the most horrific evil. And when that happens, the only thing left to frighten us is the pure holiness of God.

The Gerasenes decided that day to reject the one truly good thing they had ever seen. Six thousand demons were welcomed in their town. The one true God was not. And that’s frightening.

The church is surrounded by evil. We live in a culture that promotes evil, funds evil and even goes so far as to call evil good. God doesn’t keep us here to blend in. Rather, he keeps us here to resist and expose evil.

As Jesus was leaving, the formerly demon-possessed man had an obvious request. He waned to go with Jesus. Wouldn’t you? But Jesus didn’t allow him to. It’s funny. He granted permission to the demons when they asked to go into the pigs but not to this new follower when he apparently wanted to be the 13th disciple. Why?

Jesus had a mission for the man who had just been made new. He wanted the man to tell others about God’s mercy. And no one can tell a story better than the person who it happened to. No one can lead others to marvel at God quite like a man who himself marvels at God.

Mark 5:17 is the most frightening verse in the Bible because it reminds us of how comfortable we can become with evil. It confronts head on our tendency to settle for some of the devil and none of Jesus. It shows us how similar the American church is to the people in that town. We are okay with Jesus from afar. But when he starts to contradict the evil that has grown so dear to us, we kindly ask him to leave.

In a lot of ways, I’m afraid that he has granted that request.

And that’s really scary.

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The Summer Of Rage And The Trembling Of Satan

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Three more police officers had been murdered. Details were still coming in. I turned off the television and loaded my family up in my truck. As we drove, I thought about all of the violence that we have seen in our country this summer. That violence was the reason why I was driving with my family.

Last week our church decided to do something about the division in our country. We knew that we needed to pray but we didn’t want prayer to be the crutch that kept us from actually engaging the community. And we didn’t want to fall into the trap of writing angry Facebook posts in ALL CAPS and then patting ourselves on the back for “telling it like it is” or for not being politically correct as if that’s all the world needs.

So we decided to have a cookout. I know. What a shock. Baptists planning something involving food. Don’t judge. We had our cookout in a community that is mostly black and we invited the police. I was afraid when all of this was being planned. I was afraid that people wouldn’t show up. On the way over, I was afraid that the latest shooting in Baton Rouge would keep people away.

It didn’t.

I don’t know how many people came to our cookout. I do know that we prepared for 400 people and there weren’t a whole lot of leftovers when it was all over. And, when it was all over, I knew that I had just experienced one of the highlights of my pastoral career.

There were old white men who listen to Willie Nelson talking and eating and laughing with old black men who like to listen to Al Green.

There were white police officers throwing footballs and racing with little black kids.

There were high ranking members of my community’s police force making themselves available to answer tough questions.

Never once did I hear the phrases Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter or All Lives Matter. No one said anything about Sean Hannity or Al Sharpton. People just ate. And laughed. And talked.

 

You know, the stuff we used to do a lot before we started getting our tribal marching orders from Fox News and CNN and our favorite talk radio host or blogger.

The world is an angry place. Tensions are high. Blood is spilling. And people are looking for someone to lead. The words used to describe Israel in the final verse of the book of Judges could very easily apply to America today.

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 21:25 (ESV)

Some people’s eyes tell them that killing police officers is the right thing. For others, it’s more angry, divisive rants, sometimes in the name of Jesus.

If ever there was a time for the Church to be what Jesus called us to be, it’s now. If all we ever do is pick sides in a divisive culture, all we’ll ever bring the culture is sugar and more darkness. Jesus calls us to be salt and light. When we are obeying his command, we care less about proving a point or electing our guy than we do loving our neighbor. And if you really want to love your neighbor, you have to go to your neighbor. I think that the Church forgets that sometimes.

But when the Church remembers that, I believe that Satan trembles. I know that in our highly advanced day and age, talk of the devil is seen as silly. I’ll tell you what’s silly. Watching people who don’t believe in the devil, or even evil for that matter, trying to look smart while failing to come up with an explanation for all of the bloodshed during this summer of rage is what’s really silly.

When the Church forgets that we wrestle not against flesh and blood or budget plans or house bills or political opponents but against “cosmic powers over this present darkness” and “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12) it’s no wonder that we fail to have any influence in the world. Forget about losing the culture wars, we often lose the spiritual wars because we don’t even know that we’re in one.

Church, you must remember that your primary enemy is not the Black Lives Matter protestor or the police officer. Your opponent is the Thief who aims to steal and kill and destroy. And lately, business has been pretty good for him.

It doesn’t have to be that way. But that means that we have to step away from our tribe, away from our keyboard activism and across the street or over the railroad tracks to our neighbor’s house. It’s been said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step. Well, the journey of gospel-centered peacemaking begins the same way. People who live next door to each other but who in reality are a thousand miles apart from one another can come together when the Church takes the first step.

It may be a step with a Bible in hand or it may be a step that’s made while carrying hamburgers. But it’s a step that needs to be made.

There are people who are profiting off of the divisiveness in this country. Their book sales and Facebook likes and poll numbers reach new heights while we burn one another down. It’s up to the Church to put a stop to this. The Church should be the first to say to those who profit off of divisiveness that their business is not welcome in our communities.

Yesterday afternoon, while police officers in bulletproof vests raced barefoot kids, I got to see what happens when the Church takes the first step. It was a beautiful sight and I pray that there are many more steps to follow.

As we were cleaning up yesterday, I had several people come up to me and say that we need to do this kind of thing more often. I agree. Our communities need it.

The talking heads will always talk.

The social media activists will always ramble on.

And things will always be the same.

But when the Church acts like the Church, that’s when we begin to see things change.

That’s when people come together.

That’s when Satan trembles.

And that’s when Jesus Christ is glorified.

photo taken by Casey Harpe

Who Gets To Crush The Serpent?

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Here’s a question you’ve probably never considered before.

Who gets to crush Satan?

If you’ve grown up in the church or if you’re familiar with the Bible, your immediate response is Jesus. And that’s an accurate response.

After the Serpent deceived Adam and Eve, God handed down his punishment and it was more than simply having to slither on the ground from there on out.

“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15 (ESV)

One day, Genesis tells us, Satan’s head will be crushed by the heel of a man. We know that man to be Jesus Christ. In the New Testament, Paul says of Jesus that God, “Put all things under his feet” (Ephesians 1:22). That would include Satan’s head. Paul gets more specific in 1 Corinthians.

Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 1 Corinthians 15:24-25 (ESV)

The Bible is clear. Satan will be crushed under the heel of Jesus. But then there’s this verse.

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Romans 16:20 (ESV)

Paul is writing to Christians when he says, “your feet.” So which is it? Who gets to finally crush the head of Satan, Jesus or us?

When we put these passages together, they tell us that if we stand in Christ, we will stand over Satan.

We will crush the great accuser.

We will crush the thief.

We will crush the murderer and deceiver.

But before we get too excited about our supposed power, we must remember something. In Ephesians 6, Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God. The of God part is very important. He didn’t tell us to put on the full armor of self-determination, self-righteousness or religious effort. If that’s the only armor we have, Satan will surely stand over and crush us.

When we submit and obey Jesus Christ, living out his attributes while relying on his grace, we are living in his armor. Only by sharing in the identity of Christ can we share in the victory of Christ.

Satan is powerful.

He’s destructive.

But his days are numbered. The head of the old serpent already rests under the nail-scarred foot of our Savior. And soon, those of us who are in Christ will know the joy of crushing the serpent’s head finally and forever.

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Just Stand

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Stand.

That’s all it says. I’d like for it to say something more. Something more powerful. Something cooler. But it doesn’t. It just says stand.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Ephesians 6:11 (ESV)

In the Robert Duval’s movie The Apostle, a character preaches a sermon about Jesus doing a backflip on the devil. Wouldn’t it sound better if Paul promised Christians that they would be able to do that or some other crazy move on the devil.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to do jiu-jitsu on the devil and fire off a few rounds from your rifle into his schemes. 

But the Bible doesn’t say that.

It just says stand.

Since when does standing give us that feeling of victory that all believers want in matters of spiritual warfare?

A closer look shows us that there is more than meets the eye to the type of standing Paul is referring to. We aren’t told to simply hang out against the devil like a bunch of kids standing outside of the laundromat. This type of standing has more to do with resistance than loitering.

As I write this I am looking at that iconic picture of a Chinese man standing alone in front of a column of tanks. He’s known as Tank Man or Unknown Rebel. Later on that day, if someone were to ask him what he did, he could have simply said, “Just stood around.” And he wouldn’t be lying. But he wouldn’t be telling the whole story. Standing doesn’t get enough credit.

Here’s what Paul is saying to us when he says that we can, “stand against the schemes of the devil.” Because of who we are in Christ, when Satan comes at us with every tactic, scheme, temptation and lie, we can remain standing. When all of his guns finally stop firing and he is left with no other fiery darts to throw our way, we will still be standing.

But it won’t be because of our strength or might. Only Christ’s strength gives us what we need in order to remain standing. Remember, we are told to put on the armor of God, not the armor of self-confidence.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Ephesians 6:10 (ESV)

If you devote your life to living in obedience to Jesus Christ you can be certain that Satan will send a column of tanks your way. For the most part, he’ll leave the porn addict, the gossiper and the self-righteous pew dweller alone. Most of his work on them has been done. It’s all just maintenance at this point. He’s saving the heavy duty weapons for the man who takes seriously his job of leading his family and serving his church. He’s coming with full force for the woman who spends more time serving than gossiping and complaining. Count on it.

But here’s something else that you can count on.

In Christ, you will not fall. In Christ, you will stand against your enemy the devil.

So leave the backflips and spiritual jiu-jitsu to Jesus. That was done at the cross and empty tomb. And because of that, your job is simple.

All you have to do is stand.

When you are tempted to look where you shouldn’t look, stand.

When you are tempted to say what you shouldn’t say, stand.

When you are tempted to believe what isn’t true, stand.

Just stand.

But remember this.

You do not stand alone. Your conquering Savior is holding you up the entire time.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:8-10 (ESV)

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If I Could Spend Just One Day With Johnny Depp, I Would Prove To Him That Evil Really Does Exist

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Johnny Depp said something stupid. I know, it’s hard to imagine a celebrity doing such a thing but just trust me. The comment came in an interview where Depp was promoting his latest film Black Mass in which he plays murdering crime boss James ‘Whitey’ Bulger.

“Anybody and everybody, especially the families and the victims, can say he is just an evil person. I just don’t believe that exists.”

Before we rip into Mr. Depp, it should be noted that at least he said something. In a world where everything is offensive and no one really says anything worth listening to anymore, at least Johnny Depp spoke what was on his mind. As terribly misguided as his comment was, I’m glad that we still have at least a shred of free speech left in this country. As a sometimes speaker of stupidity, I fully support the right of people to say stupid things.

I just wish that I could spend a day with Johnny Depp. Maybe by the end of our meeting he would change his mind about the existence of evil.

We would start out by taking some time watching a replay of last night’s presidential debates where one or two evil men tried to convince us that they really are good. That would be Mr. Depp’s first lesson. Evil likes to dress up in good clothes.

After that, we would take a drive to the Wal-Mart in Griffin, Georgia. Really, any Wal-Mart will do but the one in Griffin, Georgia can’t be beat when it comes to displays of evil. I would introduce Mr. Depp to the lady driving in the wrong direction through the parking lot, the guy who took up three spaces because he didn’t want anyone to scratch his gently used Toyota Celica and the guy who stole The Fall Guy’s truck and likes to use it to try to run people over as they walk into this fine establishment. Through all of this, I would do my best to honestly share my thoughts with Mr. Depp so that he could learn the second lesson about evil. You don’t have to be a dictator or a mobster for the evil to be brought out of you. All it takes is a drive through the Wal-Mart parking lot.

After a few minutes of watching women beat their children with rolls of toilet paper and standing behind 57 people as we wait for the only one of the 100 cash registers that are opened that day, we would make our way back home. By then, my kids would be waiting for us. I’d explain to them that daddy had spent the day with Captain Jack Sparrow. I would then give each child seven packs of Fun Dip and ask Captain Jack if he would mind babysitting while a took a nap for an hour or so. By the time I woke up, Johnny would have learned the third lesson of evil. Kids don’t have to learn how to be evil. It just sort of comes out. But Fun Dip sure does speed up the process.

Finally, before saying our goodbyes, I would pull up an old You Tube clip to seal the deal for Johnny Depp. The minute he sees the orange and blue and hears the chant of, “War Eagle!” he will learn the final lesson about evil. Being evil never pays off in the end. It might get you a college scholarship to play football at Auburn but it never pays off.

War Eagle, Mr. Depp.

War Eagle.

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Before You Take The #CharlieCharlieChallenge

Well, that's not good.

There’s a new sensation among teenagers and young adults. I just found out about it earlier this week so that means it’s probably not really all that new. Tip: When you’re over 30 and you read about some new sensation among teenagers and young adults, they’ve probably been partaking in whatever sensation it is for a year or two by the time you find out about it.

This sensation has nothing to do with some drug named after a girl or games that involve knocking out unsuspecting women and elderly people.

This one is much more dangerous.

It’s called the Charlie Charlie Challenge.

In this challenge, participants make a cross out of two pencils on a sheet of paper. They then record themselves asking a Mexican demon named Charlie if he is present. The words yes and no are written in the four squares on the paper. If the pencil moves to the yes, the words are erased and more questions are asked. With this being recorded and everything, all of the world gets to watch the participants get freaked out when Charlie answers.

Think of it as this generation’s ouija board.

A quick word to this generation. You want nothing to do with Charlie.

I’ve been in the ministry for 15 years. I’m hardly an expert but I’ve seen a few things. I’ve experienced things that can only be attributed to demonic activity. Such occasions have been extremely rare. They have also been extremely frightening.

There is a more common way that I have seen the demonic at work.

I have seen it at work as seemingly healthy marriages fall apart.

I have seen it at work in churches where people fight for personal gain like they were in the WWE’s Royal Rumble.

I have seen it at work in addicts who know that they are killing themselves but just can’t stop it.

I don’t know where the name Charlie came from. I just know that you don’t want to play with him. There is nothing fun about this. The end game is only death and destruction.

“But,” you might say, “I’m a Christian. Charlie has no power over me. I can make him go away whenever I want.”

Sure thing. Just tell that to Sceva and his seven sons. But try not to let the nudity bother you.

And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Acts 19:11-17 (ESV)

Charlie might jump out of the computer and master you so that you run away naked and wounded. But more likely, if you continue to play with Charlie, you’ll just walk away wounded.

A few nights ago I watched a documentary about a guy who lived with bears. It ended the way all documentaries about guys who live with bears ends. Spoiler alert. He died. The bears killed him. It’s tragic but it’s not a surprise.

The same will be true of you if you continue to take the Charlie Charlie Challenge. Whether physically or spiritually, you will die. It will be tragic. But it won’t be a surprise.

Bears kill and eat men who try to live with them.

Demons devour people who try to play with them.

It’s just what they do.

In Christ, Christians have power over Satan (Colossians 2:15). But that power does not give us license to play with fire. Instead, it gives us confidence to fight our own sin and love our neighbor as we seek to glorify Jesus.

Without Christ, you are a slave to Satan. He has blinded you from seeing the futility of your ways (2 Corinthians 4:4). On your own, he has complete power over you.

And you can be sure of this. Call him Charlie if you want but he is listening. And whatever questions you ask, you’re not going to like the answers.

So instead of taking the Charlie Charlie Challenge, take time to humble yourself before Jesus, the real Master, and ask him to protect you.

Challenge or no challenge, you’re going to need it.

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A Question Everyone Will Answer Today

On his final attempt of the day, he swung for the fences. It was all or nothing. And it was the kind of bold move you would only expect from an evil mastermind.

But this was more than just any evil mastermind.

So far, all of Satan’s attempts to lure Jesus away from the cross had failed. He came up empty after trying to get a hungry Jesus to avoid suffering by turning rocks into a meal. Jesus would have nothing of this. He counterpunched the Enemy with Scripture.

But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4 (ESV)

But the Enemy came back. This time, with Scripture of his own. You should never assume that God’s holy and perfect word cannot be used for evil purposes. Just turn your TV to the peddlers on religious television shows who use the Bible to steal money from the old and poor. This technique comes from Satan. He used Scripture to try to convince Jesus to put God the Father to the test.

But again, the attempt was futile. Jesus again fought back with Scripture. And won the round.

Satan 0. Jesus 2.

It was time for the nuclear option.

With his first two attacks, Satan was trying to get Jesus to misuse his Lordship. On this final attempt, Satan was boldly asking Jesus to put aside his Lordship and become a devil worshiper.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Matthew 4:8-9 (ESV)

Worship.

It’s the issue at the heart of every temptation that you will face.

Who or what will be the object of your worship? You might not know it but you answer that question each time you face temptation. When you give in, you say with Adam, “Does God really care for me?” When you resist, you say with Jesus, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”

You don’t have a problem with pornography.

Or meth.

Or your temper.

Or gossip.

No one does. Those are just the symptoms of a heart that has decided to worship someone other than the God of the universe.

You have a worship problem.

Take the Internet away from the sex addict and he’ll just find another addiction.

Throw the drug addict in jail, away from his drug of choice, and he’ll find something else to get high on.

Listen to all of the calming music you want but the evil within your heart will find another way to express itself.

The same is true with gossip or any other sin that we are confronted with when we look into the mirror of our soul each day.

Who is your god?

We have to answer that question multiple times a day. Sadly, we often give the wrong answer. Sex. Meth. Control. Comfort. Anything but the real God. And then sin. And then death.

“Be gone, Satan!”

Those are the words that Jesus spoke that put an end to his wilderness encounter with the Enemy. Satan left immediately. He had failed. The Messiah would still be the Savior.

But, even after his victory, his death and his resurrection, Jesus is not done speaking those words.

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32 (ESV)

Our standing before the real God is not dependent upon our ability to resist the Enemy. Our father Adam already proved man’s inability to do that long ago. And since then, we have been confirming that inability through our own sins.

That’s why we need a Savior. He did what we couldn’t do. He stared down the Enemy. And won.

On your own, when you say, “Be gone, Satan!” the Enemy laughs and comes harder, reminding you of your shortcomings with meth, sex, temper or whatever other traps he’s gotten to work on you in the past.

But thanks to God’s grace, Christians have another voice to speak for them. And he speaks on our behalf regularly (Romans 8:34).

So who will you worship today?

Will it be the victorious Son who loves you and stands where you cannot?

Or will it be the Liar who is bent on your destruction?

Christian, be encouraged. Even when your heart answers those questions the wrong way, you have a Savior who forgives and restores.

You have a Savior who prays for you.

You have a Savior who speaks on your behalf.

Be gone, Satan.

Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. Matthew 4:11 (ESV)

 

The Last Thing We Want

Does God really love you? If he does, why does he allow bad things to happen to you? Is it too much to ask for a life that is sanitized from all of the evil and suffering in this world?

Here’s a better question. It’s one that we rarely ask. What if the good that you wanted, you know, the sanitized life, was actually the worst thing for you?

Consider Michael Ham.

When he was 3-years-old, he had what appeared to be the symptoms of dehydration. He just wasn’t himself. So his parents took him to a doctor. His parents took every precaution in making sure that their son was healthy. Antibacterial soap, hand sanitizer, you name it. When Michael saw the doctor, he got more of the same. Antibiotics. No questions asked. Get well soon, kid.

Only Michael didn’t get well soon.

He almost died.

Michael’s problem wasn’t an infection. He didn’t have a virus or some rogue bacteria causing his sickness. It was quite the opposite. He didn’t have enough bacteria.

All of the hand sanitizers, antibacterial soaps and antibiotics were killing both the good and the bad bacteria in Michael’s body. And he got sick. Doctors call it CDiff.

Finally, Michael’s parents found a good doctor. This one wasn’t content with merely pumping the child full of more antibiotics. He tried something new. Something experimental. Something gross.

The doctor decided that Michael needed someone else’s stool in his body. For those of you who aren’t medically inclined, stool here refers to human waste, not the thing you sit on at the bar in your kitchen. To be blunt, Michael was overly sanitized. It was killing him. And the best thing for him at that moment was a little bit of his brother’s poop.

So that’s what he got.

And it saved his life.

Poop from his brother was the very last thing that Michael’s mom and dad wanted for their son. If you are a parent, you know that this kind of thing is the enemy. You do whatever you can to maintain proper, shall I say, stool control, among you kids. The transferral of poop is the last thing parents want among their children. But sometimes the very last thing we want is the best thing for us.

Spiritually speaking, I’m an antibacterial soap, hand sanitizer, antibiotic kind of person. I want things to be clean. I want sanitation from the evil and suffering around me. But I rarely stop to consider the possibility that having those wishes come true could be the worst thing for me. Just like in Michael’s case, they could give me a false sense of security. One where my life is so squeaky clean that I don’t sense my real need. Until it’s too late.

I lived an hour or so away from my mom right before she died. Once a week, usually on a Thursday, I would make the long drive to see her. Those Thursdays felt more like Sundays. It was like I was having church in my car. I always listened to music that made me think about Jesus. I listened to a ton of sermons, most of them dealing with the goodness of God and suffering. My mom’s sickness made my heart heavy. But something else was happening to my heart.

God was working to make me love, know and trust him more.

And I’m not the only one. Many people say that their most significant times of growth or the times that they have been the most overwhelmed by the love of God was during periods of suffering.

I don’t know why God allows drunk drivers to kill young fathers and mothers. I don’t have any detailed answers for the family wondering what to do after a cancer diagnosis. I don’t have a clue what God is doing with Ebola right now.

But here’s what I do know.

God is working.

And his work is rarely as clean as we would like for it to be.

That’s a good thing.

Because sometimes the last thing we want is the thing that’s keeping us alive.

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

Job 1:20-22 (ESV)

 

 

 

Three Things You Can Count On

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This could be your day. It could be the day that everything comes together in your favor. The day that your ship finally comes in.

Then again, it could be the other guy’s day. As for you, you could end up going to bed tonight with a few more heartaches and worries than you currently have. This could be the day that everyone on your ship contracts a terrible stomach virus, heads back to shore on the life rafts and leaves you with that sinking feeling.

None of us knows which day today will be. None of us is guaranteed more money, long life and good health. We may find all of that and more at our door step today or it may drive on down the street without giving us a second look. We don’t know.

For Christians, there are things that we can know for sure. Good things. Things that we can count on. Here are a few.

1. You’re going to be okay.

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. Psalm 125:1 (ESV)

Whatever happens to you today can do nothing to weaken who you are in Christ. For Christians, when God looks at us, warts and all, he sees the perfect righteousness of his perfect Son (2 Corinthians 5:21). Nothing can change that. Whatever happens to you today, you’re going to be okay.

2. God is with you.

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore. Psalm 125:2 (ESV)

At work you may be surrounded by idiots. Or perhaps it seems as though fear has you surrounded and believing that your next step will be the worst decision of your life. No matter what surrounds you today, you are also surrounded by Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23). And he who is with us is greater than those who are with them (2 Kings 6:16; 1 John 4:4).

3. God has it all worked out.

For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous stretch out their hands to do wrong. Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts! But those who turn aside to their crooked ways the Lord will lead away with evildoers! Peace be upon Israel! Psalm 125:3-5 (ESV)

We live in a world that is saturated by evil deeds and evil rulers. Sometimes it feels as though we are all alone in our devotion to God and his word. We are tempted to think that everyone else has abandoned the truth. More dangerous than that, we are tempted to abandon that truth ourselves. What’s the point? The ship has already sunk.

But Jesus reminds us that he has it all under control (Colossians 1:16-17). The God who brought Jesus back to life is the same God who will one day finally restore our sin stained world (Romans 8:18-25). The God who calmed the deadly waves with the word of his mouth (Mark 4:35-41) is the same God who will finally and forever silence the evil that dwells among us and against us with the word of his mouth (Revelation 19:15).

For now, we wait. And while we wait, we trust in the One who really does hold the whole world in his hands and works it all out for our ultimate good. One day we will see.

Peace be upon Israel!