Standing in the Pig Poop

Jesus drives out demons.  People drive out Jesus.

 Can you make any sense of it?  I can’t and of course, we can easily condemn the actions of our ancestors in scripture given we have the script in our hands.  Really, what was wrong with these people?

Let’s recap the situation.  There is this demon-possessed man who had run naked and lived among the tombs and hills where he didn’t sleep, wailed day and night and cut himself with stones for what the Bible says was a “long time”.  He was so violent, so maniacal that he repeatedly tore off the irons and chains that the people placed on him.  Imagine this uncontrollable savage whose eyes would have revealed the demonic torment raging within.  Obviously, no one was safe to travel the path that ran past these tombs of terror.   No Hollywood special effects needed, this was the real deal.  Demons.  Not one, not two, but thousands. The Legion. You can read the story for yourself in Matthew 8, Mark 5 and Luke 8.

So, Jesus, fresh from terrifying the disciples by calming the storm with three words, had just arrived to the region of the Gadarenes when this tortured man starts screaming at Jesus.   Remember, “even the demons believe and tremble in terror”. (James 2:19).  They, the demons, beg Jesus not to send them to the abyss but ask instead to be sent into a herd of pigs grazing on the hillside.  So, with his permission, the evil spirits exited the man and entered the approximately 2,000 pigs who then promptly drown themselves.

At this point, the horrified hog handlers book it and they broadcast to fellow farmers and townsmen alike what they just witnessed with their very own eyes.  There was no choice between the fight or flight response.  Unadulterated, adrenaline-laced fear fueled them as the fled the scene of deliverance.

Out come the people to see for themselves, and there he is!  The crazed man is totally coherent.  He is sane.  He is clothed.  He is sitting at the feet of Jesus hanging on every word.  Here’s where the story takes a twist.   The reaction of the people is not what we would expect.  No praise.  No worship.  No gratitude.  No falling on their knees in the presence of the healer.  Just dead pigs in the lake, leftover excrement, and fear.  Fear.  So much fear that they begged Jesus to leave their region. What?  Send Jesus away?  But, I don’t understand!  He just performed a miracle of gigantic proportion!  The whole community benefited from this.

Oh, the fear factor.  I have an intimate knowledge of fear and the sin that springs from it.  I believe it is one of Satan’s favorite tools.

The translation of this particular “fear” from the Greek ephobethesan, is “to be struck with fear, to be seized with alarm” and in this case, “of those startled by strange sites or occurrences”.  (Strongs). Let’s look at a couple other instances where this definition of fear is written about.

  • The disciples were seized by it just prior to this scene when Jesus calmed the storm.  (Mark 4).
  •  In John 6, it overtook them after Jesus walked to them on water and caused their boat to instantly time travel to the shore.
  •  The shepherds were hit hard when the angel appeared announcing Jesus’ birth. (Luke 2)
  •  Peter, James and John were brought to their knees at the transformation of Jesus where our Savior’s face glowed, his clothes became dazzling white, Moses and Elijah appeared, a bright cloud covered them all and God audibly spoke.  (Matthew 17 and Luke 9)

Are there any words to describe the terror which strikes at the frail human heart when brought face to face with the supernatural acts of our sovereign Christ?  No, for it is at that moment that we become engulfed by our finite and frail humanity and yes, the flames of spontaneous, sinful fear send us fleeing or, as in this case, begging the Savior to leave our territory.

There they were, sending away the solution as they stood ankle deep in pig poop, the disgusting waste of Satan’s evil army. No pigs, no demons, just the leftovers.   What is it that made them fear the Sovereign Solution over the remnants of years of torment?   What is it that made them fear the Supreme over the damned?  Why did they not want more of what Jesus had to offer?

It has been suggested that money drove their fear.  Two thousand hogs was a costly loss, and what else was this Jesus going to do; however, I don’t think it was that when we look at the other scriptures where the Greek “ephobethesan” is used.

 I think the pure power that pours from our Lord and Savior frightens us in ways we aren’t always aware of.  Why?  

Maybe because we are always trying to be the ones in control.

 Maybe because we are more comfortable with the status quo than we are with being moved out of our comfort zone.

 Maybe because when we see how unfathomably great our God is, we realize how small we really are.  

Maybe because we don’t believe we are worth delivering.

 Maybe because we are actually afraid of what He may ask of us.  

Maybe, just maybe, its because we don’t truly know the totality of who it is we worship and serve and because of that, faith gives way to fear.

Sit with this question:

 Are you standing ankle-deep in your leftover mess while sending away the solution?  Why?  What are you afraid of?  

Lord, forgive us for sending you, our Sovereign Solution, away.  Forgive us for not falling to our knees in worshipful respect and awe at your power.  Forgive us for not calling on you to exercise it in our daily lives.  In Jesus precious name, Amen.

Dark Days: Finding Footholds in Troubled Times

I need to write. I need to write because if I do that, maybe the screams that sit just beneath my vocal chords will fall back into the pit in my stomach. Maybe the depression that weighs on my physical brain and all it’s attempts to be positive will lift and float away like Pooh’s little black rain cloud. Maybe, just maybe, I can write away the reality of the evil in my world that has become my personal tornado, blinding me with stinging sands  and sucking me into fear of uncertainty. I want to write the chaos into calm.

John 14

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I’m sure you relate. You can plug your own story into the print, because we suffer in the same way.  Situations differ, but not the consequences of living in a fallen world with fallible people and failing bodies.

Stress, self-imposed or placed upon us, wreaks havoc on our physical, mental and emotional selves. When unchecked, it erupts like the scalding, poisonous lava from the Mountain of Resentment.  Sadly, that angry river of lava holds the heat for years!  It sears the words we speak into the minds of those we love. The smoke blinds our way to the rational path of sanity. The more we suck in the poisonous gases and ash of our own meltdown the more toxic we grow. Depression grows in the desolation left behind.  How toxic are your thoughts, your words?

Psalm 94

17 Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. 18 When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your love, O LORD, supported me. 19 When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul. 

I’ve been front-line parenting for a long time since we have children from 12 to 28.  We will be old before we experience empty nesting.   I have seen such a disintegration of society during my active years of parenting, that when I summarize it in my psyche, it resembles a dark and twisted sci-fi flick from childhood.  What once would have been the far out imaginings of an author are now the news headlines, playing out in real life before our eyes.   While taking in the horrific atrocities occurring daily throughout our world, combined with the realization that I am watching crime shows depicting gruesome rapes and murders for nightly “entertainment” , I feel the wind pick up.  The skies of my complacent day turn threatening and I want to gather my young and run for the basement. Our spiritual/mental/emotional well being ….. our innocence is at stake. As a military and law enforcement family, our very existence is threatened. I am grieved that my grandbabies will never experience the level of freedom we enjoyed throughout our childhoods.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Helen Lemmel 1922

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Discouragement seeps under the door of my fortress as I realize my mother’s love, my grandmother’s love, is not enough. Regret for all the failures, from becoming inpatient with a toddler to major deficits in sound parenting with teenagers, flood in. The Father of Lies doesn’t whisper but screams “you haven’t done enough, you haven’t been enough, and any bad that visits them will be because somewhere, you failed.” The tornado grows in strength, engulfs me and I digress.  Which of Satan’s lies are you listening to?

Ephesians 6
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

I beg God when I don’t ignore him.  I’ve developed a spiritual bipolarity where I can lift my hands in praise one moment and be angry at Him in the next.  I feel HIS joy.  I feel HIS presence.  I feel MY sadness.  I feel MY pain.  Guilt is a byproduct of my flimsy spiritual backbone.  I kick myself for stepping out of His Word and what I know to be true, to mentally explore the possibilities of our present times.  I have grown acutely aware that while I know I don’t  grasp how high and how wide and how deep my Fathers love for me is (Ephesians 3:18), I also can’t comprehend the evil Satan injects into the hearts of men.  Oh, how I am grieved.  If, as a mere human being, I feel this way…how does my Lord and Savior feel?  How does this pervasive evil grieve HIM?  How does my spiritual bipolarity break HIS heart?

Romans 5

8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I will run to him like the prodigal I am every time I find myself squandering away his riches of peace and safety in the city of my sinful thought life.   I will run to him every time I wake up in the squalid conditions of fear, anxiety and distrust.  I will run to him.

Why it isn’t so different. A military mom’s perspective on the war at home and abroad .

 

We just sent a son who is a young husband and daddy into a war zone.   The fear of us losing our son, the fear of my grandbabies losing their daddy, the fear of my daughter (in-love and law) losing her beloved, mixed with the gut-wrenching realization that his greatest act of bravery was walking out his own front door, has been overwhelming at best. He is off to fight the evil that is devouring the Middle East.  Some call it ISIS or al-Qaida.  The name changes by country and tribe. I call the evil, Satan.  The father of lies goes by many names.  Why allow him delight by letting him assume we think it’s anyone other than him? The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  John 10:10

What makes this so different, we ask.  So cognizant am I of the fact that each of my children could walk out the door and never return.  So cognizant that the beating of their hearts can be silenced by one swipe of tragedy’s sword.  So, why, after months of preparing for separation and being gifted the opportunity to speak with this son from deep places, why is my mother’s heart only able to groan?  What makes this so different?  I force reason upon my irrational thoughts, yet I find myself in tears and I can feel my soul tracings fluttering in my chest, they are out of healthy rhythm.  They are out of sync with God’s intention.  It becomes a complete physical reaction and then I shame myself into reasoning this truth:  Any of my precious ones could walk out the door for the last time….today.  Yet, I return to the “but this is so different” plea.

So, as I am flying my Stars and Stripes, searching the web for yellow ribbons and being all proud Army Mom, I am praying like I never have before.  I am dreaming up things to mail and ways to honor him. I am hypervigilant in regards to Satan’s work “over there”.  I’m just on it, learning about tribes and regional conflicts and maps.  Because this is just different, right?

But wait……..”WAIT!”, cries out the Holy Spirit within…….He, The Comforter, the Holy Spirit given to me through Jesus’ death on the cross, had to go beyond the gentle whispers that he prefers to communicate with.  He had to cry out, to yell over the noise of my fear.  

This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 1 Cor 2:13

And so I listen………

Don’t be so deceived.  Don’t be so ignorant.  Your precious son chose this in obedience to God’s calling over seven years ago.  He is in OUR (sweet trinity’s) WILL FOR HIS LIFE!  Woman, you are misguided right now. WE LOVE HIM MORE. You, momma bear, are wrong. IT IS NOT DIFFERENT! You will not like what I need you to understand, but hear this and let it soak into every fiber of your being until you embrace it.  Let it dictate your every matriarchal thought, prayer and reaction, for in MY wisdom is the peace you are looking for.  In MY wisdom I’m going to show you that there is NO difference between the son sent to war in a far away land and your children here at home.

Momma, honor your Army son in a way that will make a difference, by recognizing his sibs on American soil are also soldiers.  Your son wants that.  You have the choice, Momma, to make his service benefit more than the strangers he fights for in a foreign land,  He is fighting for your entire family’s freedom to speak freely in his homeland, to boldly claim The Cross without being beheaded. Teach them they are in a war zone in America! SHOW them how to be my warriors. Recognize that every day, they are in danger of the same Satanic schemes your grown soldier is at war with.  Have a righteous fear for the dangers at home.  Work with me, dear mom. Continue reading