Monday, January 15, 2018


There's an old phrase,
"Better the devil you know than the one you don't."
I'm not sure where it originated but even a cursory read of Mark 5:1-20 will pique one's interest and draw immediate comparisons.

A man, controlled by an evil spirit (the Bible's words, not mine) had been quarantined to live apart. In fact, he lived in the place of the dead - literally (burial caves). There no chains could hold him. He would often howl (Mark 1:5) and cut himself (Mark 1:5).

Talk about torment.

But then JESUS...

Jesus shows up on the scene and because of His power, authority and love; delivers the man. The demonic spirit asks Jesus permission (that's right) as to where (their - in the passage we learn that there are actually many demonic spirits influencing the man) He will send him.

Here's the problem - many of us get hung up on the fact that Jesus is casting out a demon or that the 2,000 pigs run off a cliff and plunge to their death; missing the point. Pay close attention to what happens next because you cannot mute the Master!

After the ordeal is over and the man is clothed, sane, and chillin with Jesus in the place of his deliverance (burial caves)... there's a town hall meeting of sorts. You see the herdsmen who saw what happened to the man ran in to town to tell the others. The entire town comes out, full of fear, and begs Jesus to leave.

"What?!" Is the natural response as you read this. You wonder if you have skipped to another passage. This cannot be the conclusion.

In effect they'd have the man silenced (don't be sharing what Jesus did for you) and send Jesus away. Why?

"Better the devil you know than the one you don't." Isn't this the typical response for things we do not understand, can't control or lack a sufficient, rational explanation for? "I'll stick with the crazed man who is not safe to be around, just don't let me see him or go near him. But as for freedom and joy, nah!" 

"Really?" (a bold Christian says). The towns people reply, "Yep, its all we've known for (x-number) of years - why change now?"

Others may question or scrutinize what God has done in and through you by His Son and in the power of His Spirit - but that is not confirmation for you to hit the mute button. All the more reason for you to boldly proclaim your personal deliverance; your "Jesus-Encounter" and pray the same for others... that they'd encounter Jesus in unmistakable ways - and then tell about it.

Who is God asking you to share your Jesus-Encounter with today? What will you say about how Jesus, through his Holy Spirit, has freed you, loved you, filled you, and empowered you? How will you respond when the townspeople beg Jesus to leave and for you to shut up?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


I shared this in a recent post and promised follow up:
  • Our Father is about your development for deployment NOT destruction unto death (Read Luke 22:31-34; John 21:15-25
In seasons where one feels excessively sifted (read here if you missed this post) it becomes critical to grasp how restoration occurs. 

Kai Wright pens an article for The Nation a few years back concerning how a criminal record haunts one even when they are 20+ years removed from their former conviction. 

Luis Rivera was a 22yr old who wanted some loot and thought he could get his hands on it easily, though illegally. He proved to be a lackluster criminal and was soon apprehended. Convicted, he was not sentenced to time in jail but did receive 5yrs probation and was remanded to the custody of his parents. He stayed the course, got his life on track and within two years he was released even from probation. 

Here's where things get interesting. He was hired for part time work in New York's East Village as a doorman, etc. Quickly proving his value to the company they were beginning to consider him for a permanent, full-time gig - the likes of which Rivera had not known for 20 years (now in his mid 40s). 

The boss calls one day to explain that because of his criminal record for theft and the nature of his work at a lodging establishment largely frequented by the wealthy he would not be allowed to work there. 

If anyone could make a case for RESTORATION its this guy. So how does God restore? How does he meet you in your failure, muck and mire and draw you out. Dust you off. Name what He sees in you. Catapult you toward the plans He has for you... 

Recall Peter. The fiery yet unstable disciple of Jesus. He's the one shouting from the rooftops that he will follow Jesus to death (Matt. 26:33), steps out of the boat in a storm just to get to Jesus (Matt. 14:22-33), and cuts off the ear of a soldier arresting Jesus in zeal (John 18:10). For all his zeal and passion only hours after cutting off the ear we see Peter in an unlikely spot (based on his track record to this point).

In John 18:18 Peter is found warming himself by a charcoal fire with the servants and officers in the courtyard of the high priest. This is the beginning of the end for him. It had already been predicted that he would deny any association with Jesus (he didn't count on others knowing his accent or eyewitnesses seeing him with Jesus).

Then Jesus is totally betrayed, arrested, killed, raised and begins appearing to His followers. 

Jesus, of course, knew all this.

It is no surprise when days after his resurrection he stands ready to meet the disciples on the shore (See John 21). He builds a charcoal fire and one can only picture the scene thats being cast in Peter's mind. Peter sees him from afar and leaps out of the boat to get to him.  Imagine his thoughts as he nears shore and see the fire... "Oh no, he's going to say something about what I did. I knew it... I knew this was going haunt me." Like a basketball hopeful on the last day of tryouts he's bracing for the news that he's going to be cut from the team. 

Jesus, of course, knew all this. 

Peter desperately needs to have his sin of betrayal expunged - erased. But how? Notice what Jesus does NOT do. He doesn't measure Peter's worth to Him based off his performance. He doesn't dangle his failure like the proverbial carrot in front of Peter as though the fixation of its eradication from his life means his suitability to serve in kingdom. 

How masterful His method. How tender His ways. How loving this friend. 

He only inquires of Peter's love. "Do you love me..." He says. "Yes, Lord, you know I do." is Peter's urgent and excited reply. However, Jesus isn't settling there. Jesus is talking about a FULL love while Peter is thinking of a friendship kind of love. After repeating the exercise two times and getting the same results. Jesus then stoops to Peter's level and says, "Do you love (friendship kind) me..." 

And there it is, the beginning of restoration.  He develops us by meeting us where we are and naming the potential He knows we can achieve with the ministry of His Holy Spirit through us. He deploys us as COMPLETE (in Him) but imperfect (in this world) saints in His kingdom. This means we will always be needy for Him... and that's a really, really good thing. 

Be encouraged - those of you who have significant stains that fill your past. They do not define or direct your future. Be encouraged - those of you who have been markedly wronged. You are not the sum of what someone has said or done to you

I enjoy picturing scenes like Peter, living in the here and now knocking on Luis Rivera's door. After being invited in, with a hot cup of joe placed before him the two sit at the kitchen table. The bustling of the city can be heard in the background as Peter shares with him about walking on water, shouting about his zeal and cutting off the ear of a man because he knew the man was there to harm Jesus. I envision Rivera, with wide-eyed wonder as the story takes a sharp left turn and he hears of Peter's betrayal so soon after the incident with the soldier, bewildered immediately.  

"Pete, what happened? How in the world are you and Jesus on good terms? You totally dissed on your bro and He took you back? Man that's crazy! What did you have to do to get back in?" Luis says. 

"Well, he asked if I loved Him. You know, love-loved Him. The only thing my heart could muster was that I knew I wanted to be His friend. So, we started there and He's been building on it ever since. All He asks from me is a heart surrendered and hands open - living for the daily partnership He desires. And slowly, ever so slowly - I can say with utter conviction - I L-O-V-E Jesus Christ!!! My past failures or hurts don't define me and my present and future foibles are growth spurts," Peter said with gusto and joy. 

The same is true of you today. If you are a tenured Christian still walking about in shame, not fulfilling the purpose of your calling or a brand new to the faith, just learning the ropes of the Freedom that is Yours in Christ Jesus. Learn from Peter - Let Jesus build the charcoal fire on the shore of your disappointment and see what He does to restore you.