Friday, July 22, 2016

The unpredictable, surprising and inspiring life of pastoring at the Manor!

So we have an amazing healthy garden behind the Manor with a ton of tomatoes growing on the vines along with zucchinis increasing in size! Sharon and Jen made salads from the lettuce plants and it was so fun delivering them to the people living there but the real fun is still coming when we started doing toasted tomato sandwiches!

Here are a few more stories of the amazing things that God is doing over the past month!

As I was setting up for the church service, one of the guys pulled me aside and asked me to visit
Lawrence* who was in his room.  When I arrived he was in deep distress and pain and he really felt like his body was shutting down on him.  He had everything wrote out for me on a piece of paper regarding all of his details and it felt like he was getting ready to die.  He then handed me his ecstasy pill and asked for prayer.  I laid my hand on him and prayed with all my heart for his healing.  It was a powerful moment for both of us and since that time he has shared that he has felt stronger, got his appetite back and God continues to work in his life.

We showed up on Friday morning two weeks ago and it was a Friday morning like no other.  Roger was reading an article on the lack of affordable housing in Guelph and shared his openness to being part of the solution.  It was a real time of honesty as the conversation shifted and he spoke of his past.  He shared about his regrets.  From there Sharon challenged him on putting his trust in Jesus, the Messiah! Then I had the opportunity to lead him in a prayer of salvation.  At every point he responded “Amen” and “absolutely”…it was amazing.  This past week we had our first Bible study, praying and reading through the Beatitudes together.  

On Monday we did a special day out to the West End Recreation Center for Todd and ‘sweet Dave’.  Dave is a Vietnam vet and gets around in a wheelchair and Todd deals with a lot of pain and instability due to MS.  So, going to the pool was a huge hit as Todd just loved the jets and the warmth of the therapeutic pool;  it took Dave a little longer to warm up to the leisure pool, but once he got in, there was no stopping him.  We then found soft inflatable balls to ping each other from close distance. 

I sat down for coffee today with Greg as he shared with me about his battle strategy for his video game. We then talked about the recent loss of his dog, Chuckles, followed by a conversation about the possibility of landing a rescue dog.  He talked about God’s timing with me and we ended our time together with prayer.  Our bond continues to grow as he shares about his desire for baptism as well.

On Sundays of late, we have had a greater focus on teaching as Jen spoke on mind renewal from Romans 12:2.  We also have just begun a Bible study walking through Joyce Meyer’s book, “You Can Begin Again.”.

 I shared most recently on the gospel through the life of the Gerasene Demoniac – a man who was bound by the power of Satan, but who found freedom among the tombs by the power of Jesus in Mark 5:1-20.  This is where the focus of this blog will now take. This story of Jesus’ encounter with the demoniac is a parallel  picture of  our “story” of our  life “before” Christ; then your encounter with Jesus; then your life “after

His story reminds me of the recent song by the Strombellas…

I got guns in my head and they won't go
Spirits in my head and they won't go
But the gun still rattles the gun still rattles oooh
I got guns in my head and they won't go
Spirits in my head and they won't go
I spend a lot of nights on the run
And I think "Oh, like I'm lost and can't be found."
I'm just waiting for my day to come
And I think "Oh, cause I don't wanna let you down."
But something inside has changed, and maybe we don't wanna stay the same

I. BEFORE: In the “grip” of the enemy

This was definitely someone who was in the grip of Satan.  In verse 2 it says he had an “unclean spirit” –meaning a demon. But this was not “just” a demon; when Jesus told the demon to come out, and He asked him his name in verse 9, he said “My name is Legion, for we are many.” So there were evidently MANY demons in this man. He was totally in the grip of Satan’s power and he showed it.  The passage shares, ‘he lived among the tombs, and they tried to bind him with chains, but he just broke them in pieces. Verse 5 says that day and night he screamed among the tombs, and gashed himself with stones. This is a very graphic picture, of one who was totally and helplessly under Satan’s grip.

I cannot let them go – or these spirits will kill me. He lived in fear.– the truth was, THEY had a grip of fear on HIM!

Here is the crazy thing, his story parallels the power of the enemy over our lives before we trusted Christ… look what Paul writes -

Ephesians 2:1-2 says: “And YOU were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” Do you see what God says there? When you are walking in sin apart from God, you are not walking “your own way” – you are actually under the influence of Satan – “the prince of the power of the air”! HE is “the spirit now working (that word means “energizing”) in all those who disobey God

C.S. Lewis writes in his book The Screwtape Letters of a fictitious mentor demon who is writing to his apprentice nephew on the “strategies” he is to use to keep the man to whom he is assigned in Satan’s grip, and to lead him to hell. In the book, the “uncle/mentor” demon, “Screwtape”, writes to his nephew, “Wormwood”:

“I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the British Museum. One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way … Before I knew where I was I saw my 20 years’ work beginning to totter … I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch … Once he was in the street the battle was won. I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No. 73 bus going past, and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man’s head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of ‘real life’ (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all ‘that sort of thing’ just couldn’t be true … He is now safe in Our Father’s House.”

A fictitious story,but Lewis makes a great point: if you are not “in the grip” of God, you are in the grip of someone who comes to ‘steal, kill and destroy. You may think you are just “so intellectual” that you are beyond God – but the truth is, your mind is being manipulated by dark spiritual forces. You may think that you are “above” faith.  You just need to believe in yourself – but you are enslaved to sin; you just have a different master, you are not your ‘own’ person

II. JESUS: the gamechanger!

v6 “seeing Jesus, he ran up and bowed down before Him”!
This man was in the grip of Satan’s power – but there is a greater power; the power of Jesus!  As strong and evil as is the power of Satan’s grip, Jesus’ power is greater still. Note all the evidences of Jesus’ power over Satan’s forces in this passage:
v6 he bowed before Him – significantly, this is the Greek word “proskuneo” – the word for “worship” – it means to fall down before one greater than you. This demon-possessed man fell down in worship and obeisance before the King of Kings!
In v7 he spoke: “I implore you”;  v10 says: “he began to implore Him not to send them out of the country”, and in v12 it says “the demons implored Him.”  
–:13 “Jesus gave them permission”. Those demons could do NOTHING without Jesus’ permission. JESUS is the absolute sovereign power here!

We need to remember that. Satan’s power is nothing to toy with, and you do not want to expose yourself or your family to his power and influence. That’s one reason why you shouldn’t dabble in the occult, or pornography, or horoscopes, or any of those kinds of things that open you up to Satanic influences. His power is destructive – as we see in the life of this demoniac. BUT, if you are a Christian, you do not need to fear his power; your Lord is infinitely greater than demonic forces.    Pastor Shawn Thomas

There is no contest  here; Jesus is the sovereign power. The demons shudder at the name of Jesus!
Jesus’ power freed that man in the country of the Gerasenes – He set that demoniac free; He cast the demons out, and restored him to his “right mind”  and Satan’s grip on his was no more.
 Jesus can save you from Satan’s grip. BUT … you must have a personal experience with Jesus to be set free from Satan’s grip. It is not enough just to have some “acquaintance” with Jesus – this passage makes that clear.

And you have to understand that it is the same with you, too. You may have a “head knowledge” of who Jesus is; you may have grown up in the church, knowing that He is The Son of God; you may believe that He died on the cross; you may know all those facts, and have grown up with them. But knowing those facts does not release you from Satan’s grip any more than it did those demons did. You must have a personal experience with Jesus in which He becomes YOUR Lord & Savior.

John 1:12 says “as many as received Him, to THEM He gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe on His name” – the Bible says that you must have a personal experience with Jesus in which you repent of your sins, and put your trust in Him as YOUR Lord & Savior.

III. The “AFTER”: bringing our story home!

This man’s “before” story was that he was in Satan’s grip, and then he was freed by Jesus’ power. Now we come to the “after” part of his story. When this man had been freed from the demonic grip by Jesus’ power, :18 says he “implored” Jesus that he might let him accompany Him. But Jesus said to him: :19 “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.” Jesus said to him, you don’t need to follow Me to unnamed places – go home, and just tell the people you know, where you are, what I have done for you. Serve Me where you are. His “after” story was one of sharing and serving Jesus in his own home town.

I finish with a great story from WWII that resembles the dramatic encounter when we meet Jesus.

When Hitler conquered France, he immediately shut down the borders to keep the people from leaving the country. But one small border town saw its population diminish rapidly, so the Germans searched for the answer. It turned out, this town had a cemetery that straddled the border with the neighboring country, which was free from Nazi control. The locals opened up an ancient gate in the wall of the cemetery, and they kept having “funerals” – except the people never came back! They went out to the tombs, but they just kept on walking, right out the back gate, to their freedom!

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here!

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