Mercy For A Madman

Mark 5:1-20 HCSB

Mark 5:1-5 is a graphic depiction of the darkness at its worst in a human. Our context: Mark was a master at constructing context in his Gospel. In chapter 4 Jesus deals with the point of parables (speaking in mystery, hyperbole and stories to expound on God’s Kingdom – these truths are for those with “ears to hear” and explained to those closest to Jesus.) Three times in 4:35-41 we read of those around Jesus as fearful/terrified. Jesus calmed the storm and their fear was transferred from the storm to the awe of Christ’s power.

In the beginning of chapter 5 Jesus calms a more significant storm…

I – A Description of Darkness – This story highlights the “bullet-points” of evil and darkness.

Darkness (sin, rebellion, disobedience) is… Self-destructive (vs 5) Abusive (vs 3) Lonely (vs 5) Filled with a hollow cries (vs 5) Frightening to others (vs 4) Had a history of danger (vs 4) Even fearful of God! (vs 7)

II – Jesus and the Darkness meet face to face

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and knelt down before Him. 7 And he cried out with a loud voice, “What do You have to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You before God, don’t torment me!” 5:6-7 This meeting is evidence of the Lord’s mercy (which is credited with this deliverance in vs 19) Jesus and the demon possessed man were face to face – right where possessed man needed to be – he was now exposed to the light after so long in utter darkness When someone is in darkness they need the light – though this will be often uncomfortable (“don’t torment me”) – this now happens by presenting the gospel to them w/ truth, wisdom and love.

It is interesting the tormented one (or rather he as under the control of demons) was afraid of torment from Christ – harkens back to Genesis 3:9-10 “So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard You in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.”

When Jesus comes to us, even in correction, it is for our good

Jesus asked his name, which was Legion, meaning there were many, many demons in this man. The point isn’t the number of demons – and it is certainly not teaching we should have conversations with them (this was narrative – not a teaching passage). The point was this man was in utter darkness and thus had relinquished control of his life to satanic forces. He was absolutely lost and in need of deliverance.

III – One Miracle – Two Messages

The demons begged Jesus to cast them into the pigs – the demons had some fear of being thrown into the abyss (perhaps the abyss or pit in Revelation 9:1) Jesus cast the demons out of the man and they entered about 2000 pigs who immediately ran over a cliff and drown. – The majority of the people ran Jesus out of town because of an economic hit Notice also of the fear which grips witness to the calming of the sea and the man in his right mind (Mark 4:41 and Mark 5:15) – The delivered man evangelized (told every one of the Lord’s mercy)

Mercy for a Madman

This isn’t a “how to” on exorcisms – Mark isn’t giving us step-by-step instructions on how to cast demons out of people – or how to speak to demons. The context surrounding this passage deals with Jesus power over seemingly uncontrollable situations from storms (4:35-31) to death (5:35-43), hemorrhaging (5:34).

Mercy is God’s restraint – this man did not deserve love, he deserved judgement.  Mercy was the motivation for Jesus.  Rest assured, His motivation concerning you is mercy – He is not desiring that you should perish but for you to experience the gift of repentance and mercy (John 10:28, 2 Peter 3:9)

Like this man – we, or our loved ones, may be out of control, hurting ourselves or others.  Controlled by compulsions which are only after our destruction (the 1st thing the pigs did was kill themselves – this is evidence of evil’s ultimate goal when there is no restriction.)

No matter how you got in your mess, or how dark it is, Jesus desires to set you free.  Call out to Jesus right where you are, right now, as well as get help from a trusted Christian resource.  Today can be your last day of madness.  When your mess and Jesus meet – the darkness and madness are driven from you, and you are left at peace and promised His loving presence at all times. 

Listen to Mercy for a Madman, download the presentation in PDF, Keynote, and PPT as well as the Presenter notes here:

Here are the Presenter Notes in Google Doc form (which may be updated over time):

One of the Most Important Lesson’s I’ve Learned About Church Order

It was June, 1999 at a youth camp in Tennessee where I learned one of the most important lessons on church order.  My wife and I were counselors, she a Team Captain and I a teacher.  For some reason, we had an enormous amount of rebellious activities from the teenagers that week.  It was just issue after issue we dealt with, very emotionally draining. Kids were talking back, bringing drugs and other paraphernalia, general restlessness.  God was doing some amazing things, but it was like running underwater, you made progress but every movement was laborious.

On Wednesday evening during the alter call, the students had brought their piles of filthy CD’s, alcohol, needles (seriously!), and other junk, to the front to be rejected and repented of totally in the presence of God.  Just as we begin to pray, we heard a sudden onset of hellacious screaming.  The young man was quite close to me and he was acting just as wildly as he sounded.

Immediately we grabbed him and got him to the ground.  He could not have weighed more than 110lb and there were about six of us holding him down.  It became clear to us that he was demon possessed.  He seemed unusually strong, which I see as abuse from the enemy.  We prayed, yelled commands for the demon(s) to leave, bound the demon (scripture never tells us to bind demons, just to cast them out, but God is patient with our incomplete theology) and labored to see the young man set free.  In the middle of all this, I turned to one of the students in one of the classes I was teaching and said that this is why we study the Bible, it’s real! I felt bold and empowered by the Spirit, even though I had never before faced this sort of situation face-to-face.  Probably an hour or so later, he was delivered, saved, and filled with the Spirit.  He was made free.  I praise God today at memory of this young man’s deliverance from the clutches of the enemy.

The next day I went to my dorm after teaching a class and wept.  I felt so exhausted and like I knew almost nothing.  This event was very draining spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.

Now, demon possession became the talk of the camp.  On Thursday night, a student began rolling her eyes and acting weird, supposedly to look possessed.  We could tell she was not possessed and was only acting out.  However, that night we were trying to round the kids up to go back to their dorms and I heard “Brother Reuben! Come in here, “so and so” is possessed and we need counselors to pray!!”  I went into the dorm entrance and found a young lady on her back growling, yelling, and spitting at the wall.  I could tell she was indeed possessed of a demon.  “Again!?” is what was going through my mind.  “How could this be happening again?!”  I sensed a dark evil all over her, it was disgusting.  We prayed and bound and commanded the demon to leave…to no avail. My paster asked me come back outside because kids were running wild.  I left the student and helped gather the kids to their dorms.

That night my wife slept in the same room as the possessed student.  As long as my wife would hold her hand, she would be at peace. She begged my wife to not let go of her hand so she could sleep.  The next morning the young lady was also saved by Jesus.

On the way home, I quizzed my pastor on these events.  Riding from Tennessee to Missouri provided a long time to think, reflect, and discuss.  Here are some things I learned, was reminded of, and continue to learn from these experiences…

  • Jesus deserves all the attention.  If this takes place during the service, have trusted men lead the possessed person outside and pray for him/her. Don’t let the enemy get the attention.
  • There may be unbelievers present, don’t allow the devil to distract them from coming to Jesus because of some wild display.
  • These were rare events, don’t go looking for such explicit spiritual warfare.  The most effective victory in spiritual warfare is when someone comes to Christ and is saved.
  • Demon possession is very real and it is not like you see in the movies.
  • Jesus is not stressed over the devil.  Satan was defeated at the cross and is no match for Jesus on his best day.  There is no “struggle between God and Satan”, remember, Jesus saw satan fall from heaven like lightning, there was no fight.
  • Never open yourself up to witchcraft.  For the record, I do not believe that a born-again Christian can be possessed of demons but why invite a demonic stronghold or activity around your life?  Stay away from witchcraft, sorcery, communication with the dead, tarot cards, and the like.  The spiritual realm of demons and angels is not an area we are called to investigate.  Keep Jesus as the focus.

About 6 or so years after this camp, I prayed with a young lady who was possessed (there has been only 3 times in my life I’ve ever been involved with casting demons out.)  It was at an outreach where people who lived in hotels were provided a hot meal, a viewing of The Passion of the Christ, a worship service and invitation to come to Christ.

This time was different, I asked for her name and asked to speak to her and not the demon.  The young lady indicated she wanted to be free.  I commanded the demon to be quiet in Jesus name.   I led her to Jesus and when she confessed Jesus as her master, repented, the demon fled and she was made free.  No big drawn-out display, just the power of the gospel.  She is free today and is a dear friend of my wife and me.

Remember to keep the focus on Jesus whom Paul proclaimed as “…the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:17 NIV


Book Review: How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth

Book Review
How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth Book Review. 3rd Ed.
Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003

“Just read the bible and do what is says!”. Good advice, yet quite incomplete. How does one read the Bible? Is it read like a novel? Like a history book? Like a list or rules? Do we pride ourselves on a literal reading? If so, are we to build parapets around the roofs of our houses as Deuteronomy 22:8 demands? Do we feel as though the Bible is a templet for our pet doctrines? Are we free to ignore sections at will? Does the God of the Bible hold us accountable for these decisions?

So, the burning question is how do we read the Bible? The Bible is like no other book in history, yet it contains many known genres. It is more widely read than all other written works, and for good reason. It has impacted the course of history like no other work before or after it. Because of this monumental question, we have books such as How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth by Douglass Stuart and Gordon D. Fee.

The world at large, and the church specifically, hold the Bible in a special regard. Both those who are converted to Christ and those who are not are often familiar with certain stories and passages. The language of the Bible has worked its way into our everyday vernacular. Because of these and other reasons, there is a wide variety of views of the Bible. People often do not know the difference between reading the book of Job (a book so ancient, it has no reference to the Law) and Romans. In Job, we are rejecting good advice from poor comforters and in Romans we are receiving all the advice given! Stuart and Fee have written How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth to address these issues and to help guide all who are serious in properly reading and interpreting the Bible. One would be at odds to name a more important study skill.

The way the book is constructed is immensely helpful in aiding the purpose of the authors. How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth wisely begins with the addressing the need of interpretation. People often do not realize they already interpret anything they read. Would you read the newspaper the same way you read a heart-felt poem? Of course not! One cannot simply read the Bible completely devoid of interpretation. The authors make a valid point: you are interpreting anyway, you might as well interpret correctly.

From there, the book then goes from help in choosing a translation to a systematic process of how to read each Bible genre. I particularly appreciate the book’s structure, which is very easy to follow. Stuart and Fee address how to read the Epistles, the Old Testament narratives, Acts, the Gospels, the parables, the Law, the prophets, Psalms, Wisdom and finally Revelation. Of course, these could be further broken into sub-groups, but these include nearly everything found in scripture. These literary genres are also often tied to one another and may go from genre to genre in a single book (or chapter!). When one masters the skills in how to read each type, it’s smoother sailing.

I believe Stuart and Fee did achieve their goal in guiding the reader to a fuller understanding of Bible interpretation with this book. This is conditional on the reader following the guidelines of course. For an example of such guidelines, we should attempt to grasp the text as it was written “in their town”, or exegesis. The task of exegesis is outlined in a way anyone can understand the subject. “Exegesis is the careful, systematic study of the Scripture to discover the original, intended meaning” (Kindle location 385).

We read a passage, was it poetry? Was it a list? Was it hyperbolic? Did Jesus really want us to gouge out an eye or cut off a hand? He said to do so in Matthew 5:29-30 if the offending eye or hand causes one to sin. What is the price of a literal interpretation when it was not meant as such? It this case it could be a limb! In fact, the hyperbole Jesus was using was much more powerful than a literal interpretation. Reading the Bible with the correct mindset, and submitted to the Holy Spirit, brings liberation as apposed to the bondage of false belief.
Another very important point How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth drives home is the all-important subject of context, namely, the literary context. This is mentioned throughout the book. This means “first that words only have meanings in sentences, and second that biblical sentences for the most part only have clear meaning in relation to preceding and succeeding sentences.” (Kindle location 458). Without grasping what context really is, one cannot correctly interpret scripture, much less skillfully apply it the way God intends.

Personally, I tend to agree with the authors of How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth and nearly every point. I have actually read the book twice and find it to be incredibly helpful in my own devotional reading as well as sermon/lesson prep. They do tend to take some hard stances on the book of Revelation which I would personally tread lighter, but with Revelation, that is to be expected at times. They see the great city as Rome for sure. Rome is only mentioned in Acts (the last 1/3 or so of Acts is dedicated to Paul’s trek to Rome), Romans 1:7, 15, 15:22 and 2 Timothy 1:17. This is only minor and they are probably right.

I would heartily recommend How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth. In fact, when I first read it about 3 years ago (an earlier edition), I was already recommending it to many people. The second reading was only richer and more rewarding. The parables and proverbs took on a whole new life and I tried to view them (as best I could) as those who heard them for the first time. The puzzling laws in Deuteronomy became examples of God’s care and His desire for the Israelites to be set apart from pagan practices. The dragon and locusts of Revelation were not longer simply enigmatic monsters in my mind.

I would recommend How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth to anyone (professional minister or not) who desires to learn the skills of proper Bible interpretation. There are many books on this subject, yet this particular work as gained notoriety for it’s logical sequencing, easy to understand language, and tried-and-true hermeneutical techniques.


A Meditation of Psalm 19

Psalm 19 describes God revealing Himself, leading to a natural conclusion. Psalm 19 contains oft-quoted verses. These include “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of His hands.” (vs 1) and “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer. (vs 14) Interestingly, these are the first and final verses of this Psalm.

Notice the natural structure to Psalm 19. Without over-spiritualizing at all, you can easily tell a sequence the psalmist has placed here. From vs 1 to vs 4, it is the heavens which are said to declare, proclaim, pouring, communicate, and sending a world-wide message. From vs 5, it is now the sun which, as an extension of the work of the heavens, is a witness in the sky directly from God (the psalmist is careful to say it is God, or Him in the HSCB, who in control of the sun). It gets better.  Beginning with vs 8, the psalmist provides an outline which connects on a profound level. Notice…

Beginning with vs 8, the psalmist provides an outline which connects Continue reading “A Meditation of Psalm 19”

Concerning 3 John 2

Perhaps one of the most common examples poor exegesis is the use of 3 John 2, usually quoted in the King James: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth”. This is a favorite among extreme prosperity preachers. By misunderstanding this verse, one could say “…if my soul is prospering, then I should prosper by default in my money and body.”

I do not believe this was John’s point. This was a common ancient greeting. Basically, I believe John is saying “May all go well with you, inside and out”. In fact, this verse is bookended with statements concerning “the truth”. In vs 1, he says “I love you in the truth”. In the following vs, John mentioned “faithfulness to the truth” and “walking in the truth” and the same statement in vs 4 again. Perhaps, this was on John’s mind, much more than money. Though to be clear, I do believe God prospers us financially, taking care of all our need (Phil 4:19).

The danger in the above example would be thinking that if I’m doing well spiritually, I will do well financially, that I will be rich with no exceptions. This is not supported in the larger context of the Bible at all. It is certainly not supported in 3 John. This could cause damage to a Christian, especially a new one. If they go through a hard time, which is normal in the Christian experience, he/she may become disillusioned and perhaps be tempted to give up. We would not want that.