THIS IS A MONUMENTAL DAY!
I am awestruck at the significance and importance of a day like today. As the calendar page slipped from this past Tuesday to this present Wednesday, our world has forever changed.
This once in a lifetime experience has come upon us and now we must seize the opportunity for all it is worth. We must not hold back, for we have been destined for such a time as this.
Without any hesitation we must not deny the reality of what this day means. Yes, today… this very day… my blog is one year old!
What? Were you expecting something else?
Oh, right! We elected a new president, but we do that every four years and we can’t even all agree on him anyway.
I’m talking about the anniversary of crosseyedlife.com.
Happy birthday blog!
On this first anniversary I am reminded of the significance of progress. It’s so important that we make progress, and another name for that is growth.
When I take my kids in for physicals each year the doctor always does something: he weighs and measures them. Then he compares those numbers to where they have been and charts it out to see if they are on a healthy track.
(While I’m really glad he does that for my kiddos, he can knock it off when it comes to me. I’m sick of seeing my…er… ‘progress.’ Can I get a witness?)
If we came in on any given year and one of my kiddos weighed exactly the same, or hadn’t grown an inch, the doctor tells me that it would be a sign that there is trouble and he would start looking for disease in the body.
Tracking progressive growth is a leading indicator of childhood health, and there are some very similar tracking tools for our spiritual development. One of the easiest tools is this: If we are just like we have always been, then we probably aren’t growing and there is disease somewhere in the body.
I saw this pattern played out really well in this well known story from the gospel of Mark:
The Healing of a Demon-possessed Man
5 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.a 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!”
9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Mk 5:1-20). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
I love this story because it seems so far removed from our lives, but it’s actually closer than we think.
First, you have one person who is living two lives: a split personality, a before and after persona, a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde scenario. Whatever you want to call it, most of us haven’t been demon possessed, but we have felt the struggle between our sin nature and our redeemed life.
Second, we can identify with this story because we, just like this demon possessed man, are into self-destructive behavior. In verse 5 we see what in our contemporary culture appears as “cutting.” The process of self inflicted injury as “a way some people try to cope with the pain of strong emotions, intense pressure, or upsetting relationship problems. They may be dealing with feelings that seem too difficult to bear, or bad situations they think can’t change.” (http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_mind/feeling_sad/cutting.html )
As a pastor I have seen a number of physical cutters, but I have seen innumerable relational cutters, spiritual cutters, intellectual cutters; whose self destructive patterns mirror what is seen right here in this passage.
Third, this demon possessed man has another thing in common with us in that he has bought into the lies about God he has been told. In verse 7 he begs that Jesus wouldn’t torture him, obviously playing to some fears that had been instilled in him through some lies he had chosen to believe. We too often get distracted from who God really is because of the lies we have been told: God only wants your money, God is Baptist, God helps those who help themselves.
All of this should help us identify with this crazed, delusional, half-naked man living among the rocks… he’s just like us before we came to Jesus.
But, then after he encounters the living Christ… there he is, clothed and in his right mind. Split personality removed (it’s now a pork product). The self destructive patterns have been replaced. The lies have been rewritten by truth.
You’d think this is the spiritual development/progress that Jesus is looking for, but it’s not. Go figure.
As a demon-possessed man he begged Jesus for grace and mercy (verse 10) and Jesus gave it to him. Then as a follower of Christ, he begged again (verse 18) to follow Jesus and serve Him and become part of the entourage.
Jesus said… no…NO!?!
What? Jesus would honor the request of a crazed, demon-possessed man, but deny the desire of a follower to stay near Him?
This seems insane at first, but it’s all about our spiritual growth/development.
When we are lost and in deep need, Jesus meets us where we are with almost no questions asked. But, as we come to Him, once we have passed through the veil of the cross and have tasted grace we become responsible, we become disciples, we… grow up.
The man wanted nothing more than to hang out with Jesus and His crew, to sing Kum Ba Yah and eat Summer Camp Smores. Honestly, it probably would have been good for him. He would have grown, learned and become strengthened in the faith.
But, Jesus knew what was best for everyone ‘around’ him, and that’s what it means to be a grown up believer: it’s not about you anymore.
In Verse 20 it says: So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
Decapolis was a region of 10 cities. All the people were amazed. He had a BIG impact.
It may be hard to understand why Jesus would say yes to a demon-possessed man and no to one of His followers, but it boils down to this: Jesus expects us to grow up, and on this side of grace… it’s not about what He will do for us, but what He’ll do through us.
Get ready. The next time Jesus tells you no, it may be the beginning of the most exciting time of your life.
Grow up, and happy birthday crosseyedlife.
Oh yeah… might want to pray for our new president. I think we’re all gonna need it!
Here’s a CrossEyedLife Birthday Gift Bonus.
Every year our faith community has a Fall Festival and we have put together little videos for something called the Not So Scary Movies. Well, here they are, volumes 1, 2 and 3. You will notice our improvements in video editing equipment and expertise over the years, especially as you get to this years with the cool green screen stuff. Hope you enjoy!