Category Archives: Guest Blogger

Lord, Help My Unbelief

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This is a post from my friend Ben Nelson, author and blogger, who writes almost daily on his blog Another Red Letter Day.  Ben has this beautiful way of taking stories from the Bible and writing them in first person – becoming a character in the story – and this is one of my favorite stories.  In fact, he has a book out the walks you through 40 days with Jesus.  It’s remarkable.  Please enjoy.

 

There is no way to get rid of this kind of
demon except by prayer.
Mark 9:29

Help My Doubts

Father of a Demon-Possessed Boy

I remember the doctor saying to us, years ago, “Keep a record of his bad days.” My son—my eight-year-old boy—Enoch and I visited the doctor often in those first days. It’s been another eight years since we stopped going to doctors. For seven of them, we’ve found it easier to record the good days than count the bad.

The first sign the demonic attack has begun—we now know it’s a demon—is Enoch’s eerie silence. His eyes glaze over and it seems like he has gone away. He can’t hear—or at least he doesn’t respond to sound—and never speaks.

In the beginning, we thought he was sick. My wife, Havah, and I took him to our family doctor in the village. At first, this demon did not awaken while we were with the doctor, so he didn’t know how to help. Enoch, couldn’t tell the doctor much. He couldn’t remember what happened during his episodes. He just fell—no—not fell—it was like being thrown to the floor. Then he rolled around the ground as stiff as a board,  foaming at the mouth. If there was anything dangerous nearby, like fire, or water, or a steep drop, he’d head right for it.

Our third visit to the doctor was after a furious episode where Enoch found his way right into an open fire. It scorched more than half the skin on his left side. The doctor said he could  treat the burn, but he told us we should see a priest or rabbi. He didn’t think Enoch had any disease.

“This boy is possessed by a devil, and I can’t help you,” he told us as he gave us some salve for his burns.

After that, we went from rabbi to rabbi, each one shrugged his shoulders and wished he could do more.

It’s been seven years of rabbis and priests. We’ve given special offerings at the temple and paid for professional intercessors. We’ve gone to every house of prayer in Judea. Once we even traveled up to the temple at Shechem in Samaria to see if they could help us.

About a year ago, I started hearing stories of a rabbi from Galilee who was casting out demons and healing the sick. At first, I didn’t want Enoch and Havah to get their expectations aroused, but as the stories multiplied my heart began to hope.

One of my neighbors returned from a visit with some family up north near Tiberius. He told me of a pair of Jesus’ disciples going through the town. They were healing the sick and casting out demons in the streets. I’ve know Ari for many years, and he wouldn’t repeat these stories if there were any doubt in his mind. He was there. He saw men and women healed before his eyes, even some possessed by demons like my boy.

That’s when I started planning. I didn’t tell my wife, or even my son, what I was really up to. I didn’t want to lie to either of them. I just told Havah I wanted some time alone with my boy. I started planning for a trip with Enoch to find this Healer. I would tell Him my boy’s story. If He refused or couldn’t help, the disappointment would only fall on me.

I learned that He had been seen teaching and healing near Cana up in Galilee, so I packed our things and Enoch and I headed north.

Traveling with Enoch is no holiday. Everywhere we go, we have to be prepared to deal with his oppressor. This trip was no exception. In fact, the spirit’s brutality the first night made me think we were might be headed in the right direction. The vile captor in Enoch’s young body protested more than ever. We didn’t sleep at all the first night we were on the road. Before I even had the fire burning hot enough to cook some dinner, he was flailing around and smothered it, at great cost to his own flesh. It was a grueling three days and two nights.

When we got close, someone told us the Teacher was on Mount Tabor. So we followed the road down from Cana to the east. As we approached the mountain, we found crowds at the base. I expected this. The accounts I’ve heard always have large crowds around this Healer.

It was nearly sundown when we came upon a few of the Healer’s disciples surrounded by dozens of on-lookers. They had just healed a couple of blind men. Next, they were laying hands on a lame woman lying on a sort of mat in the middle of the group. As we pressed our way into the center of the gathering, we saw this woman on the bed getting to her feet. Then she started jumping and running around the circle of spectators.

The disciples looked almost as stunned as the no-longer-bedridden woman. One of these men called out, “It’s the name of Jesus that heals the sick and delivers anyone in bondage.”

We had found Him.

I started waving frantically, crying out “My son, help my son!” I must have looked a little mad myself. I began to tell my son’s story to the one they were calling Andrew. There were three other groups like the one I was in, each surrounding what looked like a few disciples.

“I’m Andrew,” said the man who was speaking, “and this is Simon the Zealot.”

As soon as I began to describe Enoch’s condition, my son flew to the ground. I had my back to him, so I didn’t see the warning signs. I would have steered him away from the crowd before he went it to the full display of fury that is my son’s daily reality.

He was rocking back and forth, jerking up and down, six inches into the air and then slammed down again, rolling over so the foam covering his mouth was full of the Galilean dirt. Andrew and Simon hurried over to him and began to command the demon to come out.

“In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, come out,” they called.

Nothing changed. They said it a little louder. “In the name of Jesus, come out.”

They asked others in the crowd to hold him still while they prayed for him, laying their hands on his head and chest.

He thrashed and freed his arms. Then began slashing at them with his fists and scratching with his fingernails.

Andrew and Simon called two of the other disciples over to them and they started out the same way.

“In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, come out.”

Nothing.

I have to say, they didn’t give up. The sky grew fully dark and the air chilled as this failed exorcism went on into the night.

Finally, sometime after midnight, I took Enoch away from the crowd and we found a quiet place to get some rest. He had been in full manifestation for hours, and when he finally calmed, he was ready to sleep.

The sun was already well above the horizon when we awoke. The commotion that woke us was the arrival of Jesus and three more of his followers. They had apparently spent the night on the mountain. I’d never seen anything like Jesus. He was glowing—glowing! It wasn’t just the sun shimmering off his robes. The light emanated from Him.

As we approached Andrew called to Jesus, “Here they are Mater. We did everything you taught us and nothing changed.”

Once I realized that Jesus was right there, I said, “Teacher, I brought my mute son, made speechless by a demon, to you. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and goes stiff as a board. I told your disciples, hoping they could deliver him, but they couldn’t.

Jesus said “What a generation! No sense of God! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this? Bring the boy here.

Andrew took Enoch by the hand and led him to the Master.

The demon in my boy did his worst. He slammed him to the ground with no warning whatsoever. He pushed him right into a nearby fire. He convulsed and foamed and moaned, teeth grinding and eyes wild.

Jesus asked, “How long has this been going on?

Ever since he was a little boy,” I replied. “Many times it pitches him into fire or the river to do away with him. If you can do anything, do it. Have a heart and help us!

Jesus’s eyes looked eager. “If?” He responded. “There are no ‘ifs’ among believers. Anything can happen.

That brought me up short. “I do believe;” I blurted, but then I wondered if I did, so I added, “Help me with my doubts!

I think the crowd knew something big was about to happen because they started to press in. Some just realizing that Jesus was back, others hearing the conversation. Everyone wanting to see what He would do.

Dumb and deaf spirit, I command you—Out of him, and stay out!” Jesus spoke directly to the spirit who had tormented my son—my whole family—for the last eight years.

Enoch cried out, lifted off the ground and then fell back down with a thud. This time not rigid, as in times past, but more like a rag doll, begin tossed away. He lay there for what seemed an eternity. The crowd started murmuring.

He’s dead.”

“He killed the boy.”

Jesus walked over to Enoch, leaned down and grabbed his hand and pulled. At that moment, Enoch’s eyes opened, the color came back into his face. He nearly bounced up off the ground. With his hand in the hand of the Healer, he looked more alive than he had since the evil first took him. The joy was back in his eyes, the joy of a child with a future.

The two days traveling home seemed like a dream to both of us. In every village, at every meal, we shared our story with everyone we met. We were not just witnesses to a miracle. We were changed by our short visit with Jesus. His Words changed my boy and turned my hope into an unshakable faith.

My Havah could hardly believe her eyes. One look at Enoch’s countenance told the whole story. My son was bound, but now his chains are gone. His captivity is over. He’s free!

Messiah truly has come in our day.

~~~
To read the original story, see Mark 9:15-30. Quotes come from the Message Bible.

Copyright – Benjamin Nelson – 2016

Encounters With Jesus - Available Now

If you enjoyed this story you can find forty more in my book Encounters With Jesus. It takes the reader from Christ’s conception to His resurrection through the eyes of dozens who were touched by His ministry.

You can get your copy today in paperback or kindle on Amazon. If you want both you can get the Kindle version for only 99c when you buy the paperback on Amazon.

Encounters With Jesus – Available Now

When Hope is Lost (A Lesson from Birds) …

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I like birds.  God sometimes uses them to slow me down … but that’s a whole other post.

I think you’ll love this Guest Post by Brandon Andress which was originally published on September 14, 2016 on his site www.brandonandress.com.  Please pay him a visit, he’s rather gifted with the written word.

Sunrise at Juno Beach 025

I have begun the process of changing my mind about birds.

Sure, you may not find a stranger first sentence than that, but those closest to me know that I have this unreasonable phobia of the feathered friend. It has something to do with a mother bird dive-bombing my head to protect her nest when I was five. And no, to answer your question, I was not bothering her nest. I was simply going next door to a friend’s house. But, there is no reasoning with a mother bird. Anyway, my neurosis aside, I am slowly taking steps to rediscovering the beauty (or some redeeming quality) in birds.

An Indiana winter can be brutal and bone-chilling. And it is not made any more bearable by the local meteorologists who giddily, and a bit too affectionately, begin referring to it as a Polar Vortex. The tragedy is they don’t realize that by calling it a “Polar Vortex,” it psychologically becomes twenty degrees colder in our heads. Let’s just be honest here, we do not need “Polar” anything in Indiana, especially when it is already pitch black at 4pm in the middle of December.

But there was a moment a few years ago in late winter, when darkness still owned the morning and the cold refused to let go of everything in its grip, that I heard the sweetest song.

Through the shroud of night, before the sun’s first rays, amid the polar chill, a melody of hopeful anticipation pierced the dark veil of winter and announced that spring would soon be arriving.

It was glorious and profound.

The processional of spring, a time of life, new beginnings, and spectacular beauty was coming! And it was being ushered in through song by feathered vocalists announcing its arrival.

I, a crusty-eyed morning zombie of multi-layered, nighttime attire (pre-coffee), could not miss this staggering metaphor. When a season of darkness surrounds us and seems as if it will last forever, we may very well begin to believe that this is the way life will always be. But even in the darkness that may surround us, if we are still enough to hear it and patient enough to trust it, there is always the sweet song of the Spirit, leading us in hopeful anticipation, surprising us with beauty in the present, and giving us a glimpse of the life that’s yet to come.

I know it is terribly difficult to discuss how we can learn to see beauty amidst the wreckage when we are in the throes of a painful life situation, whether it be temporary or permanent. But, it is in this place where we must always begin- in the place of our pain, in the place of our suffering. For it is in that place where we can, mostly easily, lose heart, feel lost and defeated, grow wildly cynical, and begin to blame God for our condition or circumstance.

Even more, our pain can become the place from where we begin to live our lives.

The crushing weight of our suffering will always try to convince us that the pain we are experiencing is our only reality and that there is nothing redeemable there, ever. And as a result, the pain we are experiencing can begin to manifest outwardly in our lives into our words and actions, ultimately affecting how we see the world and how we relate to others.

That is what suffering can do. It can cause us to reside in our pain, no matter how great or small that pain is, and then become the lens through which we begin to see people, situations, and the world as a whole. And over time, our pain through suffering can very easily spiral downward and lead to questions and then the destruction of our identity, our worth, and our purpose in life.

Living constantly in the burden and pain of our suffering can either become an end destination or a passageway for each of us.

As an end destination, the pain of our suffering can become a place where we stay in bitterness, sadness, anger, hatred, and unforgiveness.

As a passageway, our pain through suffering can become the pathway to profound life transformation and new ways of seeing the world.

Suffering breaks us down into insufferable little parts where we can either self-destruct or cry out helplessly to God, because we are in a place where we have seemingly lost control. Our pride has been shattered. Our egos have been obliterated. And it is in our place of pain through suffering where we can choose whether we make it our final destination or a transformative passageway.

That is the profound mystery of suffering. Suffering strips away any and all control we believed we had over people and situations. And it is in this place, our place of suffering, the place where we have lost all control, where our hearts and minds can either be closed off or open to the healing and transformative love of God.

And no matter who you are or what you have been through, or are currently going through, you can choose what you want to do with your pain, and how you receive suffering. You can let it dominate and control how you see the world and relate to others, or you can use it as a means to be taught and guided into a new and more beautiful way of living.

In hope,

Brandon

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About Brandon:  Brandon Andress is the author of AND THEN THE END WILL COME! (April 2013) and Unearthed: How Discovering the Kingdom of God Will Transform the Church and Change the World (2010). He lives in Columbus, Indiana and writes for his popular blogs Brandon Andress and A Joyful Procession. Brandon earned his MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University and his BA in Psychology from Hanover College. He loves the outdoors, hiking, camping, and traveling.

Photography Credit:  FBDOphotography.com

 

End of the World?

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This is a re-post from a blog of a talented Christian woman and artist named Patsy Paterno.  I’ve been following her blog HeARTworks for a couple years and am always amazed by her art and blessed by her message.

“The Son of Man is coming at the time you least expect.” Matthew 24:44

Yesterday I was curious about what my father was so concentrated on and when I asked him, he showed me this website which had so many pictures of oil spills, garbage in Manila and India, smog in China, a multitude of fish dead in the sea and a polar bear teetering on what was left of his ice perch. The title was sort of, “How We Know the End of the World is Coming”.
An inordinate percentage of people believe Jesus is coming soon. 41% of Americans say Jesus will return within the next 40 years. What’s ironic is even if they believe, they do not prepare or make themselves ready for the eventuality. Jesus Himself compared this to a master off on a trip. His servants know he is coming back but they do not know when. Some are faithful, far-sighted and diligent. When the master arrives, they are at work and ready to take care of whatever he needs. Others however take the opportunity to go out, become drunk with worthless friends. “Stay awake!” Jesus tells His disciples. This is insider information! “You must be prepared!”
Lord, I know I must be prepared to meet You at any time today, tomorrow or the next day. Help me to be more zealous about obeying You, and loving You and my neighbor!
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About Patsy:  Greetings from the Philippines! My name is Patsy and I’ve been married for 19 years to a man with a good heart. We have one son who is as funny as his dad. I have been working in our family business, papemelroti, since I was 11. When I get home from work, I stay in my craft room and make collages, scrapbook layouts, ATCs, and think of ways to re-use things normal people would throw away. I would be happy for you to use anything on my blog, but please link to me and leave me a comment. I want to be passionate about God’s passions so I also made a blog, Hebrews 13:3, about our service in the QC Jail.
Aside

Y’all remember that I belong to this awesome group of individuals making their dreams come true at #30days of Hustle?  Well today’s guest blogger does too and I asked Jill if she could share a little something with my readers because you’ve been so patient with me while writing on the manuscript.  Please enjoy!


God is NOT a dishwasher

 

dishwasher

Jill’s Diswasher

This is my dishwasher. My house was built in 2000. So it’s 14 years old respectfully.

A few weeks ago, it stopped working.

I have been hand washing dishes.

UGH!

Yesterday afternoon, as I was washing dishes, something came to me.

When the dishwasher worked, I had to rinse off dishes, wash out some dishes, and even let some soak in dish liquid.

The dishwasher doesn’t scrub, ya know.

Hand washing is just that … washing.

I thought about so many people who think they have to be “cleaned up” before they give their life to God. Just like what we do before we put dishes in the dishwasher.

The truth is, God accepts us just as we are.

You do not have to “get your life right”, “be good enough”, or “straightened out” on your own.

Romans 5: 8 says, “But God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

When you give your life to God, the Holy Spirit comes in and He will guide you and help you navigate through stuff.

You cuss too much? So what?

You drink? So what?

Nothing you can do will make God love you any less. Just like nothing you do will make Him love you anymore either.

God isn’t a dishwasher. He doesn’t need you rinsed off first.

 

Meet the Blogger:  Jill Barlow is a mom, an administrative assistant, and a writer. Divorced after a lengthy marriage, she started finding God in her every-day life.  Jill says, “God really cares and is interested in talking to us through the little things.  Showing people His love and character in a way they might not have ever experienced is my passion.”  You can find Jill at her blog Coffee with Snoopy at http://coffeewithsnoopy.blogspot.com on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jill.p.barlow and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JillPateBarlow

Guest Post: God is Not a Dishwasher