A Bible Bite is a short thought or question that runs through my mind after reading a verse of Scripture. I seem to always want to discuss them with you.
I was just finishing up a bible study on Joshua with my small group and came across a troubling situation.
But let me back up a minute.
Remember that Moses wasn’t allowed to enter into the Promised Land? Israel was in the desert and God told him to hit the rock with his staff to bring forth water, Moses couldn’t seem to do exactly what God had told him to do. The Israelites still got their water but God was angry that Moses hadn’t trusted Him to do exactly what He said.
Then we live through the heartbreak of Moses discovering that he can’t enter the Promised Land and we know that he learned his lesson. Do what God tells you.
But here we are. Joshua is charged with leading the charge against the Amalekites. Aaron, Moses, and Hur head to a hilltop to watch the battle and Moses holds his arms up with the staff in hand. The staff he hit the Red Sea with to part the waters. The staff He hit the rock with at Meribah to obtain water.
As long as his arms are up, Joshua is winning the battle. But as Moses tires and his arms slip down, the battle heads in the Amalakites direction. Aaron and Hur sit Moses down on a rock and each takes one of Moses’ arms and lifts it, keeping the Israelites winning and eventually obtaining victory over the Amalekites.
So, you say, where’s your problem?
After the Israelites rout the Amalekites, God tells Moses to write down what occurred and to read it to Joshua so that he’ll always remember.
God said, “I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek under heaven.” (Ex 17:14b)
Moses makes an altar, named it The Lord is My Banner, and said, “The Lord will be at war with Amalek from generation to generation.” (Ex 17:15 & 17b)
I said, “Wha???” Back up the truck. Don’t even tell me – Moses has done it again. God said one thing and Moses said another.
I’ve done a study on Moses with BSF (reading Genesis through Deuteronomy) a couple of years ago and this exchange didn’t stand out to me the way it has now. Why didn’t Moses repeat exactly what God said to him? Isn’t there a difference between being ‘completely blotted out’ and ‘at war for generations’?
But you know what really bothers me the most?
Could I be as susceptible as Moses? To hear one thing from God and repeat it completely differently? To not understand what God is telling me? To not have faith that God will do what He says He will do?
Have I done this in my life?
Has there been Promised Land that I’ve not been able to enter?
It’s hard to cry for departed Christian friends because I know where they are and am confident I’ll see them again. It’s much easier to weep for those they left behind. We must all await our time to enter the realm of God.
My friend Paula left us last month. Paula is a vivacious, generous, and gentle soul who God pulled into my life and became my friend just before I was diagnosed with cancer in 2015. (If you missed it, here are easy links to part one and part two.)
I originally assumed God had brought us together for me to help her with her cancer diagnosis; but in a short matter of time we could see that we were meant to lean on each other through the suffering of this disease. Two Christian women fighting shoulder to shoulder with the big C.
God’s plan in our friendship really became evident when Paula’s disease metastasized to bone and brain and her faith began to falter. (You can read that here with links to part one and part two.) It scared me because she was one of the most solid women I knew. If her faith could crumble so easily … could mine?
What I didn’t know until later was that her doctors had told her she was incurable from day one.
It’s a hideous word that should not have found its way into our lexicon. I wondered how having that word spoken over you could damage your psyche. Now I could really appreciate just how tough and resilient she was. She’d lasted almost two years with that label slapped on her and her faith had just now had begun to slip. I counted my blessings that no doctor has ever used that word or, the alternate, “terminal” with me. Of course we are all terminal in one way or another.
Determined to restore her faith, we embarked on a 28-day bible study by Kay and David Arthur called Lord, I Need Answers. I’m not sure if it was the weekly camaraderie or God working through the study itself (or both!), but we were equally refreshed and stronger by the time we completed that study. I cheered as Paula was able to say with confidence the ultimate statement, “I know I’m going to Heaven when I die.” Faith reestablished! Hallelujah!
It wasn’t long though before Paula’s body began to ignore her directives. Since the disease had begun ravishing her body, she slipped into hospice care and friend after friend came by to sit with her, offering their love and support, and praying over her and with her.
It was very tough to witness this vital, faithful, loving woman fade away and I was with her on what was to become her last day. That afternoon I prayed a couple of Psalms over her (something she liked me to do when I’d come over) but found it very difficult to get through Psalm 91, one of our favorites. I dissolved into tears as I prayed God’s undying love over her. I couldn’t be sure she had heard me at all but had her hand in mine and as I was saying goodbye with a promise of returning the next day, she squeezed. I reported it to her nurse as I burst into a fresh round of tears.
Her husband, Bob, let us all know that she passed into Jesus’ arms at about 10pm that evening. I can’t say enough about Bob. He’s a good, godly man and a verifiable rock. There’s no wonder that God brought Bob into Paula’s life for a time such as this. It’s never easy for a man to lose his wife, but really God? They just celebrated their third wedding anniversary in March.
I’m beyond grateful that God brought Paula and I together two years ago. I’m overjoyed that He was able to use her in my life and me in hers right until the end. I’m thankful she heard a few chapters of my book and never once laughed!
Farewell, my friend, I love you.
Me, Paula, and another friend at church.
“Don’t be dismayed at good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.”
~ Richard Bach (Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah)
Since we were talking about Ebenezers last week, I wanted to show you the one I’ve been building since I got to Florida.
You know that God gave me the plan for my immediate future in 2010, while I was in Arizona. During the third year that I was in Florida I received Joshua 1:5.
No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or forsake you.
I needed that verse in the early years of my life in Florida because I often believed that I was in some kind of wasteland. Even though His plan for me was falling into place exactly as He’d promised. I hadn’t been able to find a job since I’d lost mine in 2008 (and it was now 2013), I was still living in my parent’s house, and I still had doubts that I should be in Florida at all. I mean … maybe what I thought was “God’s Plan” was just something my brain cooked up and not from Him at all.
Getting this scripture brought me to my knees. It is, essentially, three promises in one glorious verse. This ‘gift’ from God came at a time when the devil had been bullying me with severe oppression over my inability to find a job. Furthermore, I wasn’t really hearing from God the way I had in Arizona and thought He had deserted me. The Holy Spirit put me quickly and firmly on the right track with this verse.
All three promises were important. The first “No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live.” gave me greater strength to thwart Satan’s lies. The third, “I will not leave you or forsake you.” reminded me that I wasn’t in a desert and far away from God. But the second part … oh the second part! “I will be with you, just as I was with Moses.” Man, that’s amazing. Do you remember how God was with Moses throughout the early books of the Bible? I can just imagine Joshua hearing this. Since he, too, was with Moses and knew how God interacted with him, did he fall over in awe? I certainly did. God hasn’t disappointed. He has made good on these promises and I knew I needed a stone to remember that He had helped me thus far.
The top stone is the verse God gave me after I’d been diagnosed with cancer and was crying one night to Him about everything in the Plan I’d hadn’t done. It was the last part in the plan and I’d dragged my feet and hemmed and hawed and had started – but had not finished the last phase.
My remorseful plea that lonely night was, “Am I going to die without finishing what you said I would do?” Tears flooding my pillow. That was followed by “I’m sorry, Lord.” And then came a fresh round of tears. I was sorry I hadn’t acted faster and now I might not have time to do what He called me to do.
It was the next morning that the Holy Spirit impressed Numbers 23:19 onto my heart:
God is not a man who lies, or a son of man who changes His mind. Does He speak and then not act, or promise and not fulfill?
Upon reading this verse I dissolved into a mass of tears again. But this time they weren’t tears of sorrow. Joy flooded my heart to almost bursting. What relief!
This scripture told me I wasn’t going to die – at least not before I finished His plan for me. It also promised that I would finish it, because God doesn’t lie, change His mind, or not honor His promises. At that moment, those were the sweetest words my wretched heart needed to hear.
Certainly a scripture worthy of an Ebenezer. So I found another stone and wrote the verse address on it. I never want to forget that here, again, was a time when God has helped me thus far.
So, did you think about using some sort of Ebenezer to remember how He has helped you too? I’m dying to know what you’re using. Let me know in the comments!
If you weren’t with us on Monday, I’m quite certain you’ll need to toddle back and read that post to get what’s happening here! It’s okay, we’ll wait for you!
I didn’t research the churches on Mom’s list because I stumbled over a piece in the local newspaper about John Maxwell that announced he was going to speak at a church called Christ Fellowship on the last Sunday of the year. John Maxwell? Throughout my years as a human resources professional, I’d trained my management team on a number of his books. This was exciting and furthermore, I recognized the name of the church from my Mom’s short list. It was a no-brainer to start there in my search for a church.
So on the last Sunday of 2010, while driving to the church, I continued to pray all the way, “Lord, get me outta here.” It didn’t matter that John Maxwell was going to be there. I wanted out of Florida – but quick.
I drove on to the campus of this mega-church with a highly cynical eye. People were smiling and waving. Signs read “New Visitor? Flashers On.” I turned mine on and was directed to special parking right in front of the church. A parking attendant met me at my car and walked me in to a place where people were eating breakfast. A healthy bookstore sat off to one side. Another volunteer met me inside and directed me to the sanctuary. I found a seat in the huge auditorium and settled in for the service. Before it even had begun I was welcomed by two different pastors. I remember thinking ‘this place is way too slick.’ People were too happy – too smiley – too shiny. I wondered if I’d fallen into some sort of alternate universe of Stepford Wives.
The lights came down and the band started to play. It is my supreme pleasure to worship Christ and when I stood and lifted my hands to the heavens, the Holy Spirit fell upon me so quickly that I was bowled over with capital L – Love. Suddenly, the place didn’t seem so “slick” at all but warm, friendly, and so full of Christ-loving Christians that I could no longer deny my joy in finding this church. On my way home I was so happy I prayed earnestly, “Lord, I want to stay here. Please help me find a way to stay here.”
I could just imagine God looking down on me and nodding in satisfaction.
What I didn’t remember at the time was the second phase of the plan that the Lord had given me in Arizona. The first phase was “you will move to Florida.” The second was “you will find a super new church.”
How easily I had forgotten that all along I was walking in His will. Had I, number one, remembered His plan and, number two, changed my attitude (instead of complaining – actually looked forward to the next item on the list) I’m certain my transition to life in Florida would have been a whole lot easier … and perhaps even pleasant.
The “plan” as I’d come to call it, seemed to skirt my memory most days. It was only a few more weeks of attending this new church when I met some ladies who were so full of the Holy Spirit, He practically oozed out of them. Driving home that Sunday I thought about my new-found friends and thought, ‘This sounds familiar.’ I dug out my journal and read number three on the list, “you will find great new Christian friends.” Doh! How stupid I’d been. Thankfully we serve a gracious and merciful God who allowed me to rail against Him time after time until I could recollect the plan he’d given me in prayer.
An Ebenezer would have been helpful. I could have considered my journal an Ebenezer, but that would mean that I’d have to actually open it and reread entries. Yet, each time a part of His plan fell into place I should have found a stone to add to the pile. It seems that only the physical representation of the stones would help a dunce like me.
So … do you doubt? Do you forget that the Lord has helped you thus far and wonder and worry about what is going on in your life?
I think it’s okay to doubt. Just don’t languish there for any period of time. Instead, spend your time reviewing God’s work in your life rather than holding your own little pity party like I did when I moved to Florida.
How has the Lord helped you in the past? Now make yourself an Ebenezer. It doesn’t have to be a pile of stones, it could be a journal, writing on a white board, sticky notes on the bathroom mirror … anything that will remind you that God is close.
For a few years now I’ve considered my faith like a brick wall. Not that it shuts out the world … although it may also do that … but it helps me stand firm in my conviction of Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Each time I witness something of God – a word of knowledge, his voice coming through loud and clear from the Bible, a divine appointment, a miracle, His faithfulness – each instance is a brick that I mortar on to the existing wall making it stronger, wider, higher.
It’s kinda like my modern day Ebenezer.
In (1 Samuel 7:8–11) the Israelites were victorious in a fight against the Philistines but only because God intervened.
Afterward, Samuel took a stone and set it upright between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, explaining, “The LORD has helped us to this point.” (1 Samuel 7:12)
The Blue Letter Bible identifies the Ebenezer as a “stone of help.” In the Old Testament, people would set up an Ebenezer to remember what God had done for them. It was usually a rock or a pile of rocks. This marker in history would remind the generations of God’s faithfulness, goodness, provision, love … whatever He had given to sustain His people at that time.
Joshua also erected a memorial of twelve stones (one to signify each tribe of Israel) on the west bank of the Jordan River when the Israelites crossed to take the town of Jericho (Joshua 4:6-7).
Even though it’s not named as such in the Bible, I believe that group of stones to be an Ebenezer. Joshua said, “Therefore these stones will always be a memorial for the Israelites.” But he could have just as truthfully said, “The LORD has helped up to this point.”
I love the idea of setting an Ebenezer to remember God’s faithfulness. To make a physical representation of a time when God has shown off one of His many attributes. How often we are treated to God’s working in our lives only to run into trouble down the line and completely forget that we serve an awesome, omnipotent, and faithful God?
The fact that Jesus said we will face rejection (Luke 10:16), persecution (John 15:20), and suffering (John 16:33) is enough to know that hard times are going to hit us. If we forget the goodness of God and waiver in our faith every time we are subject to some trial … where would we be? Swaying in the wind and never clinging to the Lord who loves us and has already proven Himself to us time and time again. Constructing an Ebenezer of some sort can help remind us that He is close.
When I came to live in Florida from Arizona six years ago, I was none too happy. I didn’t have a job (and couldn’t find one in the economic downturn) so I was forced to move in with my parents. Not having lived with my parents for over 30 years, I prayed every day that God would change my situation. If I remember correctly it was something like, “Lord, get me outta here.” Out of my parent’s house. Out of the State of Florida. It didn’t matter. Over and over. It became my mantra.
I wound myself up in knots praying that prayer even though God had already told me my future. If you’ve been reading me for a while you’ll remember that in a particularly intense prayer session in Arizona God told me that I would move to Florida. Unfortunately I hadn’t been building my brick wall and had forgotten that what I thought of as my horrible situation was actually part of His plan.
Even after three weeks when I came to grips with the fact that I might have to stay in Florida for a while … wait a minute … do you like the fact that I succumbed to my “fate” after three weeks? I really gave God a lot of time to change my situation, eh? Oy Vey! That’s an eye-opener! Well, after three whole weeks I yielded and finally decided to find a church to attend while I worked out my sentence in Florida.
My Mom had gone around to her friends asking for a church that might match my style. “I told them you liked to put your hands in the air when you sang.” She said.
Grinning, because it was true and I knew my mom really thought that was kinda kookie, I took her list of three local churches where, presumably, they sang with their hands in the air.
Now I see I’ve really gone on much too long. Please come back on Wednesday when I’ll wrap up the story and perhaps add another brick to the wall.
It was one of those autumn days in Florida. The kind where you walk outside and instead of being hit with the usual warm, wet washrag of humidity; you come instantly to a standstill noticing the change. The air is drier and the temperature reduced a few degrees. A day that instantly puts a smile on your face and changes your outlook.
Standing in the middle of the driveway I took a deep breath of the crisp air before walking gleefully to the mailbox at the end of the drive. There was a spring in my step and a large smile plastered across my face. I had every right to feel a sense of bliss as the seasons changed. I’d been free of the Interloper for six months and had re-discovered independence inside my own home.
I found my friend Herman at the mailbox. A little lizard who enjoyed sunning himself on the black metal. “Isn’t this a glorious day, Herman?” I sang out. He scampered, as he always did, to the very back of the box as if I was going to hurt him. We’d only been performing this ritual for months. I laughed and pulled down the door grabbing at the bills and circulars that threatened to fall out of the open box. Closing the door I looked for Herman to say good-bye but he’d already moved off and onto some other adventure. Turning on my heel I headed back to the house but stopped quickly. What was that? I thought I heard something in the bushes behind me and it was much too big to be Herman. At once the hackles on the back of my neck stood up as I turned slowly, needing to see what was there but not really wanting face what it might be.
The sound seemed slightly familiar. Like a noise you heard once, years ago, and swore you’d never forget it … but now maybe you had forgotten and my mind raced … trying to recall. I sucked in my breath, at once very afraid, turned and walked quickly toward the safety of my home. My fear grew quickly in intensity as I all but expected to be jumped from behind by some wild animal or deranged person with mayhem on their mind. Inside the house I slammed shut the door, locked it, and leaned against it trying to calm my shaking.
Safe now with my anxiety diminishing, I walked into the living room, kicked off my shoes, and settled into a soft couch to read the mail. A matter of minutes passed as I flipped through junk and bills when I suddenly sat bolt upright.
“The Interloper!” I practically shouted into the empty house. My mind reeled. Could it be? Hadn’t we gotten rid of him six months ago? Sweat broke out on my forehead and the mail in my lap slid to the floor as I rushed over to the window and peered down to the foliage at the bottom of the drive. The leaves moved silently as if blown by wind but I could see nothing else out of order.
Immediately we pulled in the professionals to conference and they put my home through a battery of tests. While waiting for results I laid silently in bed each night straining to hear any evidence of the Interloper’s evil presence. I’d already dealt with his malevolence once and truly had no wish to be involved with him again. I sought out my Guardian but He didn’t speak … or I couldn’t hear Him. Perhaps my inner turmoil simply drowned out His voice, but the silence was unnerving.
I met with the cutter first. He was my go-to guy with the ready smile and quirky bounce. Except this time he wasn’t quite so jovial. “It’s here,” he said solemnly. “You may have to live with him for the rest of your life.”
“What?” I asked quickly, even though I knew I’d heard him the first time.
“This type is hard to completely eradicate.”
I immediately thought about a time in the Bible when the disciples were trying to remove a demon from a young boy but were unable. After Jesus had removed the demon the disciples asked Him why they hadn’t been able to do the job. Jesus said, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29 HCSB) I was already praying but I wondered if I needed to start fasting.
The cutter suggested that I meet with the Brazilian next. He, with his toxic lotions and potions, almost immediately told me that there was little he could do. Through testing, part of my home had been found to be lacking suitable internal structure. The toxins he had to use to eradicate the beast required my home to be stronger than it was. He looked at me solemnly while taking a bite of his turkey sandwich as if contemplating what he could say. Clearing his throat, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and suggested I meet with the genius … the Mastermind. My options were running out.
Approaching the Mastermind’s office I prayed that he would be able to help me. If not … if not … I couldn’t speak the words. The alternative was not something I wanted to have to face.
Where was my Guardian? I knew He hadn’t left me, wouldn’t ever leave me, but why wasn’t He talking? Why couldn’t I hear Him? He so readily spoke peace into me the first time I’d encountered this evil presence. Why not now? I stopped asking knowing that sometimes we just didn’t get answers. Feeling resigned, but with a touch of contentment, “Thy will be done,” I whispered.
The Mastermind greeted me warmly. I’d spent so much time with him and his machines that I’d grown fond of this man. Aristotle is quoted as having said, “There is no great genius without some touch of madness.” I’m not sure I could call him ‘mad’ but certainly I enjoy the touch of weirdness that seems to skirt around the edges of his brilliant mind.
I left his office with hope and determination that we were going to be able to exterminate the Interloper once again. They would build me my special bed the following week and begin shooting the photon torpedoes into my home directly after.
Then, on a Saturday evening before we’d even started the process, a friend said, “You’re the most courageous person I know.”
I sighed. “If I’m courageous, it’s only because I know the Creator is with me, goes before me, and stands behind me.”
She smiled knowing that what I said was true but still shook her head. “It helps that He’s working with gold.”
I blushed, “You’re a good friend.”
The next day as I listened to my pastor in church, he seemed to stare directly at me when he uttered the word, “Courage.” I shivered in my seat thinking about my friend’s comment the day before.
I only had to wait one more day before a family friend met up with me in the grocery and said, “Have courage.” I could hardly contain my delight realizing that I’d just heard from my Savior. In the matter of three small days He was successful in getting His message through.
Instantly peace settled into my dry bones and filled my heart.
“Thank you,” I whisper into the air, knowing He hears me.
And now. Now I lay in my special bed while the Mastermind and his minions shoot photons around my house targeting the intruder. Each strike sends the enemy screeching and running for cover. I pray that God keeps this professional’s aim true and that every blast weakens the Interloper further. I imagine he will be reduced to ruins and cease to live no more – and pray the same. But I draw on the courage given to me by my Maker and smile. I will be courageous.
When Paula came home from Atlanta the last time – she was in, as they say in Hospice, a very delicate condition. In fact she came home in a private medical jet because the hospital believed she wouldn’t survive the 10-hour drive. Her friends rallied together so her husband could continue to work and we took shifts caring for her.
When I initially walked into her home for my first shift and saw my beautiful friend laying on the couch it dawned on me that this might be the end and I bit back the tears that threatened. You see, Paula has cancer. If you’ve read me for a while you recognize her name. She was diagnosed before me but was there for me through every step of my treatment, leading the way, plying me with ginger chews and bible verses and toasty socks and lotions, and a safe, godly ear for me to whisper into.
Walking through her door that first day was shocking. She was flat out on the couch under a pile of blankets and could not speak well, walk, or control the shaking in her hands that were puffy with steroids. She was on oxygen 24/7 and a regimen of oxycodone and other drugs and was only occasionally lucid. As the weeks went on I continued to take my turns sitting with her, helping her eat, and perform other vital necessities. Since she slept most of the time I busied myself with reading, writing, working on my book, and dozing off myself every once in a while.
We continued on like this for weeks and even though I prayed for healing a part of me was watching my friend sink further and further away from us and I asked God a few times if this wasn’t the end.
That was, until last week.
My ‘visiting’ day that week was Friday and I walked into Paula’s house to find the morning-shift friend smiling at me and Paula sitting up on the couch, her eyes bright, and a wide smile on her face. I can tell you now, I was more than a little freaked out. My friend was back to her perky self.
“It’s so good to see you.” She said. A weird thing to say when I had just seen her the week before.
But as the day progressed I was to discover that Paula remembered nothing of the past eight weeks. Nothing – save the constant ringing of the doorbell on Halloween.
She remembered going to Atlanta that last time and then … nothing until last Sunday when she, as she said, “Woke up from my fog.”
I was dumbfounded. Had God spared her the mental anguish of the last eight weeks by closing her mind to what was happening to her physically? No one had an answer for it but I wouldn’t put it past Him to do such a thing. That’s how much He loves us.
But that wasn’t the half of the miracle – here was my lovely friend Paula. Sitting up – and I mean UP (not propped up!) eating, talking, joking, laughing, with only a small shake in her hands to offer any lasting evidence. Her legs and arms were still mighty weak but that first day she walked with her walker, crossed her legs on the sofa like any proper lady, and held lasting coherent conversations. Even though she continued to freak me out as I watched her, I praised God for His miraculous healing.
It’s been four weeks since that day and Paula’s now moving around without the walker, has been out of the house to shop and dine and go to a Christmas party, and continues to amaze.
God is truly astounding.
Never give up praying. Never stop praising Him.
Never give up believing that God will intervene. I know that many times He doesn’t, and we won’t ever know why this side of Heaven, but sometimes He does. In both times, in all times, we must pray, and believe, and have faith, and praise Him continuously.
You’ll notice in Part One that I called some of the books I received ‘purportedly’ Christian. Many were absolutely Christian, drawing from Scripture to impart strength and encouragement. Yet there were others that at first glance were going to convey a biblical message but seldom did. It’s in this manner that I believe Satan will sway the elect from God’s kingdom … at least one of his tools.
Those books spoke of Jesus and healing but only dappled in scripture. I use a small ‘s’ because the authors had so watered-down or poorly interpreted the true Word of God that it was almost unrecognizable. There was only one of those books that I actually appreciated – not because of what it stated – but because the author, a Reverend Capps, used disclaimers throughout his work. He fully informed the reader that he was rephrasing and summarizing Scripture and that if the reader wanted to know the true Word, they should look up the listed references. Hey, at least he was honest and didn’t try to make a pseudo-Christian book look legit.
There have only been a few books that I’ve come across in my life that were worse. If you’ve read me for a while, you’ve grown accustomed with my gift of Discernment. Over the years, it has only gotten stronger and when I begin to read a book or hear a message that isn’t authentic or that might be from an adversarial spirit my spiritual gifting kicks into high gear. I’ll either turn off the message, get away from the person, or close the book and throw it away and we’ll end this series by talking about ways to increase your ability to discern.
But the book that led me to write these posts is an especially good example of our adversary using a pseudo-Christian platform to sway followers. I was thinking about this devotional along with the other books I’d received that were either watered down Christianity or maybe not Christian at all.
Why is it that we (Christians) turn to the nonessential reading material to soothe our worries, fears, and anxieties and don’t just open and read the Bible? Honestly, isn’t that why God gave it to us?
When the Samaritan Women at Jacob’s Well doesn’t quite understand Jesus’ offer …
Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again – ever!” (John 4:13-14a)
she asked Him to give her the water He speaks of so she won’t have to keep coming to the well to draw water; she’s looking for Jesus to make her life easier, more convenient. (John 4:15)
She didn’t initially realize that He, His Spirit, and His Word is His life-giving water.
Like this woman, we want the convenience. When I was walking away from God I conveniently made up my own religion – for convenience. It suited me perfectly. I still carted my Bible around but was no longer “in it.” But through the years I’ve met people who choose to read a devotional instead of the Bible and others who don’t read the Bible or any Christian literature at all. Every decision is an act to give ourselves a convenience.
The fact is – we don’t need devotionals. We don’t need anything other than Jesus – His Spirit and His Word. I’ll never forget the story of the man who planted over 500 churches in India. A pastor from the States went to find out what kind of teaching material the man was using to grow and sustain these Christians. The man was confused by the question. “What material?” He asked. “We read the Bible and do what it says.”
How many of us read devotionals alongside the Bible? I do and am willing to bet that most of you do too. Please know that in no way am I damning devotional material. Devotionals make me think in different ways about the Scriptures (and some of my favorites are in the picture above). The Holy Spirit may use them to convict me of a sin, or Jesus might use them to get me to read the referenced scripture so He can go in deep and really teach me something. That’s actually one of my favorite uses of devotionals – to open up my heart and head to learn something new from my Savior.
Next up: I’ll discuss the devotional that may be on everyone’s bookshelf, but because of my background in New Age philosophies, shakes me to my spiritual core.
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.
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.”
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 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.