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And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” (Mark 5:9 ESV)
I was reading N.T.Wright's Lenten devotional for the other day (read it on the right day 😉
When the demon answered Jesus, "we are legion" - would the average Jewish listener of the day have simply heard "We are many?"
Wright says no, and the more I thought about it, the more I put myself in the listener's sandals.  Consider:  the Roman army was feared for a reason.  At that time, a Roman legion numbered around 5,000 men.  Soldiers.  of.  Rome.
Religious tension - political tension - economic tension.  Polytheists mingled with monotheists...clashing beliefs.  A Jewish pe0ple longing for the Messiah to rescue them from their oppressors.  A foreign government (nothing new) using Jews to collect taxes.  There is a reason that "tax collector" had the same ring as any other scum of the earth.
Imagine of Roman legion sweeping through your town, putting down any rebellion.  Pillaging, raping, burning, destroying.  Even if it had not happened to your peaceful village, you would have heard stories from other towns, areas...even countries.
"we are legion..."
All this and more.

This was today's reading from "Everyday Prayers" - bringing to mind one of today's political hot topics.

(GSSR - "government sactioned same-sex relationship)

When caught between your faith conviction, and what the government says you should honor/do/buy...what do you do?

We hear "love the sinner, hate the sin."  And when the baker loved the sinners, made friends with them, served them baked good on birthdays and other non-wedding events...opted out of baking for a gay wedding, she got sued.

She was hating the sin, while embracing the sinner.  That didn't work.

Christians will increasingly face this challenge, and will increasingly find ways to comply with the law, while remaining true to their convictions...or will buckle to the state, giving up on living out their faith through their businesses.

The same is true for Christians getting married.

When the state gives you permission to marry, but what they're permitting no longer resembles "marriage" - how do Christians respond?

Do they get a "gender neutral" marriage certificate?  Do they opt out of statism?

"Everyday Prayers:

Though your kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18: 36 NIV), your kingdom has broken into this world and one day will utterly transform this world. Because this is true, Jesus, I need you to free me from both extremes of naive passivity and fear-mongering aggression. Very practically, show me what “obeying God and not men” looks like when the claims of your kingdom clash with the values of this world. How do I submit to the authorities for your sake while primarily only bowing my knee and heart to you as my King? (page 96)

I don't know what this will look like.  Will the state allow people of faith to enter into marriage covenants, outside of the state's approval?

In Michigan, a pastor who officiates at a wedding that does not have the state's approval, commits a misdemeanor.  Do we see "civil disobedience" in view here?  Can we see going outside the state's system as "obeying God rather than man?"

it all remains to be seen.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers,by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Romans 12:1 ESV

This verse connects the body and spirit.  Presenting the physical is the spiritual act.  In mistreating my body, I am abusing worship.

Thinking this way changes the way I think about eating.  Is what I'm putting in my mouth right now, "right worship?"

That's a big responsibility - it puts eating wrongly in the category of "sin," by worshiping wrongly with my body.

The daily reading for yesterday in "Everyday Prayers" was about serving God, not man.  The author applied it to service, I applied it to my eating.  And it hit me in a good (effective) place.

Oh, the hope this gives me— the invigorating, liberating, consecrating hope this generates as I begin my day. It’s why this admonition from Paul feels more like a kiss than a kick today. I want to work more heartily at all things because of your finished work on the cross, your present work in the world, and your future work in the new heaven and new earth. Even in eternity you will shepherd us and lead us to springs of living water (Rev. 7: 17). No one will ever outserve you, Jesus.

Therefore, here’s my cry: continue to free me from doing anything for the approval of people, out of the fear of people, or to gain power over people. I work for you, Lord Jesus, not for mere men.

A frustration at work can equal "stress eating" - am I eating for the Lord, or am I eating for that co-worker?

I'm working toward a goal for my wedding.  Am I eating for God?  or for that wedding dress?  Oh...the wedding dress is a good goal!  And it's not as if we're not to have goals for this world.  But eating for the dress, to the exclusion of eating for putting worship in the wrong place.I can "tag" eating as both worship, and dress.  Both apply, both work, both are good.  but in the "word cloud" in my brain, with word is largest?
And I will fail at this!  Over and over, I will fail.  But along with this failure is hope, because even the failure reminds me of the gospel. If I work/eat for God, it's because of Christ's work on the cross.

How I praise you, Jesus, that the gospel is the end of any sense of a wage-earning relationship with God. I work for you because you first worked for me. (What a humbling, staggering, and astonishing truth!) I serve you because you ever live to serve me, as my advocate and intercessor. Indeed, I love you because you first loved me and gave yourself as a propitiation for my sins. You are always first and last— the Alpha and the Omega. I’ll receive an inheritance only because of your work, not mine. And should I receive any rewards or crowns, they will be thrown at your feet, giving credit where credit is due. I pray in your quintessentially glorious name. Amen. ~~Everyday Prayers, March 20

I'm going through a devotional of prayers, "Everyday Prayers: 365 Days to a Gospel-Centered Faith"and yesterday's really struck me.

My thoughts first, then the devotional.


I work with the "least of these."  Yet, every single one of these people, the non-verbal, the violent, the kids who can't count to...two.

Every.  Single. One of these has made a contribution to my life!  From the one who can make me smile on a very dark day, to the one who only sees the positive in life...from a wheelchair.

It struck me that Paul described Onesimus as "formerly useless." - what made him useless?  and then...being with Paul, he's useful to both Paul and Philemon.

It was only serving Jesus, through Paul, that made Onesimus useful.  No matter who we are serving, who we are teaching, who we ARE...if it's in service to the King, we are useful.



A Prayer about Formerly “Useless” People

Accordingly, although I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you— I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) (Philem. 8– 11)


Dear Jesus, what a great story these few verses tell— the story of how one man’s “useless” slave became another man’s beloved son. Stories like this make the gospel so beautiful and believable. I see myself in this story, both as Onesimus and as Philemon.

Jesus, thank you for not giving up on me, for coming after me when I was running away from you as fast as I could, just like Onesimus ran from Philemon.Overtly and covertly, I did everything I could to avoid you and ignore you, but you found me, you bound me to your heart through the cords of the gospel, and slowly but surely, you’re changing me. The journey from slavery to sonship hasn’t always been easy.

Jesus, I also know what it’s like to be Philemon. I’ve been failed and I’ve been hurt. I’ve been betrayed and suffered loss. But forgive me for labeling anyone as useless. Paul saw something in Onesimus that Philemon didn’t see. Jesus, you saw something in me that no one else saw. Please give me your gospel eyes to see what you see in others: broken people just like me.

Who have I branded “useless,” with either my actual words or unspoken words? Who have I written off? Who have I renamed “failure,”“worthless,”“you’ll never amount to anything,” “never to be trusted again”?

I know you’re calling me to be wise, but I also know you’re calling me to love others as you love me. None of us is beyond the need of your grace and none of us is beyond the reach of your grace. I pray in your chain-breaking name. Amen.

Smith, Scotty (2011-09-01). Everyday Prayers: 365 Days to a Gospel-Centered Faith (Kindle Locations 1059-1076). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

O God, My Exceeding Joy,
Singing thy praises uplifts my heart,
for thou art a fountain of delight,
and dost bless the soul that joys in thee.
But because of my heart’s rebellion
I cannot always praise thee as I ought;
Yet I will at all times rest myself in
thy excellences, goodness, and loving-kindness.
Thou art in Jesus the object of inexpressible joy,
and I take exceeding pleasure in the thought
of thee.
But Lord, I am sometimes thy enemy;
my nature revolts and wanders from thee.
Though thou hast renewed me,
yet evil corruptions urge me still to oppose thee.
Help me to extol thee with entire heart-submission,
to be diligent in self-examination,
to ask myself
whether I am truly born again,
whether my spirit is the spirit of thy children,
whether my griefs are those that tear
repenting hearts,
whether my joys are the joys of faith,
whether my confidence in Christ works
by love and purifies the soul.
Give me the sweet results of faith,
in my secret character, and in my public life.
Cast cords of love around my heart,
then hold me and never let me go.
May the Saviour’s wounds sway me more
than the sceptre of princes.
Let me love thee in a love that covers
and swallows up all,
that I may not violate my chaste union
with the beloved;
There is much unconquered territory
in my nature,
scourge out the buyers and sellers
of my soul’s temple,
and give me in return pure desires,
and longings after perfect holiness.

From Spurgeon's "Morning and Evening"...good words

Justified by Christ

"Just, and the justifier of him which believeth."
--Romans 3:26
Being justified by faith, we have peace with God. Conscience accuses no
longer. Judgment now decides for the sinner instead of against him. Memory
looks back upon past sins, with deep sorrow for the sin, but yet with no
dread of any penalty to come; for Christ has paid the debt of His people
to the last jot and tittle, and received the divine receipt; and unless
God can be so unjust as to demand double payment for one debt, no soul for
whom Jesus died as a substitute can ever be cast into hell. It seems to be
one of the very principles of our enlightened nature to believe that God
is just; we feel that it must be so, and this gives us our terror at
first; but is it not marvellous that this very same belief that God is
just, becomes afterwards the pillar of our confidence and peace! If God be
just, I, a sinner, alone and without a substitute, must be punished; but
Jesus stands in my stead and is punished for me; and now, if God be just,
I, a sinner, standing in Christ, can never be punished. God must change
His nature before one soul, for whom Jesus was a substitute, can ever by
any possibility suffer the lash of the law.

Therefore, Jesus having taken the place of the believer--having rendered a
full equivalent to divine wrath for all that His people ought to have
suffered as the result of sin, the believer can shout with glorious
triumph, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" Not God,
for He hath justified; not Christ, for He hath died, "yea rather hath
risen again." My hope lives not because I am not a sinner, but because I
am a sinner for whom Christ died; my trust is not that I am holy, but that
being unholy, He is my righteousness. My faith rests not upon what I am,
or shall be, or feel, or know, but in what Christ is, in what He has done,
and in what He is now doing for me. On the lion of justice the fair maid
of hope rides like a queen.

From the blog of Lydia Brownbeck:

A wise man told me, "Life is a testing ground, not a resting ground."

Life may not turn out the way we want it to...many times it may not turn out the way we expect it to.

We may lose that which we cherish, we may never get that which we want desperately.

Through it all, we are told to trust God...but trust in what?

Trusting that God will make it all turn out the way that we have it all planned is not trust.

Trusting that God is in control and will make it turn out according to His plan...that is trust.

God sees with eternity in mind...we can only see this life. HOW we trust God may end up nearly as important to our spiritual growth as THAT we trust God.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid,
nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

God has led me through some frightening times...times of not knowing what the future will bring.

Maybe even more frightening have been the times when I knew exactly what the future was going to bring.

And there is more frightening times and more uncertainty facing me right now.

Yet God has commanded us...commanded...that we not be afraid.

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." (Romans 8:15)

Woodrow Kroll writes "Lessons for Living"

A child had to walk each evening past a dark, spooky house. Some adult
friends tried to give him courage. One handed him a good-luck charm to
ward off the ghosts. Another installed a light at a particularly dark
corner near the house. A third took a more spiritual approach, saying,
"It's sinful to be afraid. Trust God and be brave!" It was good advice,
but not much help. Then one friend said with compassion, "I know what it
is to be afraid. I'll walk with you past the house." Instantly the child's
fears were gone.

"Lucky charms" don't work, mantras don't work.

It is because we are adopted children of God that we know that He walks with us.

It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. (Psalm 18:32)

So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:6)

Do not trust men...they will fail you  Only God will never fail.  And He will walk with you through the scary parts.

You can go through life thinking that there will always be somebody there - a "rock" - but that's not true.

Sometimes, it's just you...and God.

Satan takes God's Word...

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot. (Psalm 91:11-13)

and then He uses it...

...and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
"'He will command his angels concerning you,'
"'On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.'"

It is when we hear the words..."Did God REALLY say..." that we need to put our guard up.  Perhaps Satan didn't realize at the time that the passage he was using to tempt our Lord was part of a prophecy about himself.

You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

When Satan was tempting Christ...he was reminding Jesus (not that He didn't already know) that the tempter would be defeated.

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel." (Gen 3:15)

And Christ (outside of time and space, knowing what would be written in Scripture)

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

Satan is an expert at deception...we need to be sober-minded and watchful.  That doesn't mean "don't have fun" means that we should be aware that Satan will use whatever he can to draw us away from the Strong Tower

Of all I would wish to say this is the sum; my brethren, PREACH CHRIST, always and evermore. He is the whole gospel. His person, offices, and work must be our great, all-comprehending theme. The world needs to be told of its Savior, and of the way to reach him . . . Blessed is the ministry of which CHRIST IS ALL . . . No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.