Set Me Free

Broken chains

1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a and Psalm 42 and 43 • Galatians 3:23-29 • Luke 8:26-39

Luke 8:26-39 New Living Translation (NLT)

So they arrived in the region of the Gerasenes, across the lake from Galilee. As Jesus was climbing out of the boat, a man who was possessed by demons came out to meet him. For a long time he had been homeless and naked, living in the tombs outside the town.

As soon as he saw Jesus, he shrieked and fell down in front of him. Then he screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Please, I beg you, don’t torture me!” For Jesus had already commanded the evil spirit to come out of him. This spirit had often taken control of the man. Even when he was placed under guard and put in chains and shackles, he simply broke them and rushed out into the wilderness, completely under the demon’s power.

Jesus demanded, “What is your name?”

“Legion,” he replied, for he was filled with many demons. The demons kept begging Jesus not to send them into the bottomless pit.

There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby, and the demons begged him to let them enter into the pigs.

So Jesus gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned.

When the herdsmen saw it, they fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. People rushed out to see what had happened. A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been freed from the demons. He was sitting at Jesus’ feet, fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. Then those who had seen what happened told the others how the demon-possessed man had been healed. And all the people in the region of the Gerasenes begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone, for a great wave of fear swept over them.

So Jesus returned to the boat and left, crossing back to the other side of the lake. The man who had been freed from the demons begged to go with him. But Jesus sent him home, saying, “No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you.” So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him.

When I looked at this scripture, my mind went back to a series that I preached while we were in Martinsville, VA. I would say that it was one of my more successful series that I preached while there. It was based on the CD that Casting Crowns released called “Lifesong.” I preached a series of messages taken from the titles of the songs on the CD. Most of the messages included the song. I still remember the reaction I got from this message. This series was before the recession of 2008, but Martinsville experienced it early. Many of the furniture factories and fabric mills had already moved further south or overseas. People were used to dropping out of high school and getting a great paying job…but when the factories moved…they didn’t take the employees with them for the most part. This left people hopeless. It left people with a great distrust of authority…including preachers. Many turned to alcohol and drugs…this was long before the current opioid crisis.

Not only did this effect older people, but it affected teens and pre-teens. Our ministry in Martinsville was a unique one. We had two churches – our Sunday church and our Wednesday night church. While we were there, bus ministry was still a thing, so we would go pick up kids for church, have a time of musical worship, send them to their classes and then finish with a hot meal. Many of our students would not receive a hot meal, except for school. The students came from all sorts of situations.

As you can see, this would leave many people feeling trapped. In many ways our current ministry is in a similar situation. Many like to talk about the urban poor, but not many like to talk about the rural poor. Here in rural McKean County, the opioid crisis is real. It is real in the neighboring counties in both PA and NY. People are looking for ways to break the chains, but they find themselves trapped – whether it be sex, porn, drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, etc.

I this week’s passage, Jesus is confronted with a man called Legion – a man trapped with 1,000’s of demons. While he can physically break any chain, he is trapped. How this man ended up demon-possessed we don’t know. We do know that he came to Jesus for help and the demons were afraid. Let’s face it, demons know who Jesus is.

Jesus doesn’t need many words to cast out the demons – after all everything is under his authority. Jesus puts the demons out into a herd of pigs and they throw themselves over a cliff.

What demons do you feel trapped by? It could be any number of things…it could be one of the things that I listed above. Jesus is the one that can set you free. That is His desire, if only we ask in faith.

Sunday Night Thoughts

Happy Father’s Day – As most of you know, today is Father’s Day. This afternoon, I was able to call my dad. It was good to talk to him because I know there are those who can’t do that anymore. I am thankful for dad’s who leave a godly legacy.

It’s been a long weekend. Yesterday we headed north to Buffalo for District Conference. It was wonderful – a mix of reports, worship, voting, prayer. God’s Spirit was present. It was good to see some old friends – especially those I wasn’t expecting to see, like my friend Wayne Richards.

Friday began a three week break from major bus driving duties. I will be driving at noon for summer school, but it is a relatively short route. Most of this week will be spent preparing for Vacation Bible School. We are really looking forward to it.

I didn’t write a running update yesterday. This week I backed off on my mileage, hopefully I can ramp back up this week.

We had a wonderful service this morning – as we celebrated fathers – remembered Trinity Sunday and heard a report from District Conference. That’s about all I have for this week. Blessings….

Prayer for the Week

First Sunday of Pentecost | Trinity Sunday

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Trinity Sunday | June 16, 2019

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 and Psalm 8 • Romans 5:1-5 • John 16:12-15

12 “There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now.13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. 14 He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’

John 16:12-15 New Living Translation (NLT)

Following on the heels of Pentecost Sunday, we come upon Trinity Sunday. The concept of the Trinity is as old as the church and yet, that doesn’t mean that we don’t struggle with it. We try to come up with human analogies for it and most of them – while they can give us an idea of what the Trinity is – they don’t completely describe the Trinity. Most of them fall apart at some point. The Trinity means that God is three-in-one. There are three distinct persons in the Trinity and yet they are one. All three persons in the Trinity are co-equal and co-eternal. As finite human beings it is difficult to imagine this relationship. The three persons of the Trinity are God, the Father; Jesus the Son; and the Holy Spirit. There are not three parts of God, but one God – not three modes, but one.

Here in our passage this week, we get a peek into the Trinity. We see how God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit work together and communicate with each other – as one – and yet each has a distinct role in the life of the believer. God, the Father is our creator – we know that Jesus and the Holy Spirit were at creation because of Genesis (Genesis 1:26), “Let us make humans in our image.”

Jesus is the Word of God. He is God in the flesh. It is Jesus who came to earth to dwell, as Peterson puts it in The Message. “

The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.

John 1:14 (The Message)

Jesus came to die – to make a way for those who are caught in sin (which is all of us.) Jesus shed His blood on the cross to pay for our sin. Three days later, through the power of the Holy Spirit, he rose again, freeing us forever from the power of sin.

The Holy Spirit – as we celebrated last week, came to dwell in the hearts of those who believe on Pentecost. The work of the Holy Spirit continues to this day – dwelling in the hearts of the believers.

The concept of the Trinity was important enough that the early church fathers met and put together key creeds: The Nicene Creed and later developed the Athanasian Creed. It is named after after Athanasius (A.D. 293-373), the champion of orthodoxy against Arian attacks on the doctrine of the trinity.  Apart from the opening and closing sentences, this creed consists of two parts, the first setting forth the orthodox doctrine of the trinity, and the second dealing chiefly with the incarnation and the two-natures doctrine.

Today we remember that God is God – a Triune God – Three and yet one!

The Athanasian Creed

Whoever desires to be saved should above all hold to the catholic faith.

Anyone who does not keep it whole and unbroken will doubtless perish eternally.

Now this is the catholic faith:

    That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity,
    neither blending their persons
    nor dividing their essence.
        For the person of the Father is a distinct person,
        the person of the Son is another,
        and that of the Holy Spirit still another.
        But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one,
        their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.

    What quality the Father has, the Son has, and the Holy Spirit has.
        The Father is uncreated,
        the Son is uncreated,
        the Holy Spirit is uncreated.

        The Father is immeasurable,
        the Son is immeasurable,
        the Holy Spirit is immeasurable.

        The Father is eternal,
        the Son is eternal,
        the Holy Spirit is eternal.

            And yet there are not three eternal beings;
            there is but one eternal being.
            So too there are not three uncreated or immeasurable beings;
            there is but one uncreated and immeasurable being.

    Similarly, the Father is almighty,
        the Son is almighty,
        the Holy Spirit is almighty.
            Yet there are not three almighty beings;
            there is but one almighty being.

        Thus the Father is God,
        the Son is God,
        the Holy Spirit is God.
            Yet there are not three gods;
            there is but one God.

        Thus the Father is Lord,
        the Son is Lord,
        the Holy Spirit is Lord.
            Yet there are not three lords;
            there is but one Lord.

    Just as Christian truth compels us
    to confess each person individually
    as both God and Lord,
    so catholic religion forbids us
    to say that there are three gods or lords.

    The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten from anyone.
    The Son was neither made nor created;
    he was begotten from the Father alone.
    The Holy Spirit was neither made nor created nor begotten;
    he proceeds from the Father and the Son.

    Accordingly there is one Father, not three fathers;
    there is one Son, not three sons;
    there is one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits.

    Nothing in this trinity is before or after,
    nothing is greater or smaller;
    in their entirety the three persons
    are coeternal and coequal with each other.

    So in everything, as was said earlier,
    we must worship their trinity in their unity
    and their unity in their trinity.

Anyone then who desires to be saved
should think thus about the trinity.

But it is necessary for eternal salvation
that one also believe in the incarnation
of our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully.

Now this is the true faith:

    That we believe and confess
    that our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son,
    is both God and human, equally.

     He is God from the essence of the Father,
    begotten before time;
    and he is human from the essence of his mother,
    born in time;
    completely God, completely human,
    with a rational soul and human flesh;
    equal to the Father as regards divinity,
    less than the Father as regards humanity.

    Although he is God and human,
    yet Christ is not two, but one.
    He is one, however,
    not by his divinity being turned into flesh,
    but by God’s taking humanity to himself.
    He is one,
    certainly not by the blending of his essence,
    but by the unity of his person.
    For just as one human is both rational soul and flesh,
    so too the one Christ is both God and human.

    He suffered for our salvation;
    he descended to hell;
    he arose from the dead;
    he ascended to heaven;
    he is seated at the Father’s right hand;
    from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
    At his coming all people will arise bodily
    and give an accounting of their own deeds.
    Those who have done good will enter eternal life,
    and those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.

This is the catholic faith:
one cannot be saved without believing it firmly and faithfully.