Are you a cutter?

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This week’s reading is in Mark chapter 5:5. It is the story of a man who was a cutter. “And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.” What a sad story, isolated, in severe mental anguish and cutting himself! Yet the story has a great ending. We read in verse 15 that the man was healed by Jesus, in an instant, and restored to his right mind. How did this happen? It was not the result of years of counseling. It was not the result of some medical cure. It was not the result of self will. It was the result of being delivered from a tormenting demon.

Maybe you find yourself sometimes struggling with the thoughts of self injury, such as cutting or burning yourself. This is usually caused by severe emotional pain, intense anger and frustration. But often behind this emotional pain is demonic activity. Just dealing with the emotional pain, anger or frustration may bring temporary relief, but real and lasting healing can actually come with a power encounter with God’s Holy Spirit. Just like in this story, sometimes demons can be active in pushing a person to harm themselves and just like in this story when this man knelt at the knees of Jesus, he was delivered from these demons. This power is still available today. If you find yourself struggling with this issue I invite you to come to church, ask for prayer for deliverance, and kneel at the knees of Jesus. He will set you free! Cast that dark spirit out and invite God’s Holy Spirit in to fill you with His light. You may also need some support and encouragement to walk in this deliverance. Don’t let yourself become isolated. Don’t let yourself be tormented any longer. God has healing and restoration waiting for you in Jesus’ name.

Asleep on a pillow

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This week’s reading comes from Mark 3:28, “But He was asleep on a pillow.” It is the story of when Jesus was finished preaching at the end of a long day and He told the disciples to take their boats and cross over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. As they were going, a great storm rose up and their boats began to sink. The disciples, four of which were seasoned fishermen, became fearful that their boat was going to sink. This had to be a serious storm to get them upset. But all during this raging storm we read that Jesus was asleep on a pillow! Don’t you find it interesting that Jesus is sound asleep on a pillow on a ship that was almost sinking in the midst of a storm!

The disciples have to wake Jesus up and tell Him the ship is going to sink if He does not do something. Jesus, half-awake from a very deep sleep, rebukes the storm, rebukes the disciples for being so fearful and then, I am guessing, went back to sleep! He must have been exhausted from preaching all day to have slept through this vicious storm at sea. So what can we learn from this story? Well, maybe it might not be a good idea to wake Jesus up from a deep sleep!!! No, what we learn is that we can trust Jesus even in the midst of storms that may be raging in our lives. Apparently those storms will come even when we are in His will and doing what He asks us to do. Maybe it is time to take authority over those storms and tell them to, “Be quiet!” Don’t let fear rob you of the peace that God wants you have even in the midst of storms.

When getting an “F” is better than getting an “A”

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This week’s reading is from Mark 2:1-12. It is the story of four guys who carried their friend so he could see Jesus. They were hoping that Jesus might heal him, since he was paralyzed. It is a great story that ends with Jesus healing this man. But it would not have happened if he did not have friends to carry him. When it says Jesus saw their faith, we know these are not just hired hands. These are friends who want their friend healed and will do what it takes to help him get this healing. It is because of friends that these miracles still happen today, every day. Many of you today are walking miracles. Some of you were destroyed by hate, caught in a web of habitual sins. Some of you were alcoholics, drug addicts, and thieves. Some of you were making bad choices and heading down a road to destruction. Some of you looked good on the outside, but were full of sickness on the inside. Yet on a special appointed day, a friend invited you to church or talked to you about God, and God touched you and you were healed. You became born again.

This is when an “F” is a good grade. The “F” is for friendship. This is one time you don’t want to get an “A” for alone! Healthy living requires good friends. No matter how we live our lives, we are going to have times when we are in need, physically, spiritually, or emotionally and without friends to help us, our potential for healing is greatly diminished. Do you have friends like this in your lives? Do you have people who would carry you to see Jesus if you were in need? Do you have friends who would come to your house and pray for you if you were sick? Do you have friends that love you enough to talk to you, when they see you making bad decisions? Friendship is a valuable thing, and we cannot be healthy if we don’t have friends. We were made to be social people. We need to have good relationships with others. If we want to live healthy and full lives friendship is not an option.

The four men could have found a lot of excuses NOT to bring their friend to Christ; He was too busy, they were too busy, there was no room, he was too heavy, but they didn’t. They recognized a need and they zealously sought to get him to Christ. Good friendships are able to overcome obstacles to helping one another. They stick it out until help arrives.

How can we go about making friends? Well to be sure it is hard and it takes a lot of time and energy and money. You don’t make life-long friends in a week. We have to be committed to making friends with people. We have to make time for friends in our busy schedules. This is why at Vineyard we are so committed to encouraging all of you to get involved in a small group. We want to encourage you to meet people and make friends, especially Christian friends. Friendship is an investment that pays great dividends. Getting this “F” is one of the best grades you will ever get in life. How is your report card looking?

Did God really ‘forsake’ Jesus on the cross?

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This week’s reading is found in Matthew 27:46, “My God why have you forsaken me?” This cry has puzzled many. Jesus is actually quoting the opening line of Psalm 22 and using it to express His deep agony on the cross. He was suffering the penalty for our sin, in our place. Every sermon I have ever heard on this cry of Jesus has usually gone something like this, “This is a hard thing to understand but God did forsake Jesus. He turned His back on Him because He cannot look at sin and sin separates us from God.” It almost makes sense, except that God says in Hebrews 13:5 that He would never leave us or forsake us. God did not leave Jesus on the cross, but when the sins of the world came upon Him it felt like God had forsaken Him. Sin does separate us from God. It blinds us, makes it hard to see God and brings confusion, but God does not forsake us when we sin

When God’s people were being punished in exile they complained and said, “The LORD has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me,” God replied, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. I have tattooed you on the palms of my hands.”  (Isaiah 49:14-15).

When Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden. They went and hid. God came searching for them. He did not forsake them. Their sin drove them from God as it still does to us today. Our sin does not cause God to forsake us or turn His back on us. When God said He would never leave us or forsake us, did He really mean to say, “I will never leave you nor forsake you ONLY if you are good?” or “I will never leave you as long as you do what I say?” That does not have much power, as a matter of fact, I can say that and I am not God! “If you are good to me I will be good to you.” This does not mean much to anyone, but if He is saying, “I will NEVER leave you, no matter what you do, I won’t ever leave you. I will always be there” Now that is something powerful. Now that is something very different. That is something I could never say. I might be able to put up with rejection for a while but at some point I am going to reject that person. At some point I am going to give up and forsake that person.

God DID NOT leave Jesus on the cross. In 2 Corinthians 5:19 we read, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” God the Father DID NOT forsake Jesus on the cross. As all the sin of the world was placed on Jesus, the guilt of sin was placed on Him as well. It was this guilt that was placed on Him that made Him feel like God left Him. But God did not leave Him in His darkest hour, just like He would never leave us in our darkest hour. It may feel like it but He is always with us. God did not ‘turn His back” or “look the other way.” God did not separate Himself from Jesus on the cross. It is just that it felt that way. To Jesus it felt like He was alone and that God was far from Him. This is what sin does. It messes with your mind. Sin makes you think crazy thoughts. Sin makes you act like a fool.

It would have been nice if God gave us an answer. Like, if He just spoke out of heaven and said something to Jesus, but He did not. Yet in Psalm 22 we do have God’s answer. Just like David felt that God had forsaken him in Psalm 22, Jesus