Another spirit of fear: heights

Fear of people had seemed to be a lifelong problem for me. (See link below). Fear of heights, not so much.

As a grammar school kid spending summers with my grandparents, trees were just one of those big toys God put in their yard for me to play with, in, on, atop, you get the picture.

Chinaberry trees were wonderful habitats for imaginative boys and girls. Hide and seek? Cops and robbers? Cowboys and Indians? Spies and secret agents?

Leafy branches, hard green Chinaberries for slingshot ammunition, tobacco twine and empty tin cans for telephones — what more did you need? Clamber up the nearest branch, climb like monkeys to higher branches, crouch behind the trunk, await your “enemy” and let ’em have it! Play, play, play, having lots of fun all summer long.

There were sawdust piles to climb, the ladder to the hay loft in the barn, the roof top over the horse (really granddaddy’s mule) stable, oodles of climbing opportunities. None of them brought on even the slightest hint of fear to me, for quite a few fun-filled summers.

There was a church camp in the North Carolina Mountains that my whole family attended one summer. A late morning activity for the older kids (probably age 10 or so) was climbing one of the smaller hills to the very top, a well-marked trail, lots of handholds, twists and turns along the way with a helpful adult guide to lead us up.

No sweat! No problem! The view from the top was spectacular, the hills and mountains really were blue! Who knew! It was so beautiful, I would have done it again and again.

But the next summer, disaster struck. My grandparents took me with them on a vacation road trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Remembering those lovely blue-shaded hills and mountains, the adventure seemed so inviting, I was thrilled they had asked me.

Then came our first stop, at a North Carolina overlook. Granddaddy pulled off the road onto a grassy area, pointing out the beautiful cliffs and valleys and peaks and trees and — no guard rails. “Look, see how pretty?” But I didn’t see pretty. What I saw was disaster. My head began spinning, my balance went off, and I felt compelled to run to the edge of the cliff and jump off.

Fear struck me like a shotgun blast. First I clung to the car door, then sunk onto the floorboards of the back seat, crouching with my knees to my chin, where I rode the rest of that trip. I shook, cried, and kept my eyes squeezed tightly shut. Mercifully my dumbfounded grandparents made the rest of the trip much shorter than planned.

Was that the beginning? No doubt. There was no more summer time tree-climbing fun for me. Even a step stool in the kitchen was too much, I was terrified to attempt getting something off a cabinet shelf. A full fledged panic attack would ensue, although no-one called it that in those days. I knew, I just knew, I would fall, break my neck and die.

As a teenager and young adult the fear was manageable, simply because I never climbed a kitchen step stool or anything else, for any reason. Making use of lower kitchen and bathroom shelves was reasonable; they were reachable. Upper shelves were either empty or used by others in my family. Never me. Front door and back door house steps or school staircases weren’t fun, but they had sturdy hand rails!

I got married in 1961, had two children, and one day in the 1970’s a huge WWII cargo plane flew into our local airport and the public was invited to come take a look inside. Of course, we had to go see it!

And of course, I discovered that to see inside the cockpit and cargo compartment, you had to ascend a very tall, tall ladder. I stared a long time at that plane, my excited kids raring to go. I got in line with them (and half of Florence, it seemed) and when it came our turn, I stepped up one rung — and froze.

Cold sweat. Pounding pulse. Shortness of breath. I just couldn’t do it.

I let my husband and the kids go ahead and I backed up. Way, way back, behind the crowd where I turned my back to the people, embarrassed for anyone to look at my face. Eventually my family found me, we went home and that was that.

Standing in my living room, my husband said mockingly, “How do you plan to get to heaven?” I couldn’t answer him. Tears running down my cheeks, I knew something had to give.

I had been a Christian for years. I’d re-dedicated my life to the Lord in 1972. I’d been delivered from one horrible fear that same year.  How could this be happening? I knew the scriptures (2 Timothy 1:7); I knew that believers just weren’t supposed to be afraid like this. And so that night I prayed. And prayed. I fell asleep praying.

When I awoke I really didn’t feel any different, but I took the Lord at his word and chose to believe that this tormenting, humiliating fear of heights was gone — just like the fear of their faces had gone, a year earlier.

A few days after that, a friend’s husband called — “Bette, I just got qualified on a larger plane, you want to come take a ride around Florence?” Bob, a member of the local CAP, was inviting several friends to take a short plane ride around town and wanted to include me. He knew nothing of my fear, didn’t know my spiritual teeth were gritted as I said, Sure, I’d love to. I was saying to God, we’re going to find out if prayer works or not!

I had no problem climbing into the plane, it was only ground level. Two friends climbed into rear seats, a dad and his little boy. Bob checked to be sure we were all buckled in tight, took the pilot’s seat and began the plane’s slow trek to the outer runway. The engine revved up, zoom down the runway we went and up, up into the air!

We weren’t far off the ground when my door popped open. I could see beautiful blue sky, but fear didn’t grip me! This is interesting, I thought – no fear! Bob just pushed the door further out, then slammed it shut good. We enjoyed ten or fifteen minutes touring around our town and the outskirts, Bob pointing out what we were looking at. Things look a lot different from overhead, we discovered. Nobody knew what I was thinking, thanking and praising the Lord — no nervous twinges, no nothing.

We were a bit sorry when it was time to come back to earth. Bob chatted with the control tower, got a few instructions and down to the runway we came. And bounced. The plane bounced up off the tarmac quite a few feet, and Bob headed the plane further up; we would have to circle the airport and try again.

My friend and his son in the back seat had become pretty quiet. Bob was talking with the control tower again and I was thinking, Wow, that was something. Wow! But no fear, no nervous twinges, I had only a bit of excitement at my own mental state — I had indeed been delivered of fear, once again!

The second try at landing was smooth and uneventful, we all thanked Bob profusely for the ride, the landing adventure, and especially we thanked the Lord for keeping us all safe!

Not long afterward my church asked me to chaperone a group of teenagers on a Carowinds trip. The excited, laughing teens wanted me to join them on all the tall rides and roller coasters — something I’d never, ever been able to do before. But I did it, over, and over that day. It was wonderful.

Since then, I’ve traveled in small private planes (locally), commuter planes (between Florence, Atlanta, Charlotte, etc.), larger passenger jets (to New York, Minneapolis, Boston), and international jets (to Iceland and Germany). There were quite a few adventures along the way on those trips, but fear wasn’t included.

Several years ago my brother Harold invited me to accompany him on a photography trip up the Blue Ridge Parkway, continuing onto the Shenandoah Parkway in Virginia.

For several days we traveled, stopped and took photographs, some from close to the edge of a drop-off. Here’s one I took.

There was no fear. No nervousness. No twinges! Just gratitude, praise and thanksgiving to my good, good God for his mercy and deliverance.

Are you fearful? Of speaking to people, of heights, anything else? Did you think you were just “born that way?” I truly doubt anyone is ever just born that way. But evil spirits are like fleas, or ticks. They find opportunities to attach themselves to people, even Christians, for purposes of harassment and prevention. Stealing your joy.

They prevent you from doing what Father God wants you to do, from participating in events He wants you to enjoy, stopping you from witnessing to his great power to deliver, helping get other people free. Don’t let the enemy get away with it!

If you would like me to pray with you, please just ask.

(See https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2014/06/28/fear-of-their-faces-testimony-part-three/)

Comfort / Comforter

Comforter ComforterRescuer

What kind of comfort do you need?

The origin of the English word comfort from the Oxford online dictionary: “Middle English (as a noun, in the senses of strengthening, support, consolation; as a verb, in the senses of strengthen, give support, console): from Old French confort (noun) or conforter (verb), from late Latin confortare, strengthen, from com- (expressing intensive force) + Latin fortis, strong. The sense of something producing physical ease arose in the mid 17th century.”

Thus scriptural comfort is a reinforcement of strength – mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical.

In 2 Corinthians 1:4 the Apostle Paul said this about comfort:

  • “who (i.e. the God of all comfort, v. 3) comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (KJV)
  • “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (NIV)
  • “who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (NASB)
  • “who comforts and encourages…” (AMP)

Note: The KJV word tribulation in this verse is from the Greek word thlipsis, meaning pressure, oppression, affliction, distress, straits; it’s translated trouble or affliction in other versions.

Comfort here is from the Greek word paraklesis (G3874, noun), defined in Strong’s as meaning:

– a calling near, summons, (esp. for help); importation, supplication, entreaty; exhortation, admonition, encouragement
– consolation, comfort, solace; that which affords comfort or refreshment
– thus of the Messianic salvation (so the Rabbis call the Messiah the consoler, the comforter)
– persuasive discourse, stirring address
– instructive, admonitory, conciliatory, powerful hortatory discourse

John 14:16-17 (NIV) says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

Advocate here in the NIV is translated Comforter in the King James Version. It is from the Greek word paraklatos (G3875, noun), defined in Strong’s as:

– one who is summoned, called to one’s side, esp. called to one’s aid
– one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant, an advocate
– one who pleads another’s cause with one, an intercessor
– of Christ in his exaltation at God’s right hand, pleading with God the Father for the pardon of our sins
– in the widest sense, a helper, succourer, aider, assistant
– of the Holy Spirit destined to take the place of Christ with the apostles (after his ascension to the Father), to lead them to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth, and give them divine strength needed to enable them to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom

John used this word to describe the Holy Spirit. It is translated Comforter in KJV, Advocate in NIV, Helper in NASB, and Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) in the Amplified Version. He is all that, in every imaginable variation and circumstance.

What kind of comfort did Peter need?

  • Understanding, wisdom, speaking ability, revelation knowledge
  • Angel for a jailbreak…

5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. 6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. (Acts 12:5-8 NIV)

What kind of comfort did Paul need?

  • Understanding, supernatural information, healing from beatings, resurrection from stoning, deliverance from mobs
  • Earthquake for a jailbreak…

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:25-30 NIV)

See the Book of Acts for these and many other examples. Also see I Corinthians 12 for Gifts of the Holy Spirit, i.e. God’s power tools, equipment, supplies, inside information, wisdom and weaponry.

God the Holy Spirit, the believer’s indwelling Comforter / Helper / Assistant / Intercessor / Strengthener does more than just bring emotional calmness and peace of mind which is what most people today tend to think of as comfort, although he certainly does that.

And he isn’t just called alongside to help, he’s INSIDE to help.

So – what kind of comfort do you need?

What’s it all about?

Catchy tune, poignant words. “What’s it all about, Alfie” is a 1966 Burt Barach song, written for the movie Alfie. It was a sad movie. I saw it when it first came out and was sorry I did.

But those words ring around in my head these days as I read so many prophecies, so many news stories, so many opinions from political pundits and religious experts.

Here’s another catchy tune, from 1971. It has better words, straight out of the Bible:

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”

In the last few weeks, I have watched the Holy Spirit demonstrate the kingdom of God in a variety of ways. Here’s a few instances:

A young college student was tormented by fear after his dad died in his sleep several months ago, terrified that his mother would also die suddenly and leave him an orphan. Unable to shake this dread, he was calling her at work multiple times a day just to be sure she was okay. They both knew he needed help. He needed deliverance. His mom came to me for help.

Several friends of his family gathered around him after church a couple of weeks ago. We commanded the tormenting spirit to leave and spoke God’s peace and joy to him, as the evil spirit of fear completely left him. Then we prayed for him to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and he was. It has been marvelous to see what the Lord has been doing in his life since that morning. Freedom!

This past Sunday our pastor didn’t preach a usual sermon or teach a usual Bible lesson – he read long passages of scripture from Isaiah and Matthew, the prophecy and fulfillment of Jesus’ crucifixion.

“It was for you,” he said. “All of it was for you.” Then as he waited the Holy Spirit moved across the congregation, bringing several people forward for prayer. One young woman had decided to accept Jesus’ sacrifice and to say, “Yes, it was for me!” It was wonderful to join in praising God for her new life in Christ.

Not all the work of the kingdom I’ve been observing recently was in church altars or aisles. Last week in a local retail business, I had the privilege of laying hands on a 50 year old man for healing, and then for him to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He had recently been diagnosed with liver cancer and was facing weeks, perhaps months, of radiation and other therapies.

The power of God fell in that room. The presence of the Holy Spirit was so palpable, those observing were in tears – including me. We knew God was beginning something remarkable in him, even as he complies with his doctor’s plans for treatment. He was already an intercessor for his family and friends; now he will be interceding for his physicians, hospital staff, other patients and their families, all the new needy people he will encounter in this new chapter of his life.

The 54 year old son of friends had what should have been routine hernia surgery some weeks ago, but complications led to the build-up of fluid in his chest and then to non-healing of his surgical incision. Soon he was critically ill – an infection had developed in his blood.

He fell into a coma-like state and his family sent out an urgent request for intercession. His doctors weren’t optimistic for his recovery, but his family refused to be pessimistic as we spoke life, healing, wholeness, total and complete normal function to his body. Now only a short time later he is awake, talking and very hungry! After weeks of IV’s he is eating regular food – such a dramatic improvement that only the Lord can get the credit. And the glory!

In this last month there have been so many other opportunities, other occasions for the Lord to show himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are right toward him. He’s waiting for his people to take him where he wants to go and let him do what he wants to do. What he’s always done – demonstrate His kingdom.

If instead of looking at what’s wrong around us (in church, in government, in business, in family) let’s look at how we can manifest the kingdom of God in our part of the world. Letting Jesus use our eyes to look through is truly “eye-opening.” So many hurting people surround us every day, people who need help. God’s help. Our help.

When we see them that way, we’ll intervene. We’ll intercede. We’ll open our mouth and let the Holy Spirit fill it, extend our hand to convey God’s peace in the midst of turmoil. We’ll lay hands on the sick and see them recover. Speak the command and see demons flee.

That’s what it’s all about.

 

Portals are opening

PortholeSpaceWhile I was watching a DVD one morning several years ago, the Lord spoke to me. “What is a portal?” He said. I began to think about that. Portal. Hmmm. I first visualized a porthole on a ship.

On board the Logos 2 I had a cabin in the bow of the ship, quayside. No porthole, though; it had a window to the deck. Well, the window was a portal. I continued to think.

A portal is an opening. Perhaps just a crack. I once lived in an old plantation house where you could see the ground through cracks in the floor. Those cracks were portals.

A portal could be a doorway between similar environments. Like from the dining room into the kitchen. It could be a doorway between slightly dissimilar environments, like from a hot New York street into an air-conditioned office building.

Or a doorway between completely different environments, like the hatch on the space shuttle leading to outer space. It could be a doorway between the natural and supernatural…

Jacob saw such a portal. Tired from traveling, he chose a place out in the open to sleep. In the night he had a remarkable dream. He saw angels ascending and descending through an open portal. And he recognized it! “This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” God spoke to him and gave him a tremendous promise. (Genesis 28:10-17)

Peter, James and John also saw a supernatural portal. Jesus took them with him into a high mountain. Suddenly they saw Jesus standing with Moses and Elijah, brilliant in appearance and looking quite different from normal humans! The disciples were terrified. Then God spoke directly to them out of a cloud, “This is my beloved Son; hear him.” (Mark 9:1-9)

The apostle John saw a supernatural portal. The entire book of Revelation describes what he saw! I have sometimes wondered if heaven and earth don’t actually occupy the same space, just on different wavelengths. Then when God wants humans to see something supernatural, he just alters the physics of existence at that place. Well, it’s a theory.

I had gotten that far in my thinking about portals when the Lord spoke again. “I am opening many portals in the world.” Oh, God! That hit me like a jolt of electricity. I couldn’t think any more. I couldn’t even pray. Write it, He said. So I wrote it. That was July 9, 2013…

Since that day I have been on watch for indications of those portals, reading and viewing news stories from around the world. Looking for peculiarly unexplainable, unprecedented occurrences.

Observing signs and symptoms of portals through which some things are trickling, some things are drifting, some things are pouring – supernatural influences for good and for evil. I see more, and more, and more of them every week.

Fear of their faces

“You can do it, he said. The Holy Spirit said, You can do it.” Quoted from my last post… This is a story about the first time I heard him say that, although he used a friend as his mouthpiece.

I was a member of Parkwood Presbyterian Church in the early 1970’s, playing the organ for services and attending the adult Sunday School. I have loved Sunday School all my life, studying the lessons ahead of time, soaking in the discussions and enjoying the fellowship.

Our class at Parkwood was small, only a dozen or so of us who sat around a long conference table. In that small circle there was a freedom to ask questions and express opinions without fear of rejection. As long as I was just one of the circle, I was okay. No “fear of their faces” (see Jeremiah 1:8-9).

Everywhere else, however, was a different story. For years I’d been painfully “shy,” unable to speak in public even to store clerks. In those days there were small stores on just about every corner, selling milk and bread, soft drinks and candy. You didn’t just help yourself, you walked to the counter and told the clerk what you wanted.

But I couldn’t do that. I had to write out a list and hand it over, I could not bring myself to actually speak to the clerk. That was true in dime stores, drug stores, grocery stores, department stores, everywhere.

If I was forced to speak in public, my heart would pound, my hands would shake, I’d get nauseated and break out in a sweat. I’d be almost physically sick (today we know this as a panic attack, and attack is definitely the right word).

Piano recitals made me nervous but since I didn’t have to talk to anyone, just sit down and play, I got through them. Oral book reports? Forget it. I was probably the only junior in high school who was allowed to write down my “oral” book report — the teacher was aware of my painful problem and had mercy on me.

Then after class one eventful Sunday morning, our teacher who was also the Sunday School Superintendent, asked me to take over the class. He wanted to step down from teaching and thought that since I studied the lessons and asked intelligent questions in class, I would be the logical next teacher. “You can do it,” he said.

I stammered, hemmed and hawed and said I couldn’t, no way, never, not me, about a dozen times. “Why not?” he asked. That stopped me in my tracks.

We had been studying about Jesus healing and delivering people from their problems, and I had a problem, no doubt about it. A devastating, hindering, restricting problem, fear of their faces. Could Jesus heal me? Deliver me from this fear? Or had He stopped doing that 2000 years ago?

As the teacher stood there waiting for my answer, I knew I had to find out. With a horrible premonition of disaster, I said I would try the following Sunday and we’d have to see after that.

That entire week I worked on the lesson. I read the student’s book, the teacher’s book, I looked up every Bible reference, made a poster, did an outline, prepared handouts, wrote out Bible verses, illustrations and quotations to use, everything I could think of to make the lesson a success.

I would stand at the end of the conference table with my poster on an easel, distribute the handouts and read from my notes. If I kept my head down and my eyes on the notes I wouldn’t have to look at their faces, and maybe the fear wouldn’t get me. That was my plan.

God’s plan was something else. I arrived early the next Sunday morning, unfolded the easel and propped up my poster, laid the handouts around the table, flipped my Bible open to the first passage and my notebook to my outline, then sat down to wait.

My classmates came into the room as usual, chatting with each other and catching up on news from the week. They took their usual seats around the table and it was time to start.

The Superintendent introduced me as the new teacher, everyone smiled a welcome, my heart pounded and I opened my mouth. For the next hour I taught the lesson, asked questions and directed the discussion — without any memory of it afterward, whatsoever!

The Lord had done it! In an instant He had delivered me from the fear that had tormented me for years. Everyone thanked me, said they looked forward to me being the teacher and headed into the sanctuary for the morning worship.

As I gathered up my materials, I just said “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” over and over. My eyes were full of tears and my heart full of amazement and gratitude.

No-one else in that room knew the struggle I’d had. A grown woman afraid to speak to a store clerk? How ridiculous. That’s what would they have said, I thought, and so for a long time I kept this testimony to myself.

In recent years I have shared this story several times. Sometimes folks who didn’t know me back then are amazed; they think I’ve always “had it all together.” As we talk I’ve learned that many people are tormented and hindered by fear of various kinds, and they need to be delivered too. Delivered from an evil spirit like the one that had been harassing me year after year, successfully masquerading as “shyness” – which is what people had told me it was for many years. “It’s just shyness” was a lie, right from the enemy, the Liar in Chief.

Over the years since then I’ve had the privilege of praying with a number of other people, tormented with fear as I had been, affirming that the Lord is both able and willing to deliver us from a spirit of fear.

(See II Timothy 1:7)

A day in the life

GadaraCliffsMaybeJesus had started his ministry, performed healings and deliverances, attracted crowds, called out the first few disciples, preached the Sermon on the Mount, healed the Centurion’s servant, and towards evening one day he headed to Peter’s house in Capernaum, maybe for a meal. Everywhere he went, crowds went. Arriving at the house, he found that even Peter’s mother-in-law was sick, so he healed her, too.

As the news of Jesus’ whereabouts began to circulate, the crowd soon brought more needy people. Instead of being able to relax and unwind Jesus continued ministering to the people, but the crowd didn’t seem to diminish.

Looking at the multitudes of people still waiting, Jesus decided to stop what he was doing and leave. Let’s go across to the other side, he said to the disciples. They headed to the seashore.

There was no hint of bad weather when Jesus and the disciples embarked. By the time he had settled down and fallen asleep, a bad storm came up. Wind-churned waves sloshing into the boat, the panic-stricken disciples woke Jesus up. He rebuked the storm, then rebuked them. “Where is your faith?” he asked. “Ye of little faith!” he called them. They could have calmed the storm themselves and let him sleep. It had been a long day!

(Why the sudden storm? Well, Jesus had given the disciples a “commandment to depart unto the other side.” When the Lord gives you something to do, do obstacles suddenly arise? Think about it. The enemy loves to throw monkey-wrenches.)

What was on the other side? Peace and quiet? Calm mountains, calm weather, peace and calm. That’s what you’d expect Jesus to be seeking after the busy and tiring day he’d had.

That’s not what was on the other side. It was a place of cliffs, tombs, pig-herders and demons. And a long-tormented, demon-possessed wild man. An irritating annoyance, a constant embarassment, otherwise a man of no account in the region of Gadara.

No one could tame him. People had tried chaining him up but he easily broke the chains. He wore no clothes, lived in the tombs, and spent his days and nights roaming the mountainside, cutting himself with stones and crying out. Imagine what he must have looked like, dirt covered and blood stained.

Instead of staying hidden among his mountain-side caves, that man was watching the sea. When he saw Jesus from a distance he came running to him, falling on his knees at Jesus’ feet. Jesus immediately commanded, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!” And he did. Legion, the demon said his name was. We are many, he said.

The man called out “Jesus, Son of the Most High God!” and prayed, “Swear to God you won’t torture me.” Jesus didn’t torture the man, he tortured the demons. He set the man free. With Jesus’ permission the demons ran into the pigs. The unhappy pigs quickly ran into the sea. The unhappy pig-herders quickly ran into town to tell everyone, who quickly came running to see for themselves.

And there they saw the formerly wild man now demon-free, clothed and in his right mind, sitting at Jesus’ feet.

You’d think the townspeople would celebrate. You’d think they would beg Jesus to help everyone in the area. That’s what the crowds on the other side did. But, there were also 2000 dead pigs floating in the sea. Fear was their reaction, not faith. Instead of begging Jesus to come cast out demons and heal their sick, they begged Jesus to leave.

The delivered man wanted to go with Jesus. But Jesus told him to go home instead, go to his family, go tell everyone what had happened. Tell them what great things God had done for him. Tell them about God’s mercy. So that’s what he did, and the people were amazed.

Jesus and the disciples returned to their boat, returned to the sea, and returned to Capernaum where the crowds awaited. Where Jairus – an important man – waited for help with his dying daughter. Jesus had had no restful night, and the day ahead wouldn’t be restful either.

Did Jesus miss it? Did he not know about the storm coming up? Did he not know about the poor demon-possessed man? Did he not know Gadara wouldn’t be grateful?

Oh, I think he did. But while looking at the multitudes, I think Jesus was listening to a cry from across the sea. Jesus left the needy crowd to answer a heart-wrenching cry from one needy man.

(Matthew 8, Mark 5, Luke 8)

Sozo salvation

Paul wrote “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power (Greek word dunamis, from which we get dynamite) of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16 KJV.)

The gospel — the good news — of Christ — is the power of God.

Christ, the anointed one, the designated one, the sin-free one who was qualified to accept my sin so I could get clear of it, clean of it, free of it myself. And to those who hear this good news and believe it, that good news is power. Not just ordinary human power, like a get-out-of-jail-free card, though.

The power of God. Dunamis, dynamite power, miracle power. God’s ability, strength, capability, resources, tools, knowledge and determination.

What does God use his power for?

For one thing, to create the creation. All the planets, all the universes, all the galaxies, all the matter and all the people that ever have existed or will exist, everything.

Then, to maintain the creation. Keep things running, existing, cohering, living. Forever.

But in this verse, this specific instance, it is the ability to produce or result in salvation to everyone that believes. Salvation, that’s the key point in this verse.

Many Christians think of salvation as a combination get-out-of-hell-free card and deed to a mansion in heaven after we die. We don’t think about it much more than that. But we should.

The Greek word for salvation in this verse is sozo. It is an inclusive word, and it includes rescue, deliverance, safety, preservation, sustenance, healing and health, for the body, spirit and soul. Every provision for life. (II Peter 1:3 contains this same concept.)

Need rescue from sickness, disease, poverty, fire, earthquake, volcano, flood, tornado, tsunami, drought? Need rescue from a terrorist, abuser, thief, or con man? Need freedom from addictions, phobias or fear? Or demon harassment? Sozo to the rescue.

What about provision for body, soul and spirit? Food. Water. Exercise. Rest. Refreshment. Wisdom. Knowledge. Community. Network. First Aid. Medicine. Healing. Health. Employment. Strength. Training. Mentoring. Counseling. Guidance. Encouragement. Correction. Direction. Companionship.

All those concepts are contained in this one four-letter word, sozo. That aspect of God’s power is like a laser beam, a conduit or a conveyor belt from God to me when I need something. I’d say that qualifies as good news indeed.

The problem of my suffering lack isn’t on God’s end. His end, the supply end is always there. But sometimes when the conveyor belt is running, the laser beam is blasting or the conduit is flowing, I don’t see it. I’m busy trying to fix things by myself all the time wondering why God doesn’t do something to help me.

“God helps those who help themselves,” doesn’t He? Well sure. He helps them by telling them PLAINLY HOW TO RECEIVE HIS HELP. It’s not his fault if they just don’t listen.

So how do we receive this supply? Well, the God-power container, the gospel, is there for those that believe it. Believe all of the gospel, all of the manifold aspects of the gospel. If all you believe is that God will take your soul to heaven when you die, that’s not the whole gospel. You’ll get as much gospel as you believe, and sometimes you just don’t believe enough of it.

Mark 16:20 says, “And they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” They believed the Lord, they preached the gospel (word) and the Lord confirmed what they preached, with “the attesting miracles that accompanied them,” the Wuest translation says.

Today as I watch the television’s bad news, I have a feeling we’re going to need more of God’s good news in the days ahead. I’m going to do my utmost to believe more of it.

(Reprinted from July, 2006.)