The Good Life, part 4: LET IT BEGIN WITH ME


Digging into Psalm 34:12-14

Do you recognize the words in the title? They are the second line of a timeless song from the 1950s.

angel with halo

Let there be peace on earth,

And let it begin with me.

Actually, peace on earth–and THE GOOD LIFE, which is the theme of this blog–do not begin with me or any other person. They begin with God. Peace and a good life are possible for us because God is the Prince of Peace and He is good.

Hold it; hold it! I can hear some folks thinking. If God is good and the Prince of Peace, why isn’t the world in better shape? Why isn’t my life better?

I’m glad you asked. 🙂

Jesus brought the kingdom of heaven back to earth, but not everyone chooses to become  a citizen of it. And not all who have become citizens of it live there full-time.

Similarly, the good life is available for “whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days” (Psalm 34:12), but — well, let’s look at this verse in context.

12 Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days,

13 keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.

14 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34:12-14 NIV).

Oh! You mean desiring the good life is not enough? You mean it is not even enough to pursue the good life with faith and courage?

Well, according to the psalmist, if you want the good life–if you want to change your world–you first have to change yourself!

A sterling example of this is the heartbreaking scene towards the end of the epic adventure film “Lawrence of Arabia.” The unconventional, charismatic British army officer T. E. Lawrence had done the impossible–he had managed to create a coalition of fiercely independent Arab sheiks, and, with their assistance, had conquered a major city.  However, in the following weeks, the sheiks refused to work together to restore normalcy to the city. It became a nightmare of rubble, disease, and starvation.  Lawrence, himself, fell into depression and made no attempt to re-forge their former unity of purpose.

Better a patient person than a warrior,

    one with self-control than one who takes a city (Proverbs 16:32).

If I want real, lasting victory–it has to begin with me.

What are some of the things that need to change about me if I want a really good life? Let’s go back to verses 13 and 14 of Psalm 34:

  • “Keep your tongue from evil.” That would include gossip, sarcastic remarks, off-color jokes, and pessimistic talk, right?
  • “Keep your lips from telling lies.” In other words, don’t mislead or take advantage of others by giving them false information. Don’t bury your heart by pretending to be someone you’re not. And don’t say things to yourself that are contrary to God’s gracious plans for you. Don’t say, “I can’t,” “Nothing good will ever happen to me,” “I’d better be content with a little. Who am I to expect anything special from God?” You’re of great worth to God. He delights over you with singing (Zechariah ). He has great plans for your future (Jeremiah 29:11). That’s the truth. Stick to it!
  • “Turn from evil and do good.” Well, that covers the waterfront: Don’t do what’s wrong, and do do the things you know you should.
  • “Seek peace and pursue it.” Stay out of strife. Did someone insult you? Don’t let it under your skin. Is you co-worker in a foul mood? Do yourself and the whole workplace a favor–be extra cheerful. Wherever you are, replace anxiety, frustration, and contention with faith, calmness, and harmony.

Imagine how good your life would be if your were this positive, mature, and holy.

Holy. Free from the internal garbage that keeps you from being and doing all God created you for.

Is that impossible? It must not be. God doesn’t ask us to do anything He doesn’t enable us to do.

15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16 NIV).

And it’s not as hard as it might seem. It’s not so much a matter of fixing yourself, as it is letting go of your old self and letting Christ’s life flood into your thinking and your desires.

not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith (Philippians 3:9 NIV).

put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and . . . put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV).

Three years ago, the Lord said to me, “It’s time to dream. It’s time to plan.” My dream to move from Illinois, which had been my home for over forty years, happened quickly because the Lord caused my house to sell in ten days! Another dream–to write a novel based on the life of the apostle Peter–hasn’t taken off so fast. But as I have held onto the dream and learned to cooperate with God, I have changed a lot. It had to begin with me.


The Good Life, part 2: The Fountain of Desire


Digging into Psalm 34:12

This post is dedicated to . . .

Whoever of you loves life 
and desires to see many good days . . . (Psalm 34:12 NIV).

Is it alright to love life? To desire good days—actually, to desire a lot of them?Fountain

As I considered these questions, a more profound one came to me: does God have desires? Do things matter to Him?

I concluded that He must have feelings, because Jesus told his disciples, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15 NIV). Not just desired but eagerly desired.

Is it any wonder that we have many desires? We were made in His image.

I imagine you are thinking, “Some of my desires couldn’t have come from Him.” You would be right. I want to address that shortly, but first may we consider the difference between honoring our desires and ignoring them? I see an example of each in the story of the “lost son” in Luke 15:11-32.

Usually, when this story is told, the emphasis is on the father who loved his wayward son unconditionally and welcomed him home after he had partied his inheritance away. But I want us to look at the two sons. The younger son apparently had a taste for life. He liked to enjoy himself. However, his notion of how to enjoy life was immature and distorted. It caused him to self-destruct. On the other hand, eventually, he was capable of appreciating the home he had left behind and desiring to return to it.

The older son took pride in his hard work and responsibility and despised his fun-seeking younger brother. He was indignant that their father received his brother home again—especially that he fully reinstated him as a son.

The older son appears to have been driven by obligation. The younger son was drawn by his desires.

The older son’s best reward for his efforts was pride. The younger son reaped joy and, ultimately, love and self-esteem.

The older son was faithful but his heart was far from his father. The younger son was neither faithful nor loving—at first. But the day came when remembered his father with affection and realized it would be a pleasure to work for him.

There is a pernicious (plain English: nasty) idea out there that God wants us to be serious and dutiful—that the less we think about our desires the happier He is with us.

There’s some truth to that last point. God is selfless, so when we put others above ourselves, we are like Him. Yes, God is selfless, but He is not desire-less. If you doubt that, read the whole story of the lost son and see how longingly the father watched for the son’s return and how extravagantly he showered him with gifts of love. He also told his older son that he would have held a feast for him and his friends at any time, if he had only asked.

So here’s the truth about what the Lord wants from us:

Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing (Psa. 100:2 NKJV).

Anything less grieves God’s loving, generous heart. It also diminishes our fruitfulness, because joy and desire are huge motivators.

Earlier, we acknowledged that not all desires are good. In fact, the lost son’s youthful desires ruined his life. But there’s a way to live from your heart safely.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart ( Psalm 37:4).

When did the younger son’s desires become healthy? When his heart turned back to his father and he took delight in being back home.

What if your life is in disarray because of unhealthy desires? Connect with the heavenly Father.

What if you are a good Christian, but you’re not enjoying it? Unstop the fountains of desire. Uncover how you feel about things. Resurrect your dreams.  Don’t drop your responsibilities but develop a taste for them. Let your actions spring from desire, not just duty, and approach the Father with an open, trusting heart.

As Proverbs 4:23 says,

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it (NIV).


The Good Life, Part 1: TAKE A TASTE

Stuffed Mushrooms


Digging into Psalm 34:8

I made some stuffed mushrooms for lunch today. I chopped some zucchini, red bell pepper, and onion; added parsley, garlic, lemon juice, and crumbled goat cheese; stuffed the mixture into the mushrooms; and popped them in the toaster oven. They came out looking good, but when I bit into one—oh my!—it tasted even better than it looked.

In the middle of Psalm 34, David makes an interesting suggestion:

8 Taste and see that the Lord is good;

    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

The caption at the top of the psalm, as well as the first several verses, show that this psalm was composed in thankfulness and praise to the Lord for rescuing him from King Saul and King Achish.  So the goodness of the Lord that David is talking about must be that he rescues believers from danger.

Well, yes, but then he goes on to say:

 9 Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.

10 The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Hmmm. Now he has gone on to a whole different way that God is good—he not only helps people in danger, but he is a giver of good things.

Most Christians would quickly say, “Oh, yes, God gives us everything we need—not everything we want, but everything we really need.” If you point out to them that Jesus said He came to give life in abundance, they would say that means an abundance of love, joy, peace, etc.—in other words, spiritual blessing.

That’s not how the Jewish people understood the Lord’s blessing. They trusted God to bless them spiritually by atoning for sin, but they also very much expected Him to bless them abundantly with material things.

Their history started with Abraham. He was a nomad in a strange country. But the Lord promised it all to him and his descendants at the appropriate time. In the meantime, the Lord caused him to become enormously wealthy and influential AND enabled his formerly barren wife to bear their son when she was ninety years old.

Abraham’s son Isaac also experienced an economic miracle because of the Lord’s blessing:

1 A severe famine now struck the land, as had happened before in Abraham’s time. So Isaac moved to Gerar, where Abimelech, king of the Philistines, lived.

The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt, but do as I tell you. Live here as a foreigner in this land, and I will be with you and bless you.

12 When Isaac planted his crops that year, he harvested a hundred times more grain than he planted, for the Lord blessed him. 13 He became a very rich man, and his wealth continued to grow. 14 He acquired so many flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and servants that the Philistines became jealous of him.(Genesis 26:1-2, 12-14 NLT).

God created life to be good. That’s why we feel distressed when our resources are in short supply. Distress (pain) is the response the Lord built into our beings to let us know when something is wrong. Scarcity is not good, minimal health is not good, strained relationships are not good. God never intended his people to be saddled with this kind of experience.

Why do Christians have them? A big reason is: we settle for all these things because we don’t really believe God is good and that he is generous with those who allow Him to be. We don’t know how pleased He is when we seek Him about the things that we lack.

Let’s taste and see how good God is. If we seek Him, we will lack no good thing.


The Fear That Ends All Fear

frightened girl


Digging into Psalm 34:4, 7

How can fear do away with fear?? It’s a matter of what you mean by “fear.” This song by David, the fugitive, includes two very different kinds of fear:

4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears. . . . 
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them (Psalm 34:4, 7 NIV).

The word “fears” in verse 4 comes from a Hebrew word (megowrah) that can mean the feeling of fear or can mean a situation that is fearful.* It’s what we normally mean when we say “fear.” It’s the kind of fear David experienced just before he wrote this psalm.

But David’s fears ended because the Lord delivered, or rescued, him. In fact, his angel had been camping around David all along, ready to deliver him from any danger that cropped up. How did David rate 24/7 angelic protection? Because he feared the Lord (verse 7).

Awed boyHuh! It doesn’t seem as if a person would be afraid of a God who is so gracious and caring. Well, this word “fear” isn’t what we usually think of as fear. It comes from a Hebrew word (yare’) which means to stand in awe of, be awed, to fear, reverence, honor, respect.* 

Perhaps you have always vaguely understood that “the fear of the Lord” meant awe and respect for Him. But you may still have trouble seeing how fear fits into that equation.

Years ago, I stumbled upon my first experience of it. Life was a blur of pain because of a betrayal, and I needed to talk to someone. I had all kinds of choices, but I had a deep sense I had better speak with my pastor only. I recognized that if I did not stick to the Lord’s way of behaving, things would not turn out well for me. Because I respected His wisdom above all others, I feared to depart from His ways.

Shortly after that, I encountered this respect and fear again. I was president of a local teachers’ association, and we were deep into rocky negotiations with the school board. The Lord made it clear that he expected me to refrain from criticizing or accusing the superintendent and school board members–and that, if I did that, he would help us gain what we truly needed. It was rather counterintuitive for me, but–who can refuse God, especially when he cares enough to intervene personally in your life?

One night, my vice president called to tell me of the talk going around the community concerning us teachers. I went to the basement to pray. I asked for some things–like wisdom and protection–but mostly I marveled at how sure I was that everything was going to be alright. That’s when I found out it’s true–if you fear the Lord and obey him, that puts an end to all other fears.


*Based on definitions from the Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon, which is keyed to the “Theological Word Book of the Old Testament.”


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Digging into 1 Peter – A Key Word

What does this title call to your mind (pun intended)? A referee calling a game off because of lightning? A candidate calling an election because of a decisive margin of votes? A letter calling you to jury duty? Your coach calling you a good sport?

Just for fun, look up the word called on The Free Online Dictionary and you will find a kazillion other possibilities.


You will also find several meanings for called in the letter of 1 Peter. That is, the apostle states that God has called us to be and do various things.

The reason I mention this is because–as I was meditating on the verses containing the word called–I got excited. I thought maybe you would too.

So here are the four verses and my comments:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9 NIV).

A purely natural response might be: “I’m not so sure about this. I have a few bad habits I really would like to keep. Besides, the full light of God shining on me–I’m need ready for everything in me to show up clearly.”

The response of a believer who understands the power of a supernatural God in their life: “God has invited me to leave the closed-in world of night and enjoy the wide horizons of day. He has invited me out of the guesswork of darkness into the clarity and certainty of the light. He has invited me out of guilt to be clean and carefree.”

If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21 NIV).

A purely natural response might be: “I don’t even want to think about this. Fortunately, I live in the United States, so I don’t have to.”

The response of a believer who understands the power of a supernatural God in their life: “God is calling me to make a difference in this world. To live a life worth living.  What a privilege! Yes, I’ll make waves by standing out like this, but–I’ll know I did the right thing. I’ll enjoy self-esteem and a clear conscience.”

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:8-9 NIV).

A purely natural response might be: “This sounds ‘way too generous and kind for me. I can meet people half-way if they are trying to get along with me–but this is too much.”

The response of a believer who understands the power of a supernatural God in their life: “God is calling me to initiate an aggressive brand of friendliness toward others. To see the good in people I’ve never appreciated before. To care about people who aren’t really related to me. If I do this, I’ll have deep relationships. I’ll belong. I’ll be at peace with everyone (whether or not they are at peace with me). The Lord promises I’ll be glad (be blessed) if I go out of my way to be good to others like this.”

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast (1 Peter 5:10 NIV).

A purely natural response might be: “What does this mean? I believe I’ll be in God’s eternal glory when I go to heaven, but what does this have to do with suffering and being restored?”

The response of a believer who understands the power of a supernatural God in their life: ” Jesus was amazing (glorious) when he went to the cross. He kept his composure. He encouraged others. Then–he had the glorious last word by rising from death. The apostle Paul said, ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ Well, not any more. When I turned my life over to Jesus, he reinstated me into the gloriousness of God–into his inner power of love that radiates in glorious attitudes and actions–even in hard times.”


The good deeds you naturally tend to do, the ways you can figure out to straighten out bad situations–you don’t need God to call you to do those. You can do them on your own (pretty much). But God is calling you to so much more. Things you can only do because he says you can. Because he will make it possible with his own goodness and ability in you.


The 5 W’s & H in Bible Study

Man Scratching Head


Digging into the Bible

Journalists, move over. The 5 W’s and H work as amazingly in bible study as they do in newspaper reporting–actually more so.

Journalists find out the Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why of events. They can then give a thorough report for their readers. Bible students ask those same questions about a passage of Scripture–for a different reason. They are not just pin-pointing information about the Bible to report to others. They are breaking down scriptures so that the meaning can shine forth.

FOR EXAMPLE, here are some rich insights from Psalm 5.

Psa. 5:3

In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation (Psalm 5:3 NIV).

When I read this verse, I made up some Who? What? . . .  questions. The one that helped me see something helpful was HOW did David pray? 

That question made me notice that David

  1. laid his requests before the Lord
  2. spent his waiting time expecting 

Now I have asked the Lord for something and then . . . wondered how long I would have to wait. It appears that David was more active. He looked forward to God’s answer. He probably told people it was coming. No doubt he thanked God in advance for taking care of him. (He did that often in the Psalms.) In short, he kept himself happy and full of faith by actively expecting, instead of passively watching the days go by.

I have started actively expecting. Know what? The time passes joyfully, and my faith grows and grows.

HERE ARE A COUPLE OTHER INSIGHTS from verses 11 and 12:

But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

When I first read these verses, about all I got from them was a glad feeling. Then I started asking questions.

WHAT are some things David felt he could expect, if he asked for them? 

  1. joy (and “be glad” and “rejoice”)
  2. protection
  3. blessing
  4. favor

Cool! I thought. Great stuff.

Then I asked another question and found out how to receive these good things.

WHO will receive these blessings? Those who

  1. take refuge in God
  2. love his name
  3. are righteous

. . . Made me realize that David did not take a random or half-hearted approach to God. He had a radical relationship with him. Radical and appealing. I also realized that his closeness to God was the reason he prayed so confidently.

 I can’t wait for you to dig into scriptures with the 5 W’s & H!

Bet the Bible will come to life for you.



NEW YEAR’S DAY: In 2013 . . . I Hope You Dance!


Digging into Matthew 11:28-30

DancingHow do like the sound of this:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG).

When I was in junior high, I took two years of music theory in conjunction with piano lessons. Part of each theory lesson involved sight reading some music, giving the right duration to each note. When the score was a jumble of sixteenth, eighth, and quarter notes with syncopation thrown in, I scrambled to force all the notes into the beat.

Later on, as a teacher I had students who displayed their sense of rhythm with pencil-tapping on their desks.

As a music student, I was forcing notes into a rhythm. My pencil tappers . . . well, their rhythms were spontaneous and unforced. They came from the inside. They are an example of “unforced rhythm” and also of “grace.”

Here are some things “grace” means:

  • gift
  • benefit
  • favor
  • liberality

That’s why, if you’ve hung around Christian churches much, you’ve probably heard that “grace” means the unmerited favor of God. It’s not something we can earn; God just gives it out of the goodness of his heart.

But there’s something else “grace” means:

  • the divine influence on the heart*

Hmm . . . We could paraphrase Jesus’ statement at the top of the page as: “Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Let me influence your heart. You will naturally begin living the way I do.”

In 2013, I hope you accomplish significant things God has set before you.

I hope you will welcome God’s grace to achieve them freely and lightly.

I hope you dance!

*I found these definitions of “grace” in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.


CHRISTMAS: Together Again and GIVEAWAY


Digging into the Christmas story and “peace” in the Bible

Couple Holding Hands“Peace in the world–that’s all I want for Christmas,” I heard a woman say. A tall order, but that is exactly the reality the angels announced to the shepherds outside Bethlehem when Jesus was born.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14, NKJV).

What is peace? The Greek word for peace used in this verse is eirene, which according to Strong’s Concordance means “prosperity; one, peace, quietness, rest; set at one again.” It is probably derived from a verb meaning “to join.”

Jesus’ birth was announced to lowly shepherds. But it was announced also to three wealthy wise men from the east. The divine/human child was attended at his birth by angels—and also stable creatures. He was bringing all things together—joining them together as one, to be at peace with each other because they were at peace with Him. Like he brought Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) together:

14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death (Ephesians 2:14, 16 NLT).

Throughout the ages, a few had partnered with God in a marvelous way, and all of mankind had had an inkling of Him, but on THAT NIGHT, heaven and earth came together as they had not been since the days of Adam and Eve. Now the way was opened for all to be at peace with God and to do His will on earth as if they were in heaven.

A peasant girl and a carpenter parented the Son of God. A crew of fishermen, tax collectors and the like were filled with so much of God’s wisdom and power that people said they had “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). Paul and Silas, firmly attached by stocks to earth, sang praises to God. As they did, heaven joined earth so powerfully that the prison shook, the doors opened and the chains fell off all of the prisoners.

This entrance of heaven into earth is re-enacted every time a sinner is born again. Peace comes again on earth. He or she becomes reconciled to God, at one with others, and at rest within himself–a rest full of the glory of that night long ago.

When enough of us are put together again–with God, with each other, and within ourselves–then there will be “peace in the world.”

—Adapted from “Meditation 60,” Streams of Living Water by F. Burleigh Willard and Celia Willard Milslagle.


Your Turn — What do you say?

  • Can world peace be won by politics? laws? treaties?
  • James 4:1 says, “But about the feuds and struggles that exist among you—where do you suppose they come from? Can’t you see that they arise from conflicting passions within yourselves?” (PHILLIPS). If that’s true, what has to happen for hostility to be eliminated and peace to be restored?


For a chance to receive an autographed copy of Friend of Angels, comment today–or comment on Wednesday’s post. The winner will be announced on Thursday (December 20). The winner of the book will receive it after Christmas–an appropriate time to receive a book about what probably happened after Jesus’ birth. (If you prefer to buy one now to give as a gift, please follow this link.)

For no-hassle commenting, enter your name when prompted, but not your email address. (So that I can contact you, when you hopefully win the giveaway, please click on the Contact tab at the top of this page, and give me your email address there.)


CHRISTMAS: I Wonder . . . about the Nativity

Boy with creche


Digging into the Bible

When you hear or read the Christmas story, do you wonder about these things?

Do you wonder how Matthew and Luke got their information about Jesus’ birth and the events surrounding it?  Did Jesus know? Had his parents told him as he was growing up? Or was it only after the Resurrection, when Mary joined Jesus’ disciples, that she told these stories? Were there others—a nephew of one of the shepherds, the steward of the high priest—who remembered and shared?

Do you wonder who Matthew was referring to when he said “all Jerusalem” was as disturbed as King Herod when the three wise men appeared, talking about a newborn king. I’m thinking it must have meant all the powerful people—the ones who would have something to lose if the administration changed. That being said, it is doubtful they let this rumor leak to the common folk. They might have gotten all stirred up at the possibility of a king other than the ruthless Herod.

Do you wonder if any of the people who knew about Jesus birth . . .

the shepherds, the people who heard the shepherds’ story, the people in Jerusalem who knew about the wise men’s announcement, the worshippers in the Temple who heard Simeon and Anna prophesy over the infant Christ Child

. . . realized who he was thirty-three years later when he showed up as a teacher and miracle worker? Or did they all believe the Babe must have died in the Bethlehem massacre? Surely, some believed that he truly was the Messiah and God would not have permitted him to be destroyed . . . and this amazing teacher must be the Messiah and King.

There’s so much to wonder about in this story. Practical things and eternal things and life-changing things.

INVITATION ≈    This season, as you ponder Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts of these amazing events, please share what is wonder-ful to you. 


Epilogue or New Beginning?


Digging into Mark 5:18-20

You know how you can read a story (watch a movie, etc.) several times and all of a sudden you understand something you never did before? Something big, maybe? That’s what happened to me with this bible story. The first kazillion times I had read or heard it, all that I really noticed was this part:

When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. . . . When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!” . . .

When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. . . .

But then there is an epilogue:

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed (Mark 5:2-3, 6-8, 15, 18-20).

An epilogue, right? Just small glimpse into the aftermath of a mighty miracle? Wrong! The last time I read these three verses, I saw how dramatic they are. The newly-delivered man was full of gratitude and love. He did not want to be separated so soon from Jesus. He wanted to travel with him like his other disciples. Instead, Jesus sent him on an important mission to his home town. My heart sank as I thought of his disappointment.

Then I realized: this is an example of the fact that heaven’s agenda often messes with ours. I was awed that this man had been chosen for heaven’s. Jesus was not holding the healed demoniac off at arm’s length. He was inviting him into a privileged fellowship–the fellowship of those who do the the will of the Father.