Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, In the news, Issues of the Day

The Death of a President

I was seated at my desk in our third-grade classroom when our teacher was called out of the room.  It was a pretty normal and uneventful day up to that particular time.  She returned to the classroom crying.  I never saw her cry before.  Experiencing a teacher crying was totally new for me.  The date was November 22, 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was shot and killed.  We would be dismissed from school early on that day.

 

I watched our black and white TV that evening as men in suits held onto a man who they claimed killed our president, Lee Harvey Oswald.  They were pushing him through some dimly lit halls to…well, I didn’t know where.  In horror, another man in a black suit came up beside him and fired shots from his pistol.  I watched Oswald fall into the arms of those escorting him.

 

It was all a bit much for an eight-year-old kid.  The talk for weeks in our country was the loss of our president.  I didn’t really know what it meant, but listening to the adults in my life, I knew it was unprecedented and enormous to them.  Everyone mourned and felt a bit lost, dazed really.  

 

As I look back, what sticks out in my mind now was that I never remember hearing the words Democrat or Republican.  It’s like President Kennedy was neither, just president of the United States of America.

 

Surely people voted and followed their party of choice, but there was no antagonism, no backbiting, no name calling, no sarcasm and no wishing another harm.  At least not in the part of the world I lived in.

 

Unfortunately, the world we live in today is extremely different.  Even the major news outlets are different.  They simply have totally left objectivity and what is often reported is their personal slant or belief in an unbelievably, openly biased (which party we support) way.

 

It was this very president, John F. Kennedy, who said this, “If a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.  All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days.  Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet.  But let us begin.”

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, In the news, Issues of the Day, Prayer

Did Your Candidates Get Elected? Here Are 7 Ways to Follow-Up

With this election behind us, both winners and losers now face a certain reality.  My wife, an elected poll official, said her polling place was busy all day and evening.  This is not the norm for interim elections, but certainly good to see an interest among constituents.

 

You’ve had to listen to all the political rhetoric before the election and we’re hoping it doesn’t follow the election so we can get on with our lives, so to speak. For those elected, to get to work representing those who elected them and those who did not.  But, what can we do now for those who are elected?  How can we serve them as godly persons?

 

We can pray!  I would like to share a few guidelines for prayer for the newly elected and the ones remaining in political office.  The scriptures admonish us to pray for these persons and we desire to obey that word so clearly spoken.  That means, even if the elected official is not one whom you voted for, you are still admonished to pray for them.

 

Specifically, what can we pray that also aligns with God’s word?

 

  1. Pray for a revelation of the love of God. Knowing God’s love and responding to that love affects every aspect of personal and public life. (Romans 5:5, 8; I John 4:9, 10)
  2. Pray for a revelation of God’s truth. It is the word of God and the Ten Commandments that initially created our foundation for law.  Pray that this same Word is seen as truth as it was with our forefathers. (Proverbs 30:5; Hebrews 4:12)
  3. Pray for a revelation that all humanity is of value and created in the image of God. (Genesis 1:27; John 3:16, 17)
  4. Pray for a revelation of life – life in the womb and life at every stage of life. (Psalm 139: 13-16; Jeremiah 1:4, 5; Isaiah 44:2)
  5. Pray for a spirit of wisdom and humility with high moral character and integrity to lead this nation. (Psalm 25:9; Proverbs 10:9; 11:3; Isaiah 66:2)
  6. Pray for a revelation of the fear of God; it is the beginning of wisdom. (Psalm 111:10)
  7. Pray for a heart that seeks after God and desires His will and not their own. (Matthew 6:10; Hebrews 10:9)
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Challenge, In the news, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Men, Women

A Question for Pastor John F. MacArthur

Dear Pastor MacArthur,

 

Your comments concerning Beth Moore and women like her seem shame-filled, judgmental and clearly challenged by the word of God and the life of His Son while on the earth.  Please consider these scriptures found in the book of Luke concerning those who supported Jesus’ ministry.

 

 

 

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.  The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from who seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others.  These women were helping to support them out of thier own means.  (Luke 8:1-3)

 

These women were brave, courageous, supportive and bold.  They were unashamed to walk with Jesus and serve Him in His earthly ministry.  God’s word does not leave out their love and dedication to Him within public ministry and what an amazing example and inspiration to all women they become.

 

So, here’s my question for you Pastor MacArthur:  Should Jesus have told these women to “Go home?”

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Challenge, Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Prayer

Election Day: A Few Political Core Values to Consider

As we approach election day here in the USA on November 5, I thought I would pass along to you some really healthy and sound advice/political values from Kris Vallotton.  Kris is a well-known author and pastoral staff member at Bethel Church in Redding, CA.  I think what he writes is worth considering and sharing.  But first, let me share some of the best advice from God’s word found in I Timothy 2:1-10 from The Passion version.

 

1-3 The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.

4-7 He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we’ve learned: that there’s one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us—Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free. Eventually the news is going to get out. This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth.

8-10 Since prayer is at the bottom of all this, what I want mostly is for men to pray—not shaking angry fists at enemies but raising holy hands to God. And I want women to get in there with the men in humility before God, not primping before a mirror or chasing the latest fashions but doing something beautiful for God and becoming beautiful doing it.

From Kris:

  • I can deeply love people in whom I strongly disagree with. I refuse to demonize any politician who is made in the image of God.
  • I have enemies and Jesus gave me power over them on the cross, but my battle is NOT against flesh and blood.
  • When you call someone by an evil name…you have decided that you know their heart. But, the Apostle Paul said, “Who are you to judge the servant of another?”
  • Associating with, or serving political people, should not be confused with embracing their ideologies. All political offices deserve to be honored according to Romans 13.
  • I am commanded and called to pray for my leaders. If you don’t pray for them, then you don’t have a right to critique their success or failure.
  • My first allegiance is not to a political party but to the kingdom of God.
  • I cannot separate my spiritual views from my political views because the government of this world is being affected and infected by the invisible realm.
  • Great government doesn’t take away the right of people to sin. That’s sharia law.  It does however, protect people from sinning against others and teaching people to do so.
  • It’s not the responsibility of government to Christianize the world. That’s the church’s job.  Jesus rules the nations with a rod of iron, but He leads the church with a shepherd’s staff.

Let’s prayerfully walk this election out like our first allegiance is to the kingdom of God and not to a political party.

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Challenge, Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day

Addressing the Political Divide with a Sound Mind and Redemptive Spirit

Are you tempted to get swept up into all the rhetoric, backbiting, political name-calling and the deep level of immaturity shown us by the media and the politicians of today?  I know I am sometimes. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus lived under one of the most corrupt governments of all time and yet He was never distracted or drawn into their politics.  He kept His focus by continually listening to His Father and obeying His voice.  We could take a lesson or two from our Savior.

 

God’s word reveals, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority accept that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.”  (Romans 13:1&2) Did this writer, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, use the word “rebelling?”

 

If God placed each, let’s say, president into office, could our anger, our angst and our temper tantrums over them actually be an act of rebellion against God? When we strongly confront others, call what they write propaganda and get into arguments over constantly changing “facts,” aren’t we essentially telling God that He doesn’t know what He is doing by who He is allowing into political office?  Personally, I just cringe over some of the things that I read on social media, but our politicians and our media speak words of defamation as well. I really do not desire to be part of it.

 

It’s pretty clear from Jesus that the most important commandment is to love God and to love our neighbor first and foremost, but do you realize in that same chapter, Matthew 22, Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees with a political question asking is it right to pay taxes to Caesar?  Jesus would not be trapped by them or caught up in an unrighteous conversation about the political leader of His day as He replied, “Show me the coin used for paying the tax…whose image is this…and whose inscription?”  He then surprised them with these words, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

 

Jesus was clearly revealing there are two kingdoms of which we function in both, this world with its governments and its leaders and, secondly, God’s kingdom.  We give to both.  As believers, we need to keep in mind that the kingdoms of this world are temporary and, therefore, our priority is the kingdom of God.

 

In light of this, here’s a question for you.  If, when writing on social media, we use intimidation, disrespect of others and dishonoring them and their beliefs or thoughts, are we not engaged in a form of bullying? I have observed writers attempting to shut others down by their “facts,” but, honestly, most times it is simply because someone expresses a different opinion than they do.

 

A friend of mine was telling me that he was “convicted” to stop writing on social media this way, but still found time to “like” what others wrote which he agreed with. Once again God spoke to him and revealed that to “like” those words was the same as writing them. He ceased in obedience to the voice of God.

 

Jesus never placed political party or belief over relationship.  If your relationships are being affected by differing political belief, then you are falling prey to the evil one and his tactics to cause disunity and division.  Allow me to share some wisdom with you from Proverbs chapter 15.

 

  • A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
  • The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life…
  • The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.
  • A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.
  • A man finds joy in giving an apt reply – and how good is a timely word.

 

So what can we do if we find ourself at odds with someone over politics?  We could ask them why they feel the way they do in order to understand their point of view.  Then we could ask if they would allow us to share our views.  Perhaps we can arrive at the agreeing point of: America is broken and as Christians we are called to uphold the love of Jesus by seeking first His kingdom. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.”

 

Are you willing to put your hostility, your divisive comments and your agenda aside so that you can place Jesus first?  Ask God for wisdom; He gives it liberally.  And remember these words of pure wisdom, “If someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.  But do this in a gentle and respectful way.”  (I Peter 3:15)

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Challenge, Encouragement, In the news, Mission Report

Visiting Santago de Cuba

After a 3:00 AM start, long lines at Jet Blue Cuba in Ft Lauderdale, Florida and some very different immigration questioning entering the nation, a friend and I finally had feet on the ground in Cuba at 8:00 AM May 1st, 2019.  About forty minutes later, our Cuban pastor contact came to pick us up in our rental car for the week.

 

Having just been in Haiti days earlier, I found Cuba to be very green, covered with trees and flowers all along the highways and very well maintained.  There is a noticeable absence of traffic as the Cubans do not own cars.  The highways have mostly trucks, taxi’s, touring buses, a few cars and a large number of motorcycles, the most interesting had added side cars.  My personal favorite to capture on the roads and the small towns along the way were the 1940’s – 1950’s cars and trucks.

 

Santiago de Cuba is a city of half a million people.  It is the second largest in the country, where the Castro revolution started, where the capital was at one time and where Fidel Castro is now buried.  It is perceived to be the “warmest” city in Cuba because it’s in a valley.  Luis, our Cuban pastor friend, is not from this city, but felt called to plant a church here after he had one convert from a personal visit many years earlier.  The Lord had him move to the city which was not possible at the time because Castro would not allow the sale of your personal home in order to move to another location.  But, as Luis repeated a lot, God provides.

 

It is very different being in a nation in which the government owns most everything: the water, most buildings which include the stores and hotels, the hospitals, the trucks on the highway, the electrical power generating plants, the farms and fields, etc.  Almost every job is directed by or run by the government and the average worker makes $20.00 – $25.00 per month.  A doctor could make as much as $60.00 per month.  Luis shared with us that the Cuban government provides five pounds of rice, five pounds of sugar and oil to each family, nothing more in the way of food. He said for the average Cuban family this amount lasts for about two weeks.

 

Friday evening, we had a worship service at Luis’ building.  (Luis’ home and church building are physically connected as are all of the “underground” churches.)  The building would hold 125-150 somewhat comfortably, but we must have had well over 175 persons. The buildings in the city do not allow for air to flow through them and with the humidity and the number of bodies present, I’m guessing it was in the high 90’s.  Our pants and our shirts were soaked through with sweat.  But the worship was awesome and Luis allowed me to share the word that night.

 

Luis asked me to give an alter call and I am guessing around dozen plus people came forward to give their lives to Jesus.  And then it was like someone threw a match on a pile of gasoline-soaked rags.  The place exploded with dancing, prayer, deliverance and fiery worship.  We came back to our room around midnight exhausted, but a bit dumbfounded at the revival and presence of God in this place.

 

The same thing happened the next night and the next.  Cuba is experiencing revival like nothing I have ever experienced in my 48 years of being a Christian.  Young and the old are coming to Jesus and it was thrilling to experience.  Every church we visited has a building plan or a church planting plan because of the exponential growth taking place.  I felt privileged to not only see it, but experience it first-hand.

 

Have you been on a mission trip lately?  It will totally and radically change your life!

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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day, Parents

Voting Has a Direct Effect Upon Life In The Womb

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

 

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made: your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

 

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

 

Your eyes saw my unformed body: all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  Psalm 139: 13-16

 

Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.

 

If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?  Does not he who guards your life know it?

 

Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?  Proverbs 24: 11, 12

 

Today we see the direct result of how we cast our votes.  Is your allegiance, is your passion to Jesus and the lives He created for life?  If the godly do not care, who will?  Thank you New York state elected officials for this reminder.

 

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.

 

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.

 

Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.  Psalm 127: 3-5

“Father, forgive us for this sin of selfishness and the sacrifice of innocent blood.”

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Challenge, Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day

Are You Known More for What You Hate or By How You Love?

I was speaking with a friend recently about a specific governmental department that I obviously did not have a good word for.  Later in a text message, I apologized for my negative expressions.  And here’s the reason for my apology: Holy Spirit.

 

While I was driving to my next appointment, I found myself being asked,“Do you want to be known for what you hate or for how you loved?” Then, in my mind I could hear a future conversation, “Yeah, Steve has no lost love for  ________.”  Not wanting that statement on anyone’s lips I asked for God’s forgiveness as well.

 

Social media is full of rants and raves.  People who would have never had a platform or a voice to express their strong views toward a political candidate, a boss or a former spouse or girlfriend can now take to the Internet and tear others apart for their beliefs.  We can quickly pick out what someone hates or strongly disagrees with, but are left wondering what is good in their world.  Are you more known for what you disagree with or for how you love, reach out and serve others regardless of how they believe or vote?

 

Someone has said that we often have only one opportunity to speak something life-giving, something godly or encouraging and we use that one opportunity to tear apart those who do not believe as we do.  Let’s work at changing that and become more like Jesus, who “…Was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent so he did not open his mouth.”

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong…

If I have faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the poor…but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind…it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered…

Love never fails.

As we enter 2019, could God be challenging you as He has me? Will those you interact with, will those who read your social media posts, will those you work with and will your family hear about what and how you love or more about what you hate? We may have only one opportunity to say something kind, life-giving or loving. Let’s not miss that opportunity.

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Challenge, Children, In the news, Issues of the Day, Parents, Pornography

The Devastation of Abuse and Teaching Your Children Responsibility

I would be devastated, overwhelmed and heart-broken if my daughter suffered any kind of abuse from anyone in any fashion.  I would give my life to make sure that did not happen. Further, I would be equally broken and horrified if one of my sons was falsely accused of abusing another. Having raised my children with very clear values and boundaries, I would believe them if they told me abuse occurred or did not occur.

Whether there is alleged abuse or alleged accusation, I appreciate that these kinds of things, brought out and into the light, bring awareness to very destructive behaviors.

We are told that one in four girls endure or suffer from some form of abuse or molestation, which is simply horrific.  But it is also true that one in five boys suffer the same.  Having been a social worker and marriage and family counselor for many years, I witnessed way too much devastation in lives of youth and of adults in both females and males.

I heard stories from young women who had been molested in their family barns, a place that should have been safe for them and I heard similar stories from young men.  One young man told me that his female high school English teacher while on school premises repeatedly forced him to engage in sexual intercourse.  His pain over this was evident years later.

We are responsible to teach our children truth and how destructive sex can be outside God’s boundary of marriage.  My wife and I shared I Timothy 5:1 and 2 with our children, “Treat younger men as brothers…and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”  Your children’s school teachers, politicians, Hollywood or any news media will not be teaching these verses; it is your/our job to establish these boundaries and life-giving values.

Today we hand our children a smart phone to stay in touch with us. At the same time, we must realize these hand-held devices are a computer and they accesses pornography which teaches just the opposite of the values we are attempting to instill.  Are you aware that Hollywood produces around 600 to 700 films per year while the pornography industry produces 13,000 films per year? Children are accessing some of the worst, most horrific sexual smut available for free on their phones each and every day.

In these times we are hard pressed to find any moral guidance coming from Washington DC, even as governmental leaders call for morality.  And Hollywood continually puts out sexually provocative films and then expects morality among its ranks.  You cannot have it both ways…sorry.

So let’s take responsibility for our own lives and the lives of our family.  We need to have a zero tolerance of pornography and sexually explicit movies and television.

No matter the ill in our society, God’s word has already spoken on the subject and given us the most safe, most protective and life-giving answers. It is that same book that mentions not lying, not stealing, not committing adultery, not coveting and not murdering.  This is not a call to fight or resist our government, our schools or even Hollywood, but it is a call to remember who our enemy actually is.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  (Ephesians 6: 12)

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.(I Corinthians 10: 2)

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Children, In the news, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Parents, Women

The Redemption and Reentry of a Predator

I had this question posed from last week’s blog, Signs of a Predator in Your Church, (and I’ll paraphrase here), “What about the reentry of a ‘predator’ to the church after experiencing redemption?”  It was a great question and calls for a follow-up answer because a major role of pastors/leadership in the local church is to protect its members.

Redemption means to be bought, paid for by another.  To redeem is to atone for a fault or mistake.  When one is redeemed by the cross they are repurchased, made right through Christ.  However, that redemption does not remove the consequences of one’s sin.  If someone is guilty of murder, goes to jail and then experiences true redemption, they will still be incarcerated and rightfully so. Salvation does not stop the consequences of our sinful behavior.  Keep in mind all of us needed redemption; none of us is or was without sin.

With that, what would be our response to this repentant one?  It is said that it takes a lifetime to create a sexual predator. What that means is they perhaps have a history of being abused and abusing.  There is most certainly a not so good background preceding the life of a predator.  And there are a lot of factors to consider, but through the love of Christ we are welcoming to the saint and the sinner.  We do not judge their heart, but hope for the ongoing completing work of salvation to wholly change a life.  First Corinthians six is very clear and concise when it says, “And that is what some of you were (the sexually immoral).  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  It does not get any clearer than that.

Please remember not all abuse is the same, however.  Some is accomplished without ever touching the victim through exhibitionism or voyeurism. There are presently over 550,000 registered sex offenders in the Unites States.

Does this mean as the church we have an open arms policy and immediate access to our teens and children’s ministries?  Does this mean we pose no boundaries or period of caution for the one that struggled with this sin?  It clearly does not.  So, here are some suggestions when dealing with this person and their reentry into the local church. (Note: By the way, there are 600,000 persons who leave prison every year.  A reentry program for your church is something to consider.)

A few considerations

  1. You are not looking to enable an abuser in any way or further traumatize a victim. So we err on the side of caution and not on the side of mercy.
  2. At the risk of sounding harsh, if you are dealing with a registered sex offender, then in all humility and an attitude of, “If not for the grace of God there go I,” the congregation needs to be aware and the former offender should give permission to make this known. It does not need to be a public announcement, but every family should receive an email or some form of communication.  In this effort, you are protecting the whole and not just the one or two.
  3. Often the one who has been incarcerated enters a “reentry program” before reentry into society at large. Create a reentry program with clear boundaries, e.g., counseling, close accountability, Internet watch programs, close supervision in church activities and certainly no access to minors (which means no activities, no transportation and no children’s church functions unless it involves their biological children). Create boundaries in the spirit of love and not in a spirit of retribution.  (Suggestion: Designate a reentry person and assign them to this member.)
  4. Be clear on these person’s probation boundaries/terms. If this individual was arrested for their crimes and convicted, they will have probation/parole guidelines to follow and will most assuredly be on Megan’s List.  They will have a public record of criminal convictions.  Obtain this record and be informed.  Discuss their attendance to your church with their parole officer to be sure it falls within allowable guidelines.  (It’s not a bad idea to receive written permission from the PO that this person can attend your church.)
  5. This person normally spent years learning how to “groom” and “grooming” victims in that it became a lifestyle of action and thought. Time to heal, time to rebuild foundations and time to learn another way of thinking and acting is crucial.  Be aware of the propensity of the offender to be a reoffender.
  6. Be assured of ongoing counseling and one-on-one accountability in this person’s life. Depending on the level of their crime, it is not too far-reaching to have their designate reentry person with them at all times when on your church property.
  7. A violation of these guidelines will result in immediate action taken to remove this person from the fellowship.
  8. Know your states laws when it comes to sex offenders. For example, in Iowa it is illegal for a convicted sex offender to be on any school premises or public libraries.

Clinical psychologist, Anna Salter, wrote a helpful book titled, Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists and Other Sex Offenders.  In that book she said, “Decades of research have demonstrated that people cannot reliably tell who is lying.  Many offenders report that religious people are even easier to fool than most people.”

Rachel Denhollander, the attorney who summoned her personal faith in her trial of her abuser, Larry Nassar said, “It defies the gospel of Christ when we do not call out abuse and enable abuse in our own church.”

Jesus set a man free from his bondage and then that same man begged Jesus to get into the boat with Him and His disciples. Our Lord’s response to him was, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you…” (Mark 5: 19). Jesus might have been creating a boundary for further healing for this man as he left his sin-filled life and reentered his community.

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