Homeless Demons

[Jesus said],“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’  And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order.  Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”  Luke 11:24-26

There are dozens of sermons in this passage.  Allow me to briefly focus on just one: the security & authority one has in Christ.

First of all, this passage must not be taken out of the context of the canon of Scripture.  One who has professed their faith in the risen Christ cannot be demon-possessed (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19-20; Eph. 1:13-14)  A believer is already “possessed” – by the Holy Spirit.  John MacArthur rightly comments on this passage:  “When a demon is defeated by the power of Christ, the soul vacated by the power of darkness is taken over by Christ.”

It should be noted that the principles taught by Jesus in this passage apply without restriction to a non-believer.  This truth is sobering. The torment of evil spirits can be manifested in chronic anger, bitterness, a critical spirit, unforgiveness, pride, sexual addiction, lying, disrespect for authority, fear, etc.  For the non-believer, to try and “will” these self-destructive habits away can, indeed, lead to momentary improvement.  But, according to Jesus, the relief is merely temporalChrist, the Bible tells us, is the only “cure” for sin.  (cf. Romans 8:1)  A demon is not afraid of “a house swept and put in order.”  A demon, on the other hand, is terrified of a “house” possessed by the risen Christ.  (cf. James 2:19)

For the believer, as previously stated, the Bible is clear:  we cannot be demon-possessed.  However, the enemy is no fool.  As Billy Graham purports, satan is a strategic genius.  As such, demonic oppression is quite common and can be manifested in the very self-destructive habits mentioned above.  New Testament scholar, Dr. David Garland, comments, “Demons…do whatever they can to neutralize” and twist biblical truth in a believer’s life.  The difference between a believer and a non-believer, when in this state, is profound.  For the believer, all that is required is a conscious re-focusing on the truth: God’s Word.  Jesus said, the truth sets us free.  Paul wrote, “For we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”  In sum, satan has no hold on believers.  He only wants to make us think he does.  The enemy’s best and most used weapon, after all, is deception.

If you’ve never placed your faith in the risen Christ, please consider His claims.  Honestly investigate the historicity of Jesus and the reliability of the Gospels. 1  Consider the evidence.  Make your own decisions based on the evidence.  Consider Him who loves you so much that He died a horrific death on a wooden cross, then, three days later, authenticated His claims about Himself by rising again.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”  The Apostle Paul  (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

1 Two very good, very readable books on the topic of evidence for the Christian faith were written by former atheists:  More Than a Carpenter, by Josh & Sean McDowell;  The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel.   A third book, a little harder to read, but a classic, is Mere Christianity  by C.S. Lewis, also a former atheist.

Dear Jordan, Merry Christmas, My Son…

Dear Jordan,

Merry Christmas, my son.

We worshipped Jesus this morning (just like you did). Kelsie sang a mini-concert. She sang about the King you now see with your own eyes. (The photo below was taken after church this morning.)

I don’t have a lot to say. I simply wanted you to know something: we’re making it.

In fact, we’re not merely “making it”; we’re learning again, through Christ, to “live”, to “dance”, to “sing”.

Believe it or not, I’ve completed my first semester pursuant of a Masters Degree in Apologetics. It’s hard! These professors are geniuses. But, I’ve learned so much.

Remember almost two years ago when you and I went to Texas Tech and listened to Dr. Mike Licona discuss evidence for the resurrection of Jesus? (Remember, how I got a parking ticket, and you didn’t? :)) Well, Dr. Licona is one of my professors next semester.

You and I used to sit and have so many conversations about C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Middle-Earth, Narnia, etc. You loved adventure. Your small group from church met in our basement. You called our basement “the Shire.” That said, you cannot know how many times, after learning yet another timeless truth and/or principle this past semester, I’ve whispered aloud, “Oh Jordan – I would so love to know your thoughts about this…”

You would love what I’m learning. But, this I know, son: what I’m learning is mere shadow compared to the greater reality you now experience. I can only imagine kingdoms. You live in one!

By the way, in my studies I’ve “met” so many other brilliant apologists you would absolutely love, many of whom, like Lewis, are now in heaven. Wait a minute – I just thought of something – they’re with YOU! Oh, my son, I’m merely reading and studying their works – you know them! Perfectly! (Selah – wow, I’ve gotta pause and think about that for a moment.))

Our church family (Christ’s Body) has been the personification of the Good Samaritan Jesus described in the familiar parable. When they’ve seen us “beaten & bleeding on the side of the road,” they’ve not once grown weary of lifting our broken, bruised bodies, tenderly caring for our needs, holding us close, and helping us remember what is true (God’s mighty Word.)

A dear friend of ours named Joyce Rowe is one of the many who check on us all the time. Her son died too when he was young. She told us just last week that research shows that, after the first year (which is absolutely maddening), emotional breakdowns tend to become more infrequent. (This has been true in our case.) However, that same research shows that, at the 18-month mark, emotional breakdowns tend to spike for a little while. (This has also been true in our case.) The good news is that one rebounds much more quickly than they used to. Thanksgiving marked 18 months since Jesus embraced you and carried you to Paradise – as well as 18 months since I found you that day, forever changing our lives.

However,…. (and this is huge, my love…)

Jesus is blurring that image in my mind. No, let me re-word that: Jesus is redeeming that image in my mind.

Our faith in Christ is strong, my son. We are more sensitive to the pain and hurt around us locally, nationally and globally. It would be difficult to convey to you how many hurting people God has allowed us to minister to this past year.

Satan tried to steal our story. But, far from losing our faith, Christ has infused it with power. We have a story to tell. Not a story of sadness, but of Hope. And that Hope has a name: Jesus Christ; Emmanuel: God With Us.

The Lord continues to open up opportunities for me to preach and teach about this Hope. Next month, I will speak to hundreds of teenagers from high schools all over the region about depression. And your mom ministers to hurting boys & girls (and their parents) every single day as a school teacher. It’s absolutely amazing what Jesus is doing through her!

Well, I better go, my love. I just wanted you to know that the darkness that enveloped our home no longer exists. Sure, there are “moments”. However, we’ve made a choice to believe that God is not only good, but that He is trustworthyeven in the face of unspeakable suffering.

If you see Job, tell him his faith (after having lost ten children of his own) has helped me so much: “The Lord gives; and the Lord takes away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (I talked about Job at your Memorial Service :))

Paul (who you’ve possibly met) wrote: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)

We profoundly believe this to be true.

The cross, and the empty tomb make it all possible.

We love you. So much.

Love, Dad (for Narnia!!) :))

watts fam - 2014

Separated No More: The Utmost “D-Day”

As I contemplate the heroic courage of the men who gave their lives 70 years ago today (June 6, 1944) on the beaches of Normandy, France – and where our world might be had it not been for their sacrifice (consider a Europe ruled by Hitler’s monstrous Third Reich into the late 40’s, 50’s & beyond) – my mind is drawn to a “greater D-Day.”

As God gave detailed instructions to Moses regarding the construction of the very first “temple” (The Tent of Meeting) while Moses met with God on Mt. Sinai to receive the Law, God said, “Hang the curtain (that will SEPARATE sinful man from God’s holiness) from the clasps and place the ark of the covenant law behind the curtain. The curtain will SEPARATE the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place…” (Exodus 36:33-34)

Fast forward some 14 centuries…..

Matthew, a disciple of Jesus, wrote, “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice [while dying on the cross], he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple [the one described to Moses that day] was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split…” (27:50-51)

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13)

Hallelujah, nw

Yesterday

No, the above title is not a reference to the Beatles’ classic. Tomorrow, May 13th, is the one-year mark of my son, Jordan’s, entrance into Paradise. But, I had been dreading yesterday (5/11), I think, more than tomorrow (5/13).

Mother’s Day ’13, unbeknownst to the me, Michelle, Kelsie & Macy would be the last day on planet earth we would have the indescribable privilege of talking to Jordan and seeing him alive. The following day (Monday) was the day I found him.

This morning, I walked to the spot in our driveway where I had collapsed. Where I had beat the concrete so hard with my fist that, to this day, I still have pain. And I thanked God for carrying us.

This entire past week, leading up to yesterday, was, without question, the worst week in the Watts home since Jordan’s passing. In all of my life, I’ve never exploded with as much rage, much less since my son died. The emotional eruption was so acute it terrified me.

My anger was at God.

But, like Job demanding an answer from God – in essence, wanting to put God on trial – God “answered [me] out of the whirlwind and said: ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you,….” (Job 38:1-2)

What ensued was ME being on trial – not God.

But here’s the plot-twist….

He was not there to accuse me. He was there to LOVE me. To hold me up. To protect me from satan, as well as from myself. To “guide me into all Truth.” And as He held me, I heard Him whisper the same thing He whispered to me a year ago: “I. Am. Here. I’ve got Jordan. I’ve got this. Trust Me. I AM JESUS CHRIST. Your Savior. Your Shepherd. Your Rock. Your Prince of Peace. Your Mighty God.”

Yesterday….was the most celebrative day I’ve personally had since May 13th, 2013. Jesus carried my family. And He still is. He has heard your prayers.

Yesterday….was Mother’s Day. Michelle told me she could feel the prayers of the people of God. My heart leaped for joy!

Yesterday afternoon….I received a text from a former student of mine, Joshua Hnatek (last name pronouced “NAH-tek”). He’s a giant of young man. A big teddy bear. Jordan was one of his best friends. Joshua texted me to ask if he could drop by. A few minutes later Joshua showed up at our front door with a dozen roses. He came in, stood in front of Michelle, and said something I’ll never in my life forget: “I have a good friend (Jordan) who wanted to be here today, but couldn’t, so I am here on his behalf.” The first photo is of Joshua & Michelle.

Then, a few minutes later, I received another text. Kevin Hodges is another dear friend of ours we met about 4 years ago. (Kevin & Joshua do not know each other.) Kevin also asked if he could drop by. He “had something for Michelle.” A few minutes later….you guessed it – Kevin shows up at our door with flowers for Jordan’s mom. By this time I was an emotional mess. We all were. We were on holy ground. With Jacob, I thought to myself, “Surely, the presence of the Lord is in this place.” (Genesis 28:16)

Dear Jesus, I am so sorry for my rage toward you. But I’m so grateful you allow me to unleash on You – you give me permission to do so. You told me, ‘Bring your rage to Me. I can handle it. And I can transform it.’ You said, ‘Cast ALL your cares upon Me, for I care for you.’ (1 Peter 5:7) I love you, Jesus. I love you so much. Thank You for carrying us.

I’m so tired of crying. “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.” (Psalm 6:6) But, O God, “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Psalm 56:8)

Most of all, Jesus, thank you that, as opposed to a year ago when Jordan was so sick, today he is more ALIVE, FREE, & JOYFUL than I’ve ever been.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

Michelle & Joshua Hnatek
Michelle & Kevin Hodges

Where Was Jesus When My Son Took His Life?

Preparing our church choir Sunday morning (4/13) to sing the classic, “The Day He Wore My Crown,” I read to them a quote from one of my favorite books: John MacArthur’s “God With Us.”

One of the best, most succinct theological descriptions of Jesus’ death I’ve read, I’ve cited it dozens of times throughout my years of Student Ministry, and subsequent Adult Ministry, when teaching on the death of Jesus.

But this time would be different. Miraculously different.

As I was reading the quote to our Choir, I stopped in mid-sentence and tears filled me eyes. My mind was racing. My heart rate increased. I was on holy ground.

Psychologists call suicide-related grief “complicated grief” because of the mountain of questions for which we’ll never have answers, longing to have been there to save him, the guilt, the rage, knowing that your baby (he was 19) was suffering – to the point of death – and you weren’t there. For the first 8 months after Jordan’s death, my mind worked non-stop to try and “undo” that day. I almost went insane. More than once, early on, Michelle (my wife) & I screamed at God, “Where were you that day!!”

Back to this morning, and the quote I read to our Choir. Here it is:

“Think for a moment about how Jesus died. It was not an easy, gentle passing from this world. It was excruciating agony and torture of the worst kind, for it was on a cross. He SUFFERED in His death. He drank the bitter cup at Calvary in its fullness – He drained it to the last drop. He experienced all the PAIN, all the LONELINESS, all the TORMENTS that have ever been associated with death. All of this is behind the statement, “Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) The death Christ tasted was the penalty for our sin. He received the full force of all that the devil could throw at Him. But, more than that (far more), He received the full expression of God’s wrath over sin.” John MacArthur, “God With Us”

This morning, as I was reading this to our Choir, when I came to the words that I capitalized – “suffering, pain, loneliness, torment” – it occurred to me those were the exact same feelings that Jordan felt moments before taking his life. Almost simultaneously, it occurred to me that I had my answer to my question: “Where were You!” Jesus said, “I was there, with Jordan. Holding Jordan. IN his suffering, IN his pain, IN his loneliness, and IN his torment. And, because I absorbed ALL of that mess on the cross twenty centuries ago, Jordan is free now. With Me. In Paradise.”

What a morning. All I could think was, “Hallelujah.” As we prayed before filing into the Worship Center, I said, “God, thank You for revealing this to me! Thank You….thank You….”

And, by the way, it wasn’t until I got home after church that I realized the date. It was April 13th – 11 months to the day since Jordan walked into Paradise.

Soli Deo Gloria, nw

Psalm 23 – “Bible Learning Series” Notes

Friends,

Below are the “series notes” to my series on Psalm 23. All that’s missing are additional comments I included while teaching. However, the “nuts & bolts” are here for your study.

Paul wrote, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,…” (Colossians 3:16)

May the verse-by-verse study of this simple, yet profound, passage of Scripture (1) provide the reader with a richer understanding of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, and (2) give the reader a “hunger & thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6) to “mine the treasure” of more of God’s Word.

NOTE: Because of time constraints I was forced to combine the teaching series into three sessions, teaching 2 verses at a time. However, in hindsight, considering the wealth of truth within each single verse, a six-week series (one verse per session) would’ve been more conducive to allowing the scripture to “soak in.” (I don’t know about you – but my limited mind can only take in so much at a time.)) That said, the notes divided into verse-by-verse sessions. Should you desire to read, or print, any of the notes simply click on the link. You’ll be taken directly to the PDF file. nw

Psalm 23 – Intro & Verse 1
Psalm 23 – Verse 2
Psalm 23 – Verse 3
Psalm 23 – Verse 4
Psalm 23 – Verse 5
Psalm 23 – Verse 6