What's Holding You Captive?

In my personal devotion time, I’ve been working on a study about the mind and thoughts. It’s been quite educational and has helped me to see things in a way I never saw them before. I doubt I will share every lesson with you (though the Lord may lead me to do so at a later time), but this one was just too good not to pass on.

And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea. And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done. And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine. And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts.
— Mark 5:1-17

It’s a lengthy passage, I know, but you need to get a full view of the story to understand what’s going on here. Before I go any further, though, I want to share with you this humorous anecdote. When I was in college, one of my teachers was a preacher who was as full of humor as he was humility. One night, he preached a sermon in chapel on this passage in Mark. He titled the message, “The Nude Dude in Rude Mood.” I’ve never forgotten that, and his message title always comes to mind when I read through this passage.

Anyway, to get back on point, this poor man was possessed by many demons. The word “legion” implies thousands, so it’s safe to assume that’s how many demons were indwelling this individual. I cannot imagine the fear, torment, shame, and pain he faced daily. What a sad situation!

What’s even sadder is the way the townspeople dealt with him. Not knowing what else to do, they bound him with chains and left him alone in a graveyard. Creepy! But the man broke through the chains time after time, leaving him free to hurt himself and others.

After reading through this passage a few days ago, I wrote this in my journal: “I find it interesting that thousands of demons possessed the man. Talk about dividing the mind (which is the very definition of anxiety). No wonder he was anxious and depressed. Anxiety and depression do feel a bit like being demon possessed. The voices and feelings that pulse through our minds and bodies create havoc and captivity.  The maniac was enslaved more by what was happening within him than by what was happening without. Often the same is true for me. It’s my thoughts and attitudes that enslave me far more than my outward circumstances.”

Isn’t it amazing how God could use the story of a demoniac to help His child who tends to make mountains out of molehills? Think about it.  This man was shackled, but he quickly broke the chains. To my knowledge, there was no fencing or perimeter to keep him within the graveyard. Physically, he was free. But mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, he was a captive. Yes, he was imprisoned by what was dwelling within him.

I can relate. I blame my captivity on my health, financial struggles, or other outward circumstances, but the truth is, the thing that’s imprisoning me is my reaction toward these things. Circumstances are what they are, and often we can’t change that. We can, however, change how we deal with them and even how we view them. And in doing so, we break free from the chains of anxiety, depression, self-pity, and so much more.

What’s holding you captive today? Chances are it’s something within rather than your outward circumstances. Give it to God, and like the maniac, you can be free and in your right mind.

The Chiropractor of the Soul

I had forgotten how much I love being able to get regular chiropractic adjustments.  I used to see a chiropractor on a weekly basis, and she did wonders for my joint troubles, but after a while, the cost became too great, and I simply couldn't afford it anymore.  Fortunately, we recently found a local chiropractor that does adjustments for only $10, and he's a Christian as well.  Awesome!

My first visit was one week ago when the chiropractor discovered that my collar bone was dislocated.   I cannot describe to you the relief that I've felt this past week with that problem righted.  On Tuesday, he set my left shoulder--the one that has a horrible case of bursitis.  Oh yeah, that feels better.  To be honest, I'm amazed at how the chiropractor knows exactly where and how much pressure to apply to make the bones slip back into place.  Just a turn here and a gentle twist there.  This one is a little more out of whack, so a little more pressure is applied, then voila!

And the result of a good adjustment is equally confounding.  When the bones first slip into place, there is immediate relief.  But after a few minutes, the muscles and nerves that had been affected by the misalignment start to throb and pull.  Sometimes they can pull to the point that they undo the adjustment, but usually, after a little while, the muscles and nerves start to settle in to the "new alignment" and the body feels much, much better than it did before the adjustment.

As I drove home from the chiropractor this morning, I found myself wishing that someone could adjust my attitude as easily as the chiropractor could adjust my spine.  But then, I realized that Someone can, and the process is very similar to a spinal adjustment.  In order for the Lord to adjust my attitude, the right amount of pressure must be applied to all the right spots in order to get things back in line.  At first, there is immediate relief, but then the throb and aches set in, which can threaten to undo the attitude adjustment I've just received.  But if I'll relax and allow things to settle, I feel much, much better than I did before the adjustment.

The key to an effective spinal adjustment is to relax and trust that the chiropractor knows what he is doing.  The key to an effective attitude adjustment is exactly the same.  Give it over to God.  Take a deep breath.  Then surrender yourself to the tender care of the Chiropractor of the soul.

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. - Psalm 51:10

Roses or Rotten Eggs?

The rotten-egg smell confused me, but the dreaded click followed by--well, nothing--confirmed my fear.  Something was definitely wrong with my Xterra.  It didn't get it.  It started fine this morning as I went out to run a few errands.  Everything looked fine.  No warning lights.  No hesitations, coughs or moans (from the car, at least).  Suddenly, I noticed a smell.  "Yuck, something smells like rotten eggs," I said, figuring the smell was coming from something I was driving past.  But when the smell didn't diminish, I began to grow concerned.

When I arrived at my first stop, which wasn't too far from home, I looked around inside the vehicle to see if some food or trash had gotten left behind from Jason's recent work trip to Atlanta.  Not seeing anything, I exited the car and went inside the store to do my shopping.  After picking up the few items I needed, I went back to my car and opened the door.  The smell nearly knocked me over.  "What is that?" I complained as I turned the key in the ignition.  Click.  "Seriously?" I whined, turning the key again.  Click"Fabulous," I muttered as I pulled my phone out of my purse and called Jason.  The good news is that he answered immediately.  The bad news is that he couldn't get to me for another hour.  So, I did the only thing I could do.  I made the best of a bad situation.

For starters, I went into a different store in the shopping center and purchased a bag of chocolate-covered donuts and a Pepsi.  (Hey, in my defense, I had left the house without having breakfast, and with all the added stress of the morning, I had a doozy of a headache coming on.)  Anyway, I made my way back out to my car with my breakfast of champions and devoured nearly half the bag of donuts as I completed my daily Bible reading on my phone.  When I had finished that, I still had plenty of time before Jason arrived, so I tucked the remaining donuts away (before I ate those too) and visited the thrift store in the shopping center.  Several minutes later, I exited with a cute little sweater and a much-better attitude than I had had an hour earlier.

Why am I telling you all this?  Simply because sometimes life does not cooperate with our well-laid plans.  I had errands to run.  I had things to do.  I had made plans, and in just a few minutes, all my plans crumbled.  The result was an attitude of bitterness, anger and frustration.  It's only natural.  The problem is that it's the wrong nature.  It's the fleshly nature.  The spiritual nature should have a totally different reaction.  A spiritual reaction would have been to assess the situation and say, "Lord, I don't know why this is happening, but I trust that You have Your reasons and that they are for my good.  Help me to praise You anyway.  This is still the day that You have made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it."

I'm telling you about my rotten day (and equally rotten attitude) to remind you that there is a right and wrong way to respond when life seems to be pitching one lemon after another.  One looks at the problem.  The other looks at the problem-solver.  One focuses on the bad.  The other focuses on the good.  One evokes anger and frustration.  The other, gratitude and joy.  I urge you to choose the right response.  Even when things look bad, God is still good.  For example, I could have been on the side of the road instead of in a parking lot.  I could have been stranded without a cell signal or, worse yet, chocolate and Pepsi.  God was even good enough to allow me to be broken down in a shopping center with three of my favorite stores:  Family Dollar, Big Lots and a thrift store.  God took care of me, and in the end, all was well.

It turns out there was something seriously wrong with my battery, which was the cause of both the inability to start the car and the horrible smell.  Fortunately, it's still under warranty, so we should be able to get a new one without charge.  But even if it had been something more serious or costly, God would have still deserved praise.  The question is, would I have been willing to give it?

In the movie, Facing the Giants, the coach makes the statement, "Your attitude is like the aroma of your heart."  Well, I'm ashamed to tell you that my heart smelled nearly as bad as my car did this morning.  Don't make the same mistake I did.  I can't promise you that today will turn out the way you have planned.  I can't even assure you that it will be a good day.  What I can tell you, though, is that you have a choice in how you react to the day.  Will your heart smell like roses or rotten eggs?  It's completely up to you!