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January 15
Each of these three gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) record the instructions that Jesus gave regarding the casting out of demons: Matthew 12:24-37, Luke 11:14-26, and Mark 3:22-30. All recount the same incident; Mark’s account is the most brief. I will let you read them yourself; however, in summary, Jesus was in the synagogue; he was about His normal business just as we should be. As He went, He healed a man with a withered hand; and then, moved along until He was confronted by a blind man who was also dumb and possessed by a demon. Scripture says that Jesus healed the man and cast a dumb spirit out of him. Jesus, not making a scene, moved along until He was confronted by the attitudes and accusations of the elders. Only then, did Jesus discuss what had been done.

It is important to note that in none of the three gospels do we see that Jesus railed at the demon. He seems to have simply spoken out of the authority that He had been given by the Father through the Holy Spirit to accomplish this task. In each of the three gospels we also see that Jesus gave this same authority and power to us, His disciples. We have discussed this earlier in our study; but in the way of reminder today let us remember that the Holy Spirt is the power of God expressed in and through our lives. We have our being within Christ, within God; therefore, it is by virtue of His presence within us that we are able to manifest the same power to cast out demons and raise the dead.

In Luke 11:20-26 Jesus says, “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe.” Jesus is speaking of Satan here. When Satan, a strong man, has settled in to control a life, he is armed and ready to maintain his control.

“but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil.” Now, Jesus is clearly declaring that the power of God within Him is stronger than that of Satan. Remember, God has already thrown Satan out of heaven; Satan and all his minions recognize the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit who accomplished this task so long ago. So, now, as a human being operating from within the Father’s Life and power, Jesus is able to command Satan and deliver any captives that he holds without difficulty. We can do the same because the Holy Spirit lives within us and we are hidden in the Life of Christ.

Jesus really doesn’t spend a lot of time on how to cast out a demon other than to say: bind it, and cast it out. But He does spend a bit of time in this passage teaching us what our responsibility is to the one who has been delivered from the dominion of Satan, “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places (dry places).” The scapegoat bearing the sins of the people on the Day of Atonement was released into the dryness of the desert. Jesus continues that the demon that is “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.” In other words, the house or life that has been delivered from sin and demonic control must be filled with the love and the Word of God that the old nature under demonic control might not return in greater measure. To be continued......

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January 14
The interesting thing about the four gospels is that the gospel of John uses the word Satan, devil and demon only one time. John notes the instant that Satan entered into Judas just before the betrayal of Jesus; otherwise, the entire gospel of John is written to identify for us who Jesus is and to cause us to see His majesty, power and glory. The gospel is written to draw us to the Life and safety of Jesus, the all powerful but merciful Lord and Savior. The gospel of John draws us to the boundless, unconditional love of God and teaches us (among many other things) how to dwell in that protected position in Christ. The other three gospels give us a limited but good picture of how Jesus dealt with Satan on a personal basis. As we have seen over the past several days, this is our example. It is how we, as Christians are to deal with Satan. We are to speak the Word of God that applies to the situation and command him (Satan) to depart. But what about casting out demons?

It is the spectacular that draws the flesh of man; and in our minds - the sense and reason - when Jesus cast out a demon, this was a spectacular event. Clearly, in the minds of the people who were there, these were spectacular events. But when we consider Jesus and His reactions, we see something quite different. As we look at this, we have to remember that Jesus was walking on the earth as a man who knew He had been sent by God to accomplish the Father’s will. He was in the same position that we are today. We are men (disciples of Christ) who have been sent by God to live in this world just as Jesus did

Between the other three gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) there are only about twenty references to Satan, the devil or demons. Many of these references are about the same incidents, and deviate according to the author’s eye witness or recounting. So, we will have to see that the focus of the gospels is on Jesus and not the defeated - Satan. Jesus should be the focus of our life. Fighting with the devil should not be our focus; it was clearly not the focus of Jesus. He addressed the devil as he manifested himself and cast him out of the individuals who were bound by him. We are to do the same. We have seen that being able to cast out demons is one of the signs that accompany those who are children of God. It is expected behavior; it should not be spectacular. Continuing.....

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January 13
Of course, because we are still in the transformation process, we are occasionally drawn out of our protective position in Christ; we are enticed by the works of the flesh and find ourselves vulnerable to a full blown attack by Satan. After the death of Abel, we find God explaining this very principle to Cain. In Genesis 4:7 He says, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” In other words, if we are obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, we remain hidden in the protective realm of the Father’s presence. We are in that wonderful Psalm 91 position that we talked about yesterday. If we choose, however, to “do our own thing,” we walk out from beneath that perfect protective cover. We make ourselves vulnerable to Satan’s wiles through sense and reason that is led by the lust of the eyes and flesh and the pride of life. Now, we are operating back in Satan’s realm; and we had better be ready for spiritual war.

Sadly that is where many Christians spend most of their time. They picture themselves dressed for battle and pummeling Satan all day. The problem with that is that at the end of the day, the problems that they face are still the same and they have done nothing to advance the kingdom of God in the world or in them selves. Think about it.

So, let’s take a look at the spiritual armor that we find in Ephesians 6:10-18. The apostle Paul gives Christians this instruction, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” Notice where Paul tells us to take our stand - in the Lord, in His might. We are not to attempt to battle Satan on our own. Paul continues, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Paul then reminds us that the difficulties in our life are not caused by other people, but Satan is at the root of the destruction in our life. Then Paul tells us exactly what to do. “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” In other words, be armored in God. Take your stand in Him and this is how.

“Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth,” Remember, Jesus told us in John 17:17 that truth is the Word of God; so, the first thing that Paul tells us to do is wrap the truth of the Word of God about ourselves. Then, Paul says, “and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,” Well, the breastplate of righteousness is received from the Lord when we are saved. Paul is telling us to walk in the protection of our Salvation and that is found hidden in Christ in God.

Next Paul tells us, “as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” Paul is telling us that we will need shoes for the battle and those shoes are the gospel of peace which is the Word of God. So, to fight Satan we must be reading the Word of God daily and walking in right standing with God (in His presence) and we are to walk in the peace of the Word - no anger, no vengeance and no grudges.

Then Paul says, “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;” The belief or faith that God’s Word is absolutely true is the shield by which we are able to stop the darts (the enticement) of Satan. By faith in that Word we are able to simply say to Satan as Jesus did, “It is written.” Now notice Paul’s wind up. He says, “take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,”

Wow! That’s a little repetitious isn’t it? Hasn’t he been talking about being hidden in our salvation and having the Word of God ready to speak to Satan? Yes, he has. Well, Paul clearly said this three different ways. This is called putting emphasis on the point you are making. And while we are talking about this passage, we have to remember who Paul was writing to. He was specifically writing to the Ephesians, the worshipers of Diana the mother of Perseus. In Greek mythology Perseus had a helmet that made him invisible to his enemies. So, a fourth time Paul says to them and to us the exact same thing - just in case you did not get it the first three times. Stay hidden in Christ under the helmet of your salvation. Speak the Word of God as you would use a sword to put Satan to flight when he comes to you with words to entice you from your hiding place. Finally Paul says, “ praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” From our hidden position in Christ we are to use our prayer language and pray the perfect prayer in the Spirit that we might have the mind and wisdom of Christ to know how to deal with the problems that we are facing without moving from our protected position in Christ. We want to find the will and the way of the Lord and not the world.

In 1 Peter 5:8 we are reminded, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” He is only “like” a lion. Jesus has disarmed him. He is unable to cause us any harm (he cannot find us) if we remain hidden in Christ in God. Jesus has already defeated him; and the “greater One,” the victor, lives within us as we are in Him.

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January 12
Although we are not of this world; we do still live in this world and have certain basic needs that must be met each day. The Father knows that and has met all those needs in Christ Jesus. Of course, we are still in the transformation process; we have not yet achieved the upward call of perfection in Christ Jesus. That means that we are still in the learning process. We are still learning how to access the Father’s store house of blessings and how to respond to the harassment of Satan.

Remember, we are hidden in the life of Christ; and the only way Satan can affect our life is if he can draw us out of that protective position through doubt and unbelief. Psalms 91 is a most beautiful picture of our secure position in Jesus Christ. Verse 10 is a summary of the 9 previous verses, “no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.”
Satan is the “tempter”; however, and the word “tempt”means to entice or attempt to entice (someone) to do or acquire something that they find attractive but know to be wrong or not beneficial. It means to allure, persuade, and convince. That, in deed, is what Satan does each day. He attempts to convince us that the Word of God is not absolute. He tries to draw us from the protection of the Life of Christ by whispering into our minds thoughts that are contrary to the Word of God or by stirring up a well meaning friend, advisor or physician to speak words of doubt and unbelief over us.

In the fourth chapter of Matthew, Jesus demonstrated how we are to respond to the daily harassment of Satan. Following the Lord’s forty day fast, Satan tempted Jesus with the same three temptations that we looked at yesterday: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life. With each temptation, Jesus simply responded to Satan, “It is written;” and then, with full understanding, He quoted a passage from the Word of God. Following the third and final temptation, “Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” The result? “Then the devil left him”

It is clear that Satan did not leave Jesus alone after that one encounter, but it is also clear that Jesus handled him the same way each time he did appeared. In Matthew 16:23 Jesus had just been speaking to His disciples about His impending death. Peter did not like what he had heard and began to contradict Jesus offering worldly solutions to the situation. Peter was trying to change Jesus’ mind. Hearing the doubt and unbelief that Peter spoke, Jesus “turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Peter was employing sense and reason to solve the problem; he had doubted the absolute truth of the Word of God; and in so doing, he had missed the whole purpose of God. In directly, Peter was being used by Satan to try to entice Jesus from His obedience to the direction of the Holy Spirit.

This is our example for functioning victoriously hidden in Christ while living in Satan’s realm. 1) We must know the Word of God and be able to recognize words and thoughts that are contrary to that Word 2) Our primary focus must be on doing the will of the Father and not on the desires of the flesh. Romans 8:7-8 explains, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” 3) We must speak with the authority that we have in Christ and command Satan to be gone. It is also important to notice that Jesus did not continue to entertain the thoughts that were contrary to the Word of God; but He continued to do and say only what the Father told Him by the Spirit and through the written Word. Continuing.....

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January 11
Yesterday, we looked at the ideal; we saw what the Father intends for us to do as His children when it becomes necessary for us to deal with Satan and his minions while ministering to others. But what about our own life? While the earth is the Lord’s, the domain that the Father God placed in Adam’s hands was made forfeit at the “fall.” Satan is now in control of the misery that encompasses the people of the earth. Although he has been defeated by the work of Jesus on the cross, Satan is still free to roam about attempting to kill, steal and destroy; and because we do still live in this world, we need to pay attention to the Father’s provision for us to live here without being constantly harassed and without our productivity being limited by the subtlety of Satan.

Satan’s techniques have never changed. His original approach to Adam female in the garden of Eden was first to whisper words of doubt and unbelief into her ear. In Genesis 3:4-5 “the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Satan inserted a thought into Adam female’s mind that was contrary to the word of God. The Father God had said that if you eat of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil you “will surely die.” Satan inserted just enough doubt to cause her to question the truth of God’s Word. That was really all it took to then, allow her to focus on the possibility that perhaps the fruit was good to eat, and maybe the leaves could be used for decoration or the wood for a table. Yes, she was already thinking of the little house they would build. And after talking to Adam about the endless possibilities, he too no doubt had considered the possibilities of sharing an easy chair right there next to God. After all, hadn’t he named all the animals.

In first John, the Holy Spirit points out to us that Satan has not changed in the way he operates. First he causes us to doubt the Word of God; and then, he entices us to focus our attention on the flesh. In 1 John 2:14-17
John says, “I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” Notice that these Christians have beaten Satan at his own game because they know the Word of God and have been made strong in it. Then John admonishes them, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. “ John cautions us not to love the things of the world because then, Satan cannot trip us up with them. Remember Adam Female? She saw that the fruit was good to eat; it would satisfy the lust of the flesh. She saw that the fruit was beautiful; it would satisfy the lust of the eye. She saw that the fruit could make her wise; it would fulfill the need to increase self importance or the pride of life. Notice that in the 1 John passage, the Holy Spirit makes it clear that the love of these fleshly things cannot abide within us along with the love of God. The two are not compatible. Let’s take the night to think about that and we’ll continue tomorrow.

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January 10
So, the picture that we should have of our self is one of living and moving within the life of Jesus within the life of the Father God himself. Acts 17:28 reminds us that “ In Him we live and move and have our being’; “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’”

That is how Jesus walked as a man in this world. His life was hidden within the protective care and provision of God. He remained in that position as long as He did the Father’s will and spoke the Father’s Word. Yesterday, we saw again that Jesus did and said only what He was directed to do and say by the Holy Spirit. He lived His life to accomplish the will of God on this earth; and He therefore, walked in the authority of the Father and was so empowered by the Spirit to successfully complete the tasks that were set before Him. We are to do the same.

Jesus clearly walked in an authority that exerted power over the unseen and over that which was normally considered to be impossible. In Luke 20:1-2 the question of authority was approached by the temple elders “One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” The authority in which Jesus walked was given Him by the Father God. The authority in which we walk as children of God was given to us by Jesus. It is the same authority that Jesus walked in. In Luke 10:19 Jesus imparted that same authority to His disciples (to us) saying, “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.” In subsequent verses it is interesting to note that those 70+ disciples were ministering to other people, bringing deliverance to their lives, casting out demons and healing the sick as they went their way doing the bidding of Jesus. Their lives were hidden in Him and protected; in that position they were free to minister to others unhindered. They brought glory to the name of Jesus because they were known to be His disciples. They were known to have been taught by Him.

In John 7:18 the Holy Spirit points to the importance of the mind set of the disciples. Both Jesus and the disciples ministered out of a selfless position. Their desire was to do the will of the Father and to bring glory to His name. “The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.” The purity of the intents of God cannot be matched by any man. To bring liberty to another human being releasing him from the bonds of Satan would be poorly served if, in fact, that act only placed that individual in obligation to the one who brought deliverance. To bring deliverance in the name of the one who sent you, however, brings glory and honor only to that person. Hidden in Christ, doing His bidding, we bring glory and honor to the Father and He is glorified. To be continued........

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January 9
In Matthew 7:15-27, Jesus puts the whole process of dealing with Satan to bind his activity and to cast his presence from our life or the life of another in perspective. He begins by explaining that the test for recognizing a fellow Christian (a genuine believer in Christ) is their fruit. Matthew 7:15-20 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

While casting out demons may be an impressive scene that will long be remembered by the observer and Jesus said that casting out demons was a sign or ability that would follow believers (Mark 16:17), in Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus is telling us that the deciding identification of a believer is the presence of the fruit of the Holy Spirit which is Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Jesus went on in Matthew 7:21-27 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

In other words, every aspect of our life in Christ is designed by the Father to bring glory and honor to Him - not to our selves. It is all about Jesus, that all men may be drawn to Him and have the opportunity to participate in the great Salvation that He has so graciously given to us through His life’s blood. So, the most important aspect of our relationship with Him is our obedience to His direction to accomplish His will in our life and in the lives of those who live around us. The obedience of faith that we demonstrate as we absolutely trust and act upon His word is the characteristic that we must cultivate first. Notice in John 5:19 Jesus sets the example for us, “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” And again in John 8:28 “So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.”

Then, in John 15:5, Jesus brings it home for us. He has been talking about the absolute necessity of His life being within us and us learning to allow His life to flow through us. He says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” So, the identifying fruit that we must bear comes from the manifestation of His life within us and flowing through us. As we learn to yield ourselves in faith and obedience to the direction of the Holy Spirit, we will speak His Word and do His will in the earth. Among many things, we will bind Satan and cast the “strong man” out; and Jesus will be glorified.

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January 8
After experiencing the presence and glory of God, Isaiah’s writing changes dramatically; within the next fifty (+) chapters Isaiah paints some of the most vividly stirring word pictures of Jesus, lamb of God and kinsman redeemer that are found in any other book of the Bible. Paul has a similar experience after his Damascus Road experience; He is the “man who was taken up into the second heaven where his revelation of the Lord continued to enlarge. Intimate relationship with God, being immersed in His Life and awesome glory always enlightens the mind. And who among us could not use greater understanding and more wisdom and knowledge about the problems of the world and the individual problems of our own life? According to Psalm 32:8 the Lord awaits the opportunity to teach us and enrich our lives with the glory of His own, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”

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January 7
The prophet Isaiah had a similar experience with the Lord as Paul did on the road to Damascus. Isaiah records in chapter 6 that he saw the Lord “high and lifted up” with His glory filling the temple. Isaiah is so filled with awe and fear that he is rendered speechless for a moment; but when he does speak, he is concerned about the response of God to what Isaiah has just discovered. Isaiah has seen himself in light of who God is and Isaiah’s righteousness is as filthy rags compared to the glory and purity of God. In light of God’s glorious presence, Isaiah cries, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5) It is clear that Isaiah expects the dross of his life to be consumed by the glory of God; and in the process, he might die! His first choice appears: Does he allow the Lord to begin the transformation process or does he retreat and break relationship?

We have the same choice today. In Romans 5:6-8 the Holy Spirit reminds us that, “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In other words, we don’t have to clean up and get our lives straight before we get saved. God loves us right where we are. It is only after we come to Him and He is able to reveal Himself to us patiently through His Word and through the Holy Spirit, that He expects us to begin the transformation process. Transformation is a life long process that we must desire; it is a process that continues from glory to glory until we are as He is in every respect.

The beginning of transformation only starts for most people as they come to understand who they are in light of who He is. When they behold His glory, then, they are able to see that they must change if they are to increase their relationship with Him; for He is a holy God. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit does not reveal our whole sinful nature to us all at once; but rather, little by little the Lord convicts us of our sinful nature and leads us into repentance and permanent change. The word sanctification means to be gradually changed by Truth. The Lord is Truth (His Word is Truth) and it is impossible to live daily in His presence without being changed. As we see in the lives of Isaiah and Saul, the experience of His presence initiated a change that gradually prepared them for greater and greater service. They were being changed as they served.

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January 6
For the past several days we have been considering the glory of the Lord from the aspect of Its great power and holy nature; and we have found that nothing unclean or of the “self” can stand in the presence of God’s glory. The very nature of His glory demands change! The Father, however, is not without mercy. He has sent His Son (His Word) and His Holy Spirit to teach us. He has clouded His glory, in part, that we be enlightened and not destroyed. The conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus is a wonderful example for us to consider. Acts 9:3-9 says, “Now as he (Saul) went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened spiritually, he actually saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.”

There are so many things that we can see from the above passage, but we will begin with the bright light (the glory of the Lord) that briefly “shone around him” and completely stopped his progress down the road to Damascus. It was an event that brought his life to a screeching halt. We might say that he was put on the side lines in the middle of the game. He was faced with his own human frailty and a flood of real life questions. Remember he was rendered blind by the experience but “his eyes were opened.”

Paul was walking - no running vengefully - outside of the will of God. In the realm of sense and reason, he appeared to be doing the will of God to the Jewish community; but then, Isaiah 55:8-9 explains, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” The Lord saw that the intent of Saul’s heart was to please God, but his thoughts and words and actions did not express the will of God. He was persecuting and killing the children of God who were found entwined in the Life of Jesus. Jesus was in them; they were in Jesus; Jesus was in God. Hence, “Why are you persecuting me?”

The man Saul, as religious as he was, could not have stood in the glory of the presence of God and live; but in that brief flash of God’s glorious Presence, in that limited measure of His glory, the Lord brought Saul to the end of himself and his own efforts. The Lord was able to open the eyes of Saul’s understanding and reveal Himself to Saul in such a way that He understood without a doubt that through Jesus Christ, God was again dwelling, not in the middle of the camp, but actually within His people as the prophet Jeremiah had foretold. The experience changed the man because it changed his thinking and his understanding of God. ............

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January 5
Today, we say that as Christians we are living in the Presence of God; and in deed, we should be doing just that - 24/7. Both our behavior and our conversations should reflect that we are living in His Presence. They should be clean and holy because He is Holy and cannot look on sin.

In light of the unchanging nature of God, I would wonder, however, if our conversations would pass the purity test without the blood covering of Jesus Christ. Probably not. The words of our mouth are definitely an area in which we need great transformation before we will be as He is. Jesus, himself reminded us that what we say is a reflection of what we think upon every day. In Luke 6:45 Jesus said, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart (mind) produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart(mind) his mouth speaks.”

Not only does the mouth speak as a result of our thoughts, but our daily actions spring from those very same thoughts. For this reason, Moses warned the people of Israel to guard their behavior after entering into the promised land. Many times since they had left Egypt, they had experienced the glory of the Lord as a “consuming fire” which had disciplined sinful behavior. In Deuteronomy 4:24, Moses is attempting to remind them that the fear of the Lord is more than awe. “Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the LORD your God has forbidden you. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. “When you father children and children’s children, and have grown old in the land, if you act corruptly by making a carved image in the form of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, so as to provoke him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed.”

The disciples of Jesus were very familiar with the history of Israel and the glory of the Lord. They knew the Father God as a consuming fire, who could not live in the presence of abject sin; so when the Samaritans refused to receive Jesus (the Son of God) in their village just before His crucifixion, the disciples were ready to respond with force. Luke 9:51-54 records this, “When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”

Surprise? Not really. The disciples’ conversation reflects how they knew God. The Psalmist knew Him just as James and John when he said in Psalm 94:1-2, “O LORD, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth! Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve!” In other words, be a consuming fire! They are calling for judgment of the behavior of the people. In Ezekiel 22:29-31 the Holy Spirit says, “The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice. And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none. Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord GOD.” Hmmmm..... All had sinned; God found no one to be not guilty. They were all fit to be consumed by His fiery Presence. Ouch!

So, there is a very serious aspect about living in the Glory and Presence of the Lord which we seldom consider this day in time. Beneath the blood of Jesus and relying on our claim to transformation, we tend to approach the Father very casually and without the reverence and honor that He is due. In the name of Jesus, we find protection from the instant judgment of His just and fiery Presence; and we must be eternally grateful once again for the precious blood of Jesus that washed away our sins and daily makes possible our bold entry into the Father’s Presence. Selah

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January 4
We have often talked about the Father God’s intent to have a family. We see His desire for fellowship with His children through out the Scripture. Adam (male and female) enjoyed that fellowship in the Garden of Eden. They were originally without sin and were able to walk in the presence and glory of God unafraid. However, when they chose to partake of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, when they chose to participate in evil - experience evil, they could no longer live in the presence of God. Habakkuk 1:13 tells us that God cannot look on sin; so the family of God could only enter into His presence for fellowship after offering a blood sacrifice to cover their sin.

After the children of Israel were delivered from bondage in Egypt, the Lord dwelt among them again, but only under some very specific conditions. Blood sacrifices had to be offered twice daily to generally cover the sins of the people; and the head of each household also offered sacrifice for sins specific to his family and life. The people and priests knew when these sacrifices were acceptable to the Lord because it was the light and power of the Lord that came down from above to consume the offering. Leviticus 9:23-24 says, “And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the LORD (the bright light of His presence) appeared to all the people. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.”

And so, the Lord dwelt in the center of the camp. His presence was the bright light that lit the camp at night and the protective clouds which covered the people from His bright power were also their shade by day. But when the sin nature of the people collectively increased before the Lord, they experienced the Lord’s swift judgment. Numbers 11:1 gives us a clear picture of the purity that the Lord demands in His children. “And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.” At this point, it should be clear to us that the fear of the Lord was more than awe; the people ordered their life so that they would not experience a negative reaction from God. Necessity for holiness even in conversation was paramount if they were to live in the Presence and glory of the Lord daily. I can’t help but wonder if we truly understand this aspect of His glory today. We are either walking in His protective glory or we are not. James 1:7 reminds us that we “must not suppose that a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways, will receive anything from the Lord.” To Be Continued ........

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January 3
The word “shine” is common to both Psalm 80 and Numbers 6; so we will begin with a look at the definition of that Hebrew word. There are actually two different Hebrew words used in Psalm 80 which are translated “shine”. The first time the word shine is used in Psalm 80, the Hebrew word yapa is used. It means to “show your self” or “to be light”. In other words the psalmist is calling on God to reveal Himself to His children that He may be found by them. The second Hebrew word for shine is or. It is very similar in meaning; however, it implies the result of the revelation of God to His children. Or means glory, to enlighten, to set on fire. In both the Old and the New Testament we do see the Lord revealing Himself to mankind as blinding light, consuming fire, and illuminating thought.

Psalm 97 gives us a description of God that is so bright that His image is veiled in a protective layer of dark clouds; but even with the veiling of the brilliant light of His image, the power and might of that light is so great that the mountains melt like wax. That is a picture of the Father God that we rarely consider, but it is vital for us to try to understand the vastness of the power that this picture presents. Our own sun, although fueled by approximately 4.3 million tonnes of mass/ energy from continuous fusion reactions does not melt the mountains of earth like wax. God is greater in power than the sun or any other known source of power. He is infinite in power and that means He is able to handle with might and finality any problem that we may commit into His handling.

Think about it. After speaking the stars and planets into being, the Father arranged them in all their glowing power. He set them in their place in their galaxies with His fingers. (Psalm 8:3) And now He maintains them in that position simply by the power of His spoken word. (Hebrews 1:3) He is truly God; no other is like Him and His power is limitless. He is more than able to bring deliverance to His children; so let us stand in awe fearfully offering praise and thanksgiving as He moves in might among us to bring glory to His name. So, in 2018 let us begin by making sure that the light by which we walk is His light and not our own.
To be continued............

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January 2
In the new year of 2018, we wish the following blessing upon you and your household and begin a new series which will find its origin in Psalm 80:1-3. The psalmist Asaph writes, “ Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth. ..... stir up your might and come to save us! Turn us again, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!” Four times within this 19 verse Psalm, Asaph calls on God to allow His face, His life, His presence, His glory to shine forth that deliverance might be manifest in the lives of His children. A common blessing that is spoken over congregations on a Sunday morning confirms Asaph’s plea. In Numbers 6:24-26 at the direction of the Lord himself, Moses gave this blessing to be spoken over the people by Aaron, “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” In both scripture, the Holy Spirit is definitely putting forth the absolute truth that in the Life and Presence of God there is deliverance, blessing and peace. He is the everlasting, all powerful God in the light of whose presence our lives are changed. Continuing tomorrow.............

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January 1
We hope you had a wonderful and blessed time with family, friends and pets in the past several days. I am sure there was merriment, and food aplenty - enough to provide stories and chuckles for years to come. I am sure there were moments of reverie as you remembered a loved one who has past on to glory and missed their presence in the mix of family personalities. You surely had time to look upon the young ones gathered at your table and looked into their eyes filled with hope for the future and found hope for a new beginning in your own. And, hopefully, you found a moment of peaceful quiet that you could spend before the Lord to whisper a joyous thank you for giving us the priceless gift of His son.

Now, that all the hub bub is behind us, and we are filled with the memories of yesterday, it is time for us to do as Mary did, “But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) We keep the memories of past events by thinking on them - enjoying them again and again. The joy of an occasion, the warmth of a smile, the sound of a voice are remembered when we think about them. That is how we are able to remember the wonder of the love of God. We think about the occasion when we first met Him, we think about past miracles that He has performed on our behalf, we think about the peacefulness of His presence and the joy that we have felt in His worship. We must ponder these things in our heart (mind) and rejoice for the King of Glory has come in and we are blessed.

As you think on these things, our prayer for each of you in 2018 is that all the blessings of Abraham become yours this year as you are further transformed into the image of Christ and learn to walk in the obedience of faith.

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December 30
Yesterday, we considered the evangelistic power of the Christmas carol; but to night I want us to look at the power of the nostalgic feelings that are aroused in us by Christmas carols. I am reminded of a story which has its roots in World War I. It is said that on Christmas eve in 1914, in spite of official orders, a hush fell over the battle field and all hostilities ceased. Clearly, the hearts and minds of the men were drawn to images of home and Christmas’ past. They no doubt longed for the manifestation of the peace and safe warmth of the Savior’s promises. Out of the silence that enveloped their reverie and the snow wrapped landscape, soldiers from both sides began to sing, first “Silent Night;” and then, a series of other Christmas carols. When the sun rose in the morning, it is reported that the men rose from their foxholes, crossed no man’s land and cheerily wished each other Merry Christmas.

We are no different from those war weary soldiers a hundred years ago. We yearn for peace; and with up raised arms, we reach for Love. The human heart yearns for a return to the goodness and love of the Father God. It desires peace of mind and rest from the daily turmoil. And as we sing praise and worship the Lord, we find that the Life and presence of Jesus is the only place in which we will ever be able to find the peace and acceptance that we so earnestly desire. It is only in Him and in His will that we will be able to lay aside our individual purposes and desires to find peace with one another in the new year. Seleh

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December 29
Hope you have all had wonderful days with family and friends. We are so blessed with plenty and peace in this nation because we, as Christians have continued to honor and glorify the Father God and our Lord, Jesus Christ. It is only by His hand that we prosper and not by the futile efforts of our own. Seleh

For several weeks before Christmas we considered the age old traditions that surround our celebration of Christmas. Today we want to take a quick look back at one of our favorite Christmas carols. So often people are heard saying, “Oh, I love Christmas carols!” And yet, today Christmas carols are just as often relegated to a single church service during the whole Christmas season. Gone are the caroling parties of the 18th and 19th century that filled silent neighborhoods with song and caroler with the joy of bringing the “good news” of Christmas to an unsaved world. Yes, Christmas caroling was a form of evangelism; it was the announcement of the birth of Jesus Christ and the message of salvation that His life brought to a troubled and dying world.

This year you probably didn’t hear a single group of carolers. So, what has happened to this old form of out-reach? Well, the world is more troubled than ever, the unsaved still fill our neighborhoods and the message of the Gospel still may be heard through the beautiful carols of old. Perhaps we, today, have just simply failed to understand that the caroler is the messenger of the good news. Or perhaps, we, the church, have become so busy with our own worldly pursuits that we have laid aside this glorious opportunity of evangelism and worship. In any event, because we sing the carols of old so seldom, the youth of today hardly know the heart stirring words and messages of these songs; so, for the next few days we want to take a look at the messages that a few of these songs impart.

In 1709 the noted hymn writer and poet, Isaac Watts, wrote the words of one of the most glorious carols of all Christendom - “Joy to the World.” About thirty five years later the world renowned musician Frederick Handel put the words of Watts to music to create for us the stirring and joyful anthem that announces the birth and world wide rule of Jesus Christ.

The first verse declares that the “Lord has come!” We no longer have to wait for the deliverance, protection, health and life that the promised Messiah was to bring. He has come and the full measure of the Father’s grace has been poured forth to us. It is but for us to receive our King by faith.

The second verse announces that the Savior now reigns. That means that Jesus Christ is supreme in power and authority; He has defeated Satan and is reigning over the affairs of men even as you read this. Verse three reminds us that the life and work of Jesus Christ forgives sin and cancels the curse of death and destruction. God’s blessings can again flow to all who believe by faith in Him. There is nothing that can thwart the purposes of His will in our life, if we but believe..

The fourth and final verse heralds the sovereign rule of Jesus over the earth through His Truth (Word) and Grace (favor). It extolls His great love and righteousness extended to all men who believe.

The whole Gospel message is delivered in song in less than three minutes. Amazing and beautiful. I hope you were able to dust off the music of the caroler of old and let it fill your home this Christmas; but remember the message is not one that is confined to the Christmas season. It is applicable through out the year. Continuing.............

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December 24
For the past several days we have been talking about the different origins of the Christmas celebration; but the real origin of celebration for each of us who are in the family of God evolves from the heart. We hear the word Christmas and our thoughts immediately turn to home and family. We think of past Christmas celebrations and the unconditional love that surrounded us and we long to repeat the fellowship and the occasion. So, the desire to celebrate does not really stem from the “gifts” that are arranged beautifully under “the tree” or even “the date” of the celebration itself. Celebration is all about experiencing the Lord’s love through relationship with our family; it is all about experiencing His presence in the life of other believers. It is all about being joined together in the unity of His Life and beholding the light of that Life in the eyes of another. We long for that closeness; and so, we celebrate the Life and birth of the only one who could have given those gifts to us - Jesus, Lord and Savior. The psalmist even notes that, “the meadows clothe themselves with flocks (in celebration), the valleys deck themselves with grain (as they rejoice), they shout and sing together for joy” at His presence. (Psalms 65:13) All creation yearns to celebrate His birth and the Life that He brings.

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December 23
Hopefully, this Christmas season you will have opportunity to fellowship with the family of God and to really enter into the worship of our Lord.
There is just something about the release that we experience while in worship that can be duplicated by no other activity. Our mind and our spirit are completely unfettered; we are bound by nothing and are able to move into the realm of possibility for even what would other wise seem to be impossible. True worship releases our mind into the spirit realm where all things are possible; just as all things are possible in and through the Lord. There we are free from anxiety, pressure and self. While we worship, our spirit is renewed and strengthened and we are made complete in His presence.

The resulting effect on our person and our life is limitless. Our countenance is changed because we are changed within as we praise and worship the Lord. The light and joy of the Lord’s presence is evident on our face and our heart is filled with His love to the point of over flowing toward others. We are truly released on the wings of praise.

In Exodus 15:2, Moses expressed exactly how we should feel during our Christmas celebration. With joy and excitement he said, “The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him.” We can only say “Thank you Father for loving me so much that you sent Jesus to deliver me from darkness and translate me into the light of His Life and the power of your will.”

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