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Mark 1:29-34 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

The first instance of Jesus’ healing as recorded in the Gospel of Mark was when Jesus healed Simon’s (later called Peter) mother-in-law. It didn’t take long for word to spread about this miracle, and soon people were bringing the sick and demon-possessed to Jesus to be healed.

It bothers me to hear people re-interpret the term demon-possessed as just another form of sickness, as if the people in Bible times lumped all the people with diseases they didn’t understand into one group and labeled them demon-possessed. A closer examination of this passage does not reveal that the demon-possessed were treated the same as the sick. I believe it is worth mentioning as well, that when Jesus drove the demons out he would not let them speak because they knew who he was. That statement wouldn’t have made any sense at all if a demon weren’t some form of being that had a will of its own. That is totally different from a disease.

It is unfortunate that the highly educated people of our time are so bent on minimizing the existence of the supernatural realm. It is even more unfortunate that now many of these same intellectual elete are opening their minds to the possibility of a spirit world through New Age thinking (which is nothing new at all – it is the ancient gods of the Middle East wearing new faces). Yet they have firmly closed their minds to the possibility that the spirit worlds that are taught in the Bible have any legitimacy at all. How foolhardy, to put it mildly.

The Bible has much to say about demonic activity, but the best passage for us to remember about it is this: “…greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” Read the whole passage in 1 John 4:1-6. Even though demons are powerful and can cause a lot of havoc, God is greater than all of them put together. Put your trust in God alone.

Father God, we thank you for your Son Jesus who showed us that you are a God who has the power to heal and the power to keep Satan and his demons in check. And we thank you that you have given us your Spirit to strengthen us so that we too may stand against the powers of this world. Keep us close to you so that we will always be mindful of where our strength comes from.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Luke 4:31-37 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

After leaving Nazareth, Jesus returned to the region of Galilee and went to the city of Capernium. On the Sabbath he went to the synagogue and taught the people who were amazed at the authority with which he spoke.

A man in the crowd was possessed by a demon who knew who Jesus was. The demon began mocking Jesus and identified him as the Holy One of  God. Jesus told the demon to be quiet, and then commanded him to go out of the man who had been possessed. The demon left throwing the man down, but did not injure the man.

The people were all the more amazed at Jesus, at his authority in his teaching, and at his power to command the spirits. And the people spread the word about him to the surrounding communities.

Jesus wasn’t just another teacher, he had demonstrated his authority in many ways to the people. It was in his teaching, in his miracles, and in his ability to cast out demons.

Today we have many spiritual teachers who use various techniques to get their messages across to their listeners. Some have earned our respect through their command of the Scriptures, and are able to bring many people to their knees under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Many great teachers also effectively use their spiritual gifts for healing and for casting out demons even today. Praise God for his faithful messengers who are able to use their God-given spiritual gifts to reach the lost for Jesus.

Unfortunately, we also have spiritual teachers who have resorted to less than honorable methods to reach the lost. They use manipulation to create an appearance of a “movement of the Spirit.” While there are many examples, a few of the more common ones include noise for the sake of noise, people falling back with a push on the forehead rather than an authentic experience of being “slain in the Spirit,” and tongues that can be self-generated instead of Spirit-generated. Often spiritual leaders who use deceitful methods can also be spotted by an over-indulgence of self-promotion as well.

I am aware that I will have probably offended many of my readers at this point. I am not saying that all instances of noisy worship, people being slain in the Spirit, or people speaking in tongues, are less than acts of God and his Holy Spirit. We serve an awesome God who manifests his glory and his love in more ways than we can count. He has used each of these and more to meet the needs of his people.

Heavenly Father, grant us discernment as we seek out genuine Christian teachers who will handle your Word faithfully as they help us to draw closer to you. Give us wisdom that we might recognize the wolves in sheep’s clothing who might deceive us into blindly following their leadership which may lead us farther away instead of closer to you. Help us to fix our eyes on you alone as revealed in your Son, Jesus the Christ.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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     17  The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” 

     18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”  Luke 10:17-20 (NIV)

      Isn’t it thrilling to experience being used by God and seeing positive results? There is nothing like it in the world. But oh, how easy it is to let a little success go to our heads and make us proud.

     That must have been how it was with the disciples when they returned to Jesus and gave him their report on their first mission assignment. “Even the demons submit to us…” they must have said over and over in astonishment. The danger comes when we take our eyes off of Jesus to look at what “we” did as if we deserved some of the credit. I dare say none of those disciples could have caused one demon to budge one inch without Jesus’ intervention.

     Jesus shared with them an even greater experience–Jesus had seen Satan when he fell like lightning out of heaven. He reminds the followers that he was the one who gave them the authority to do all the miracles they had done; and he was the one who protected them in it. Therefore, they should not rejoice that they bring the spirits into submission. The most important thing that they should keep their eyes on is that their names are written in the book of life,

     Lord, help us to discipline our spiritual eyes to always focus on you and what you have done, instead of looking for our own credit for our insignificant input. Make our joy complete as we remember what you did for us on the cross.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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Luke 9:1-10 Click on link to read passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

     The Twelve Disciples had been with Jesus for some time watching as he ministered to the people. They heard his message and watched him drive out demons and heal people of their diseases.

     Now it was time for them to follow his example, so he gave them some final instructions and sent them out to do as he had done. Their mission was to preach about the kingdom of God, to drive out demons and to cure people of their diseases. He did not send them out powerless. He gave them both the power and the authority to drive out demons and to heal the sick. But their instructions were to take nothing with them. Their power did not come from expensive flowing robes or expensive travel paraphernalia or bank account. They were instructed to stay in only one house in a town and stay as long as they were welcome. If they were not welcomed, they were to shake the dust off their feet as they left as a testimony against the town.

     And who was it that took notice of these ragamuffins as they went from town to town? None other than Herod the tetrarch who had ordered that John the Baptist be beheaded. If you recall, Herod had imprisoned John the Baptist because he didn’t like being challenged for marrying his daughter-in-law.

     What are we to take away from this passage of scripture? What were Jesus’ priorities when he sent the Twelve out to minister?

     First, he empowered them to be able to do what he sent them to do. It was up to the Twelve to use these powers or they would not have been welcomed into the towns they visited. They would not have been able to endear themselves to the people by expecting them to take care of them if they could give nothing in return.

     Does God give everyone the same marching orders? I think not. Many years ago I was camping with my husband, and a neighbor family, when we were approached by two college aged girls who said they were sent out by their church in the same manner as Jesus had sent the Twelve Disciples. I was very skeptical and my feelings have not changed to this day. For one thing, I didn’t see them perform any miracles. In Bible times, it was customary for strangers to go to the city gate where someone might take them in for the night. No such custom exists in America.

     Yet there are people such as Mother Teresa who have become paupers for the sake of serving others. We hear occasional accounts of Christians who choose to live on the streets in order to witness to those who have no other choice, and often these self-sacrificing Christians are the only ones who were able to reach the homeless. The Apostle Paul earned his own keep as he ministered to the people.

     The only answer I can come up with for the question of whether God expects us to use these same instructions is that it all depends on your call. Is God calling you to minister to your next door neighbor? Don’t go with the idea he is to take care of you. Is God calling you to write for publications? You won’t get far without a computer.

     But more important than the physical tools, clothing, and other provisions, you must go with God’s Spirit and his empowerment. Whatever you do in the flesh will turn to dust without it.

     At the end of this period of training for the Disciples, they returned to Jesus and shared their experiences with him.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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